MINNEAPOLIS — A federal grand jury Friday indicted former Minneapolis police officers Derek Chauvin, Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao on civil rights violations in the death of George Floyd.
Chauvin was also indicted in a separate Sept. 4, 2017 incident. He is accused of holding a 14-year-old by the throat and hitting the teenager multiple times in the head with a flashlight without legal justification.
The three-count indictment in the death of Floyd claims that the four men — acting in their capacity as police officers — “willfully deprived Mr. Floyd of his constitutional rights.” Their actions resulted in Floyd’s death, the indictment states.
Count one specifically notes that Chauvin held his left knee on Floyd’s neck — and his right knee on Floyd’s back and arm — while Floyd was handcuffed and not resisting. Chauvin kept his knees on Floyd’s body even after he became unresponsive, the count states.
The indictment claims that Chauvin’s actions violated Floyd’s constitutional right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a police officer.
Count two of the indictment claims Thao and Kueng “willfully failed to intervene to stop Chauvin’s use of unreasonable force.”
Count three of the indictment claims that all four ex-officers watched Floyd lying on the ground “in clear need of medical care and willfully failed to aid him.”
All four former offices “willfully deprived Mr. Floyd of his constitutional right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law, which includes an arrestee’s right to be free from a police officer’s deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs,” the indictment states.
Friday’s criminal charges announced are separate from the United State Justice Department’s civil investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department.
Background On Chauvin and his state trial
Federal agents had planned to arrest Chauvin at the Hennepin County courthouse if he was acquitted of all charges in the state trial that concluded April 20, sources told The Star Tribune.
It didn’t have to come to that, however, because Chauvin was found guilty on murder and manslaughter charges and was immediately taken into the custody of the county sheriff.
READ: Jury Finds Derek Chauvin Guilty On All Counts In Death Of Floyd
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Friday’s news comes as the state prepares to prosecute Kueng, Lane, and Thao for their involvement in Floyd’s arrest on the day he died. The three former offices face one count of aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder and one count of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
The state trial for those officers is scheduled for Aug. 23 at the Hennepin County Government Center.
The death of George Floyd
Chauvin, who is white, was charged in the death of Floyd, a Black man who died after Chauvin kneeled on him for more than nine minutes despite Floyd’s protests that he could not breathe. Floyd’s death sparked nationwide protests demanding racial justice and police reform.
The racially diverse jury deliberated less than a full day before coming to a decision that concluded the two-week trial, which was closely watched as a bellwether of official responses to police killings of Black people.
“On May 25, 2020, George Floyd died faced down on the pavement,” state prosecutor Steve Schleicher told jurors in his closing argument Monday. “Nine minutes and 29 seconds. Throughout this time George Floyd struggled to breathe.”
“What the defendant did to George Floyd killed him,” Schleicher added. “It was ruled a homicide. The defendant is charged with murder.”
Schleicher praised the “noble” police profession in his closing statement and noted that “this case is called the state of Minnesota versus Derek Chauvin. This is not called the state of Minnesota versus the police.”
“This is not an anti-police prosecution. It’s a pro-police prosecution.”
Chauvin took “pride over policing,” said Schleicher. “George Floyd paid for it with his life.”
Meanwhile, Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, closed Monday by saying Chauvin’s actions on Memorial Day were consistent with what a “reasonable police officer” would do.
The verdict comes less than two weeks after another Black man’s fatal interaction with police sparked unrest in the Twin Cities metro.
Former Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter faces charges of second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Daunte Wright, 20, in the Minneapolis suburb in April.
Chauvin Did Not Testify
In Chauvin’s trial, state prosecutors and Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, spent 15 days arguing about Chauvin’s culpability in Floyd’s death. Chauvin himself declined to testify in his own defense, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Floyd’s arrest and death — captured on a bystander video — was seen across the globe, sparking outrage and leading to countless protests around the country.
In court, Nelson blamed the “hostile” and “growing crowd” for distracting the four officers who were at the scene of Floyd’s arrest. He also told jurors that drugs and heart disease, not Chauvin, killed Floyd.
A “use of force” expert called on by Nelson to testify said Chauvin’s actions on the day of Floyd’s death were justified.
State prosecutors and their own medical witnesses, however, said Floyd’s behavior in his final moments was not consistent with a drug overdose and that his death resulted from Chauvin’s restraint, which cut off oxygen to Floyd.
The autopsy report from Dr. Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County medical examiner, found fentanyl and methamphetamine in Floyd’s system but listed Floyd’s official cause of death as “cardiopulmonary arrest, complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”
Baker testified that drugs and heart disease played a role in Floyd’s death but were not “direct causes.”
Chauvin restraint of Floyd was “more than Mr. Floyd could take,” Baker told the jury.
Dr. Martin Tobin, a forensic toxicology expert, testified that Floyd died because of a lack of oxygen. “A healthy person subjected to what Mr. Floyd was subjected to would have died as a result of what he was subjected to,” Tobin told the court.