A white officer has been charged in the killing of a Black man who pleaded for air as that officer pressed down on his neck.
Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was taken into custody Friday by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. He has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said.
George Floyd, 46, was killed Monday following an arrest for alleged fraud over a counterfeit $20 bill. Video taken by a bystander shows officer Chauvin pressing his knee into the neck of Floyd, who is restrained on the ground and unarmed.
“Bro, he’s not fucking moving!” an onlooker shouts in the video. “Get off of his neck!”
Floyd was later pronounced dead, sparking protests and calls for Chauvin and fellow officers Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng ― who were all present during the incident ― to be charged. Those four officers have been fired from the police department.
Early in the encounter, Lane pointed his gun at an unarmed Floyd, according to a criminal complaint released Friday.
“As officer Lane began speaking with Mr. Floyd, he pulled his gun out and pointed it at Mr. Floyd’s open window and directed Mr. Floyd to show his hands,” the complaint reads.
Later, as Floyd was on the ground struggling to breathe, the officers said, “You’re talking fine.” Floyd begged for air and for his mother. Lane asked Chauvin if they should put Floyd on his side, but Chauvin said no, according to the complaint.
Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, according to the complaint. Almost three of those minutes were after Floyd became “non-responsive.”
Chauvin is the only officer of the four to be charged.
This is by far the fastest we’ve ever charged a police officer. Normally these cases can take nine months to a year. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman
“If you had done it, or I had, you’d be behind bars right now,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said at a news conference on Wednesday.
The Fraternal Order of Police issued a statement Thursday condemning the killing.
“Based on the by-stander’s video from this incident, we witnessed a man in distress pleading for help,” FOP President Patrick Yoes said in the statement. “The fact that he was a suspect in custody is immaterial — police officers should at all times render aid to those who need it. Police officers need to treat all of our citizens with respect and understanding and should be held to the very highest standards for their conduct.”
Protests escalated throughout the week, both in Minneapolis and across the country, as demonstrators demanded justice. Police tear-gassed protesters in the city where Floyd was killed. Some protesters turned violent, setting fire to retail stores and a construction site on Wednesday night. One person was shot and killed by the owner of a pawnshop.
Tensions hit another breaking point Thursday when protesters set fire to a Minneapolis police building.
State police arrested Omar Jimenez, a Black CNN correspondent who was reporting on the ground, and his crew, even as Jimenez could be heard asking officers where they would like him to go. He was later released, and the governor issued an apology.
President Donald Trump weighed in on the protests early Friday morning by calling for violence.
“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen,” Trump tweeted. “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!”
The phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” was taken from a racist Miami police chief who fought against civil rights protesters in the 1960s.
Ben Crump, an attorney representing Floyd’s family, said Friday in a statement that the arrest was a “welcome but overdue step on the road to justice.” Crump told HuffPost the family had no plans to address Trump’s tweets.
Freeman said Friday that his team moved quickly to gather evidence about the case and make a charging decision.
“This is by far the fastest we’ve ever charged a police officer,” he said. “Normally these cases can take nine months to a year.”