3 more cops charged in George Floyd death, other officer’s murder charge upgraded

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Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison answers questions about the investigation into the death of George Floyd, who died while in the custody of Minneapolis police officers, during a news conference in St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S. May 27, 2020. John Autey | Reuters

Three former Minneapolis police officers will be criminally charged Wednesday in connection with the death of George Floyd in their custody, Sen. Amy Klobuchar said.

In addition, Derek Chauvin, a fourth former officer who had already been charged with third-degree murder in the case, will now be charged with second-degree murder, the Minnesota Democrat wrote in a post on Twitter.

Klobuchar did not detail the charges that Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison plans to file against the three other ex-cops: Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane. All four officers were fired last week after the arrest. 

But a local newspaper, the Star Tribune, earlier said the trio will be charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder, citing sources. 

The ex-cops had assisted Chauvin in arresting Floyd on Memorial Day on the suspicion that Floyd passed a counterfeit bill. 

Klobuchar did not detail the charges that Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison plans to file against the three other ex-cops: Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane. All four officers were fired last week after the arrest. 

But a local newspaper, the Star Tribune, earlier said the trio will be charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder, citing sources. 

The ex-cops had assisted Chauvin in arresting Floyd on Memorial Day on the suspicion that Floyd passed a counterfeit bill. 

Chauvin, who is white, was charged on Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after video footage emerged showing him kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd, a black man, lay handcuffed, crying out that he could not breathe.

The video shows that Chauvin continued to keep his knee of Floyd’s neck even after Floyd became non responsive. 

Floyd’s death has sparked widespread protests against police violence in dozens of cities across the country, with demonstrators and Floyd’s family calling for charges to be brought against Lane, Thao and Kueng.

The family also has demanded that Chauvin face a first-degree murder charge.  

A second-degree murder charge carries a statutory maximum sentence of 40 years upon conviction, compared to 25 years for third-degree murder. Actual sentences are often short of the maximum.

The charges were not immediately confirmed by Ellison’s office.

Klobuchar, a former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, served years ago as the Hennepin County attorney. The Hennepin County attorney’s office was handling prosecutions stemming from George Floyd’s death until Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz assigned Ellison the responsibility on Sunday. Minneapolis is located in Hennepin County. 

Two separate autopsies, one commissioned by Floyd’s family and another performed by the Hennepin County, Minnesota, Medical Examiner’s Office, both found that Floyd’s death was a homicide, but differed in their determinations of its causes.

The Hennepin County medical examiner’s autopsy found that Floyd died from “cardiopulmonary arrest” that was complicated by police subduing him with restraint and neck compression. The autopsy also cited underlying health conditions as contributing to his death.

But the independent autopsy, conducted by pathologists hired by Floyd’s family, found that he died from asphyxiation, and that pressure on both his neck and back contributed. Dr. Michael Baden, one of the pathologists and a former chief medical examiner for New York City, said Monday that Floyd “had no underlying medical problems that caused or contributed to his death.”

The criminal complaint against Chauvin details Kueng’s and Lane’s actions during Floyd’s arrest. According to the complaint, Kueng held Floyd’s back and Lane held his legs.

At one point, Kueng checked for a pulse, and said “I couldn’t find one,” according to the complaint. But he and the other cops stayed in their positions for approximately two more minutes.

Floyd repeatedly told the officers that he could not breathe, cried out for his deceased mother, and asked the officers “please,” the complaint against Chauvin reads.

In all, Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, including for nearly three minutes after Floyd became non responsive, according to the complaint.

Video tape of the encounter shows bystanders calling for the officers to get off of him.

In an emotional speech on Wednesday, Ben Crump, the attorney for Floyd’s family, said Floyd “cried out for anybody who would listen.”

“It seemed like the lay people on the street were listening. The people who refused to listen were the people who were supposed to listen,” Crump said, speaking from the site where Floyd was killed.