Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is increasing charges against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Last week, May 29, Chauvin was arrested and charged with third degree murder and manslaughter for the death of George Floyd. At the time, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said further charges could follow.
Today, June 3, Attorney General Ellison has announced the charges against Chauvin are being increased from third degree to second degree murder, and is also charging the other three police officers involved.
It’s been announced Ellison plans to elevate the charges against Chauvin, the officer filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck, while adding charges of aiding and abetting murder against the other three officers involved: Tou Thao; J. Alexander Kueng; and Thomas Lane, the Star Tribune reports.
Chauvin, 44, was filmed by bystanders kneeling on Floyd’s neck, while Thao was also recorded at the scene. Kueng reportedly helped pin Floyd to the ground, and Lane was reported to have pointed a gun at Floyd before the officers – who have now all been fired from the force – handcuffed him. Lane is said to have asked the other officers whether they should roll Floyd onto his side while he was restrained.
The elevated charge of second degree murder against Chauvin can carry a sentence of up to 40 years in the US, 15 years longer than the maximum for third degree.
Chauvin was seen kneeling on 46-year-old Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, Floyd was taken to hospital but later pronounced dead. A private post-mortem examination found Floyd died from asphyxiation caused by neck and back compression.
Benjamin Crump, the attorney representing Floyd’s family, said:
This is a bittersweet moment for the family of George Floyd. We are deeply gratified that Attorney General Keith Ellison took decisive action in this case, arresting and charging all the officers involved in George Floyd’s death and upgrading the charge against Derek Chauvin to felony second-degree murder.
The joint statement, between Crump and Floyd’s family, said the new charges against all four officers is a ‘significant step forward on the road to justice’, adding: ‘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.’
The statement also urged Ellison to upgrade the charges to first degree murder, carrying with it a life sentence. ‘These officers knew they could act with impunity, given the Minneapolis Police Department’s widespread and prolonged pattern and practice of violating people’s constitutional rights,’ the statement continued. ‘Therefore, we also demand permanent transparent police accountability at all levels and at all times.’
The death of George Floyd has sparked international protests and demonstrations demanding justice and racial equality. A huge response in the fight against police brutality and systemic racism has been seen, with protests, riots and major companies’ social feeds falling silent for Blackout Tuesday yesterday, June 2.
Floyd’s family and Crump said in their statement they are ‘deeply grateful for the outpouring of support by Americans in cities across the country’, and urge those people to ‘raise their voices for change in peaceful ways.’
They wrote: ‘Our message to them is: Find constructive and positive ways to keep the focus and pressure on. Don’t let up your demand for change.’
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