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Charges against officer who knelt on George Floyd's neck elevated to second-degree murder; 3 other cops charged

Stephen Montemayor and Chao Xiong, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in News & Features

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison's office on Wednesday upgraded charges against the former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd's neck and charged the other three officers at the scene with aiding and abetting murder.

Ellison held a news conference Wednesday to discuss the charges.

"We strongly believe these developments are in the interest of justice for Mr. Floyd, his family, this community and our state," he said. "George Floyd mattered. He was loved, his family was important and his life had value," Ellison said. "We will seek justice for him and for you and we will find it."

However, he acknowledged, "I don't believe one successful prosecution can reflect the hurt and loss that people feel."

Former Officer Derek Chauvin, who was recorded on video kneeling on Floyd's neck as he begged for air on May 25, now faces the more serious charge of second-degree murder, in addition to the original charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter with culpable negligence.

The amended complaint filed against Chauvin stated that "Police are trained that this type of restraint with a subject in a prone position is inherently dangerous. ... Officer Chauvin's restraint of Mr. Floyd in this manner for a prolonged period was a substantial factor in Mr. Floyd losing consciousness, constituting substantial bodily harm, and Mr. Floyd's death as well."


Chauvin was originally charged by the Hennepin County attorney's office last week with one count each of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Don Lewis, special prosecutor in the case against Jeronimo Yanez, the former St. Anthony police officer who killed Philando Castile in 2016, said the nearly nine-minute recording of the moments before Floyd died showed ample evidence of intent to kill on Chauvin's part.

"Those are moments to cause reflection on whether or not you're in the middle of a wrongful death here," Lewis said. "You have George Floyd begging for his life, right? 'I can't breathe.' This is a moment of potential reflection on Chauvin's part," Lewis said. "He had multiple opportunities to change course here and decided not to over the span of almost 10 minutes."

The other three officers at the scene -- Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane -- have been fired and were each charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder while committing a felony, and with aiding and abetting second-degree murder manslaughter with culpable negligence. Both charges are categorized as "unintentional" felonies.


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