By Frederick H. Lowe
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today upgraded the charge against one Minneapolis police officer and charged three others in the death of George Floyd who was in their custody.
Ellison charged Derek Chauvin with second degree murder. Previously Chauvin had been charged with third degree murder for the May 25 death of Floyd.
Chauvin, who has 17 unresolved citizen complaints for excessive force, placed his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck for more 8 minutes and 46 seconds until he stopped breathing and died. Floyd was lying face down on the sidewalk with his hands handcuffed behind his back, according the Statement of Probable Cause. Onlookers used their camera phones to photograph Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck.
The other three officers were: Thomas Lane, who joined the department in March 2020; Tou Thao who rejoined the department in 2012 after being laid off J. Alexander Kueng
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey fired the four officers following Floyd’s death. Only Chauvin was charged with a crime. That all changed Wednesday when they were arrested and charged with aiding and abetting murder.
When the charges were announced protestors in Minneapolis cheered and sang “We Shall Overcome” a song made popular during the civil rights movement.
Last week, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz appointed Ellison to the job after five days of civil unrest in Minneapolis and elsewhere.
Floyd’s violent and gruesome death has sparked a total of seven days of peaceful and sometimes violent protests here and abroad, angering President Trump, who on Monday yelled at the nation’s governors during a conference calling them weak for not taking control of their cities.
Looting of and burning of stores also have bothered and angered regular citizens who are against police brutality and want significant changes made to law enforcement, but rightfully fear that the television pictures of burning buildings and looters running from stores with armloads of stolen clothing and television sets detract from their central concern.
Floyd, 46, died after Chauvin, a 19-year department veteran, pressed his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck.
Police arrested Floyd May 25 outside of Cup Foods, a Minneapolis convenience store, where he attempted to buy a pack of cigarettes allegedly with a counterfeit $20.
The cigarette narrative, a nonviolent crime, also plays prominently in the violent death of Eric Garner. New York City cop Daniel Pantaleo arrested Garner for selling loose cigarettes in 2014 and killed him by using an unauthorized chokehold. Garner also said he couldn’t breathe.
Floyd’s family wrote in a letter through attorney Benjamin Crump that they want Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the police force, charged with first-degree murder. Family members also want the other three cops also arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
In a statement, Ellison, a former Minnesota congressman, who feels the pressure to move quickly on this case, wants to move cautiously to the chagrin of Floyd family members and others.
“Even though video exists, a careful investigation is necessary and has already begun. If you were at the scene, have any information or evidence, or were involved in any way, I encourage you to come forward now and cooperate fully with that investigation. After the incident is investigated, it will be referred for a determination about prosecution. The Attorney General’s office does not have direct prosecutorial jurisdiction in the matter: that belongs with the Hennepin County Attorney’s office,” Ellison said.