MINNEAPOLIS: Authorities on Wednesday filed murder charges against all four officers who pinned George Floyd to the ground by his neck while charging three other former officers who were at the scene with aiding and abetting the killing.
All of them will face 40 years of jail sentence according to criminal complaints released Wednesday. But the arrests did little to deter nearly 10 days of nationwide protests.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said: “George Floyd mattered. He was loved. His family was important. His life had value. We will seek justice for him and for you, and we will find it.”
Third-degree murder charge
Derek Chauvin, the 44-year-old white officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as the black man pleaded for air, now faces a third-degree murder charge officials filed last week.
Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng face charges of felony aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Their charges also carry a maximum 40-year prison sentence for second-degree murder. Bail for all four was set at $1 million.
“This is a significant step forward on the road to justice, and we are gratified that this important action was brought before George Floyd’s body was laid to rest. That is a source of peace for George’s family in this painful time,” said the family’s attorney.
Ellison pushed back on suggestions protests factored into his charging decisions. But he acknowledged that punishing those involved could not fix the systemic racism that has long plagued the country.
“I don’t believe one successful prosecution can reflect the hurt and loss that people feel,” he said.
He urged citizens, activists and leaders in government and faith communities to begin rewriting the rules for a just society now, as the criminal case pends.
Floyd had also tested positive for the coronavirus in April, the report reveals.
Records released by the Minneapolis Police Department show that Chauvin, 44, had at least 17 conduct complaints filed against him throughout his 19-year tenure. All were closed without discipline except for two, which were sustained and resulted in letters of reprimand.
Chauvin was involved in at least three shooting incidents, including one in 2006 in which he and five other officers fatally shot Wayne Reyes, a stabbing suspect.
Thao, 34, had faced at least six conduct complaints, all closed except for one still active. In 2017, he was the subject of a civil rights lawsuit alleging that he and another officer beat a man they were arresting. The city settled the case for $25,000.
Kueng, 26, and Lane, 37, had no history of complaints.
“The Attorney General is really saying, it was Chauvin’s knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck, but they were all in effect putting their knees on his neck,” Weisberg said.
The charges related to second-degree murder require the prosecutors to show that, while the officers might not have meant to kill Floyd, they did intend to commit the underlying felony of the aggravated assault, said Mark Osler, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.
“I say this not because we doubt our resources or our ability. In fact, we’re confident in what we’re doing,” Ellison said. “But history does show that there are clear challenges here.”
“Several of us on the council are working on finding out what it would take to disband the MPD and start fresh with a community-oriented, nonviolent public safety and outreach capacity,” council member Steve Fletcher said in a lengthy Twitter thread. “The whole world is watching, and we can declare policing as we know it a thing of the past, and create a compassionate, nonviolent future.”
Already, the Minneapolis school district has said it will no longer have city police serve as school resource officers, and the University of Minnesota has said it plans to scale back its ties with the department.
“We are deeply grateful for the outpouring of support by Americans in cities across the country, and we urge them to raise their voices for change in peaceful ways,” Floyd’s family said. “Our message to them is: Find constructive and positive ways to keep the focus and pressure on. Don’t let up on your demand for change.”