Minnesota attorney general Keith Ellison is upgrading the charges against Derek Chauvin to Second Degree murder for the death of George Floyd on May 25 and also charging the three other officers involved, J Alexander Kueng, Tou Thao and Thomas Lane with aiding and abetting murder. The three officers were fired and have remained under investigation since the day after Floyd died.
Chauvin, 44, was arrested and initially charged with Third Degree murder last week and was also immediately fired with the other three officers. Video that has been widely circulated shows Chauvin, in an attempt to apprehend Floyd, 46, over an alleged check forgery. While pinning him to the ground, he kneels on his neck for nearly nine minutes as he begs to be allowed to breathe, until he loses consciousness and dies later.
Kueng was reportedly one of the first officers to appear on the scene and helped to pin Floyd to the ground, while Lane was detailed in charging documents as pointing a gun at him but later asked if he should be rolled on his side as he was restrained. Thao is seen on the video attempting to keep the crowd around him away as they shouted that Chauvin was killing him. He worked for the Minneapolis Police Department for more than 18 years.
Lead attorney representing Floyd’s family, Benjamin Crump said earlier that he felt the charge should be First Degree murder.
"We expected a first-degree murder charge, we want a first-degree murder charge," Crump said when Chauvin was initially arrested May 29. "And we want to see the other officers arrested. We call on authorities to revise the charges to reflect the true culpability of this officer. The pain that the Black community feels over this murder and what it reflects about the treatment of Black people in America is raw and is spilling out onto streets across America."
While Chauvin can clearly be seen on video with his knee pressed into Floyd’s neck, the other officers can be seen either holding down Floyd’s legs, kneeling on his body or, in the case of Thao, standing idly by showing absolutely no concern for the seemingly excessive force used by Chauvin to subdue Floyd.
Kueng was reportedly one of the first officers to appear on the scene and helped to pin Floyd to the ground, while Lane was detailed in charging documents as pointing a gun at him but later asked if he should be rolled on his side as he was restrained.
Thao is seen on the video attempting to keep the crowd around him away as they shouted that Chauvin was killing him.
Ellison was put in charge of the case as lead prosecutor by Gov. Tim Walz on Sunday (May 31). He explained in an interview with Good Morning America that his team would be “moving expeditiously yet we have to move carefully.“
"Generally, jurors resolve all doubts in favor of the police. There are certain immunities police have. There's certain presumptions. There's relationships that police have that have established over the course of years.”
He continued: “The fact is, if you just look at the Freddie Gray case, people looked at that video and were quite certain that there needed to be a conviction. No one was. Same thing in the Rodney King case… We all know about the Philando Castillecase here in Minnesota, not too long ago. The Walter Scott case ended in a hung jury. The fact is these cases are not easy and anybody who says they are, has never done one.”
He also added, “We're working quickly and we're making sure that every link in the prosecutorial chain will be tight. We will, and we are proceeding forward with justice in mind.”
Cities around the country, including Minneapolis, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta and New York have endured days of protests, demanding justice and accountability in Floyd’s death. He is just the most recent case of an unarmed Black person who is now dead at the hands of white law enforcement.
Floyd was arrested after a 911 call was made accusing him of using a counterfeit $20 bill in a local convenience store. Cell phone video and security cam footage of the arrest that lead to his death shows Floyd pleading for his life as bystanders looked on in disbelief. The officers who responded to the call were found to have violated the policies of the Minneapolis Police Department and as a result were fired and now all have been charged in his death.
An independent autopsy performed on his body determined that Floyd died of “asphyxiation from sustained pressure.” In a statement released by Crump, two forensic specialists, Dr. Michael Baden and Dr. Allecia Wilson determined that his death was a homicide that was caused by “neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain.”
First Step Is The Longest
In remarks made at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon (June 3), Ellison said that evidence collected by investigators supported the stronger charge of Second Degree against Chauvin, who is in custody on $500,000 bond.
Ellison said that arrest warrants were issued along with Chauvin’s upgraded complaint on Wednesday for Keung, Lane and Thao. One of the former officers was already in custody while the other two were in the process of being apprehended late Wednesday.
“I strongly believe that these developments are in the interests of justice for Mr. Floyd, his family, our community and our state,” said Ellison.
His office worked in cooperation with Hennepin County, Minnesota attorney Mike Freeman to pursue the upgraded charges. He also noted that the case is still under investigation and encourages those who believe they have further evidence to come forward.
A timetable has not been set for when hearings would start or how long it will take to find a resolution towards an eventual conviction. Although Ellison’s team expects to fully prosecute the case, he cautions that this is only the beginning.
“The very fact that we have filed these charges mean that we believe in them,” he said. “But what I do not believe is that one successful prosecution can rectify the hurt and loss that so many people feel. The solution to that pain will be slow and difficult work of constructing justice and fairness in our society.”
Minutes later, Floyd’s son, Quincy Mason Floyd, joined Rev. Al Sharpton, Crump, and several members of the his family at a separate appearance where he said he was “happy that all of the officers have been arrested. My father should not have been killed like this."
BET has been covering every angle of George Floyd’s death in police custody, other social justice cases and the subsequent aftermath and protests. For our continuing coverage, click here.