Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Chauvin is charged with third degree murder, but they are continuing to review evidence and there may be subsequent charges later. The manslaughter charge is second degree.
Freeman said they focused on the "most dangerous" perpetrator first, but the other three officers involved in Floyd's arrest are under investigation and he anticipates charges against them as well.
The criminal complaint states that Chauvin was the officer seen on video with his knee on Floyd's neck while Floyd was pleading, "I can't breathe."
"This is by far the fastest we've ever charged a police officer," Freeman said, referring to the video as "horrible, horrific, terrible."
He said that in addition to that bystander video, they have officers' body-worn cameras, witness statements, the preliminary Medical Examiner's report, and expert opinions as evidence.
"Normally these cases take nine months to a year," Freeman said. "We have to charge these cases very carefully because we have the difficult burden of proof."
When asked whether public unrest factored into the speed, Freeman said, "I’m not insensitive to what’s happened in the streets."
But he maintained that his job is to charge when his office has "sufficient evidence."
"I will not allow us to charge a case before it is ready," Freeman said. "This case is now ready, and we have charged it."
Freeman said that the charges are the same ones levied against former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor in the death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond.
According to the criminal complaint in the Floyd case, two officers responded to a report of someone using a counterfeit $20 bill at the Cup Foods on 37th and Chicago Avenue. Officers Thomas Lane and J.A. Kueng were told the man was sitting in a car parked around the corner, on 38th Street.
The complaint says Lane began speaking with Floyd, who was in the driver's seat of the car, and then pulled his gun and told Floyd to show his hands. When Floyd put his hands on the steering wheel, Lane put his gun back.
According to the complaint, Lane ordered Floyd out of the car, then pulled him out and handcuffed him. Floyd "actively resisted being handcuffed," but then became compliant and sat on the sidewalk at Lane's direction.
The attorney's office says in the complaint that Floyd and Lang had a conversation for just under two minutes, and then both officers stood Floyd up and tried to walk him to their squad. At that point, the charges state that Floyd "stiffened up, fell to the ground, and told the officers he was claustrophobic."
That's when officers Derek Chauvin and Tou Thoa arrived as backup. They made "several attempts" to get Floyd into the backseat of the car and "Floyd did not voluntarily get in the car and struggled with the officers by intentionally falling down, saying he was not going int the car, and refusing to stand still," the complaint says.
According to the complaint, Floyd said he could not breathe while he was standing up, and began repeating it. The complaint says officers tried to get Floyd into the car from the passenger side, and and at 8:19 p.m. Chauvin pulled Floyd out of the car.
"Mr. Floyd went to the ground face down and still handcuffed," the complaint narrative then reads. "Kueng held Mr. Floyd’s back and Lane held his legs. The defendant placed his left knee in the area of Mr. Floyd’s head and neck. Mr. Floyd said, 'I can’t breathe' multiple times and repeatedly said, 'Mama' and 'please,' as well. The defendant and the other two officers stayed in their positions."
According to the complaint, the officers told Floyd, "you are talking fine." Lane asked if they should roll him on his side, and Chauvin said, "No, staying put where we got him." The complaint says that Lane asked again, "I am worried about excited delirium or whatever," and Chauvin said, "That's why we have him on his stomach." "None of the three officers moved from their positions," the complaint says.
The body-worn camera footage investigators examined showed that Floyd stopped moving at 8:24:24, and stopped breathing or speaking at 8:25:31. Kueng checked Floyd's wrist for a pulse and said "I couldn't find one," but none of the officers moved until 8:27:24, when Chauvin removed his knee from Floyd's neck, according to the complaint.
The autopsy report is pending but preliminary findings show that Floyd had underlying health conditions including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease. "The combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death," the report says, with no evidence of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation.
Prosecutors ended the criminal complaint by saying, "The defendant had his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in total. Two minutes and 53 seconds of this was after Mr. Floyd was non-responsive. Police are trained that this type of restraint with a subject in a prone position is inherently dangerous."
In a letter to Gov. Walz Friday afternoon, the Minneapolis Delegation requested that the case be handled by the Attorney General's Office rather than the Hennepin County Attorney.
The letter, which was written in collaboration by Representatives Fue Lee (59A), Raymond Dehn (59B), Sydney Jordan (60A), Mohamud Noor (60B), Frank Hornstein (61A), Jamie Long (61B), Hodan Hassan (62A), Aisha Gomez (62B), Jim Davnie (63A), Jean Wagenius (63B), reads:
We are writing to request that the case against the police officers who killed George Floyd, or may have been otherwise culpable in his death, be transferred to the jurisdiction of the Attorney General's office. Unfortunately, our constituents, especially constituents of color, have lost faith in the ability of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman to fairly and impartially investigate and prosecute these cases. Freeman's press conference on May 28th, in which he seemed ill-prepared and suggested that there was unseen exculpatory evidence that might exonerate the officers, further ruptured this trust.
Given the present circumstances, we believe that this case should be handled in a way that maximizes public trust and gives confidence to the public that justice will be done. Under the circumstances, transferring the case to the Attorney General's office would be one of the most decisive actions that you could take to calm public anger and guarantee a fair process. Attorney General Ellison has earned goodwill of Minneapolis residents through years of service to the city, and is known and respected throughout the community. It is imperative to signal to our constituents, as strongly and quickly as possible, that the authorities are treating this case with the special attention it deserves, and to demonstrate that all Minnesotans are equal in the eyes of the law.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey issued a statement in response to the charges Friday, saying, "We are a nation at a crossroad, and today’s decision from the County Attorney is an essential first step on a longer road toward justice and healing our city."
“What’s happened in Minneapolis is bigger than any one city and any single event,” said Frey. “For our Black community who have, for centuries, been forced to endure injustice in a world simply unwilling to correct or acknowledge it: I know that whatever hope you feel today is tempered with skepticism and a righteous outrage."
Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington announced earlier Friday during a different news conference that Chauvin had been arrested. The BCA confirms that he was taken into custody at 11:44 a.m. Friday in Minneapolis.
Meanwhile, Governor Tim Walz held a news conference at 10:30 a.m. after another night of violence and looting in Minneapolis and St. Paul, as protests over the death of George Floyd devolved into riots.
Walz said he received a call from State Sen. Patricia Torres Ray Thursday that District 63 was burning, and there were no police officers or Minnesota National Guard troops to help.
“That is an abject failure that cannot happen," Walz said. "We must restore that order.”
Harrington said that national guard troops were called in to help Thursday, but they did not receive a “specific mission” to help clear the streets until midnight, on a call with the mayor. Harrington said Minneapolis Mayor Frey informed them they had "no more resources" and they were not able to meet public safety needs on Lake Street.
"When the Third Precinct was abandoned, it seemed that that was the time to move," Gov. Walz said.
They then had to get a plan together, Harrington said. By the time they brought state patrol, Minnesota National Guard, and other assisting crews to Lake Street, he said it was 3 a.m. They arrested some people at that time and for other looting incidents throughout the day, Harrington said, but he did not have numbers on how many. He said most people left peacefully.
Harrington said the people who were out at that hour were not the people of Minneapolis “who are still having their guts ripped out about the Floyd murder.”
“I don’t want to prejudice this,” he said regarding using the term “murder.” “I’m just calling it like I see it.”
“I can tell you that no one could have heard Mr. Floyd’s voice in the chaos of the screaming and the shouting and the fires at 1 o’clock in the morning on Lake Street,” he said. “My job is to make sure the community is safe and the team is ready and prepared to keep it safe.”
Harrington said his team, including the national guard, state troopers and DNR, is confident that they can make a plan to keep people safe Friday night while protecting First Amendment rights to protest.
“We will create a plan that will keep the peace, maintain the peace, and prevent further lawless behavior in the city of Minneapolis, the city of St. Paul and surrounding suburbs,” he said.
The governor acknowledged that the "tools" needed to restore order, including the Minnesota National Guard, are "the very same tools that have led to that grief and pain."
Those national guard troops are armed, officials confirmed Friday, and maintain the right to defend themselves, though they would not comment further on the boundaries around their use of force.
"I’m asking you to help us. Help us use a humane way to get the streets to a place where we can restore the justice," he said. "So those who are demanding justice can be heard. Not those who throw fire bombs into businesses."
Walz said that he has spoken with Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and he is confident that "justice will be swift, that it will come in a timely manner, and that it will be fair."
"You're seeing holes in planning," Walz said, "that's for dang sure." He said Minnesotans can expect to hear what the plan is for Friday night by 2 p.m.
"Tonight needs to be different," Walz said. He promised that state troops would step into the gap.
State Attorney General Keith Ellison quoted Martin Luther King, Jr., when he asked Minnesotans not to disregard riots as only senseless violence.
"Ask yourself, what’s going on there?" he said. "And is it something that we as a society absolutely must pay attention to? I think we must pay attention."
Ellison pointed out that as Minnesota National Guard troops are deployed to maintain order, they are the same people who were administering COVID-19 tests across the state last week.
"Don’t react to them the way you might react to the Minneapolis Police Department," he said. "It’s not the same group. They have different leadership, different authority, and their job is to try to bring peace and calm back again. Please remember that this is not the group you associate with unfair conduct."
Walz said Friday that he believes the public has "lost faith" in the Minneapolis Police Department.
The state's response came as businesses and homes continued to burn Thursday night and Friday morning.
Just after 10:30 p.m., a crowd stormed the building housing the Minneapolis Police Department's Third Precinct, setting it on fire.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey held a press conference just after 1 a.m. to address the continued unrest across the city. Frey said rioting posed an imminent threat to the safety of the officers and staffers within MPD's Third Precinct, forcing him to make the decision to evacuate the compound.
“Symbolism of a building cannot outweigh the importance of life or the public,” Frey said. “We could not risk serious injury to anyone… brick and mortar is not as important as life.”
However, he went on to say that progress during this crisis would not come from the government alone. “We additionally need help from the community. We need to make sure that people are looking out for our city right now. It's not just enough to do the right thing for yourself. We need to make sure that all of us are upholding the ideals that we stand by.”
Although the mayor acknowledged the pain and frustration in recent days, he made it clear, the devastation is unacceptable. “What we have seen over the past couple of nights in terms of looting is unacceptable. These are businesses. These are community institutions that we need. These are banks that people rely on to get cash, grocery stores that people rely on to get food … We need to ensure that they are protected.”
In St. Paul, fires burned in buildings across the street from Allianz Field. According to a post from the Saint Paul Police Department, more than 170 businesses have been damaged or looted along with dozens of fires.
President Trump also weighed in on Twitter late Thursday night, blaming the emergent social disturbance on a lack of local leadership, and threatened to send in the federal National Guard unless the city was brought under control.
The president went on to tweet, "These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. 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 has since removed a portion of the president's tweet, citing violations of their user policy for glorifying violence.
Trump tweeted again Friday saying, "The National Guard has arrived on the scene. They are in Minneapolis and fully prepared. George Floyd will not have died in vain. Respect his memory!!!"