Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who was filmed kneeling on George Floyd’s neck before he died, is in custody and has been charged with murder, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Friday.
Chauvin was among the four officers involved in Floyd’s violent arrest on Monday that has since spurred days of protests in Minnesota’s largest city. Chauvin is white and Floyd was black.
“We have now been able to put together the evidence that we need,” Freeman said at a press conference. “Even as late as yesterday afternoon, we didn’t have all that we needed. We have now found it.”
“This is by far the fastest we’ve ever charged a police officer,” he added.
Floyd, who was 46, died after being arrested on suspicion that he attempted to use a counterfeit bill.
Tape of the arrest, which was caught by onlookers, shows Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than seven minutes as Floyd, who is handcuffed, cries out that he cannot breathe.
Chauvin, 44, was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Under the Minnesota penal code, third-degree murder involves “perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind” but without the intent to cause death. A conviction for third-degree murder has a maximum possible sentence of 25 years in prison.
Before the specific charges were announced, Ben Crump, an attorney for Floyd’s family, called the arrest “a step on the road to justice.”
“Now the officers who stood by & did NOTHING to save George need to be arrested and charged as well,” Crump wrote in a post on Twitter.
The other officers involved in the arrest were Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng. All four were fired on Tuesday. Freeman said Friday that he anticipated charges for the other officers but did not go into detail.
Efforts to reach the officers or their attorneys have been unsuccessful.
The incident recalled the 2014 death of Eric Garner, a black man who died gasping “I can’t breathe” while a white New York police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, grasped his neck and wrestled him to the ground.
The New York City Medical Examiner ruled that the death was a homicide, but Pantaleo was not charged with any crime. Because of the incident, “I can’t breathe” became a rallying cry at protests about police violence around the country.
Floyd’s death prompted calls from local and national figures for Chauvin’s prosecution, and a federal investigation led by the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“The Department of Justice has made the investigation a top priority and has assigned experienced prosecutors and FBI criminal investigators to the matter,” the agencies said in a joint statement Thursday.
A protester hold sign board “Justice for George” into a fire outside a Target store near the Third Police Precinct on May 28, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during a demonstration over the death of George Floyd.
Kerem Yucel | AFP | Getty Images
President Donald Trump, who has in the past told officers not to worry about injuring those they arrest, has shown sympathy for Floyd’s case.
“Justice will be served,” Trump wrote in a post Wednesday on Twitter.
But the president has also gone after those involved in the Minneapolis riots that have shaken the city in recent days. Among the buildings that have been destroyed was the Minneapolis police 3rd Precinct location, which was set on fire overnight Thursday.
“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen,” Trump wrote in a post on Twitter in the early hours of Friday morning. “Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
Twitter labeled the president’s tweet as “glorifying violence,” the first time the social media company has done so.
Joe Biden, the apparent Democratic presidential nominee, has also weighed in. During a livestream on Friday afternoon, Biden thanked Floyd’s family for speaking with him, and pledged: “I promise you, we’ll do everything in our power to see that justice is had.”
In a series of posts on Twitter, Biden chastised Trump for “calling for violence against American citizens during a moment of pain for so many.”