- The Murder of George Floyd
On Monday, May 25th, George Floyd was murdered by officer Derek Chauvin. In the video of the arrest, the officer can be seen kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, while Floyd tells the officer repeatedly that he cannot breathe. Floyd asks officers to “please let me stand.” For many minutes, the officers continue to pin George Floyd to the ground. After some time, Floyd becomes unresponsive. Bystanders beg the officers to stop. Bystanders tell the officers that the man isn’t resisting arrest. The officers do not stop even after Floyd becomes unresponsive.
Rolling Stone reports that bystanders tried to get the officers to stop using force, telling officers that the man was not resisting arrest, that he appeared about to pass out, and noting that there was blood coming out of his nose. Officers had been called to a restaurant to investigate a forgery of a $20 bill. George Floyd was taken to the hospital where he later died of his injuries.
The next day, the four officers involved in the murder were fired. Floyd’s cousin called for the officers involved in the brutal killing to be charged with murder. When neither the FBI nor the Minneapolis Police officially charged the officers with murder or a crime, protesters began to gather in Minneapolis.
- Derek Chauvin’s 18 Prior Complaints and Tou Thou’s Police Brutality Lawsuit
Some of the police officers involved in Floyd’s death have a history of police brutality and a police brutality lawsuit was filed.
According to CNN, the officer that can be seen holding his knee to George Floyd’s neck had 18 prior complaints filed against him, according to Minneapolis police records. Two of the 18 complaints filed against the officer were recorded as “closed with discipline.” Another officer, Tou Thou, involved in the murder of George Floyd also had six complaints filed against him according to CNN. CNN also reports that Thao had been subject to a 2017 excessive force lawsuit. In the lawsuit, Lamar Ferguson alleged “cruel and unusual punishment” in which the officers involved in his arrest were accused of using “excessive force” that included “punches, kicks, and knees to the face and body while Lamar was defenseless and handcuffed.” The city agreed to settle the lawsuit for $25,000, but the officer remained on the job, despite the complaint and lawsuit. It isn’t clear whether the police force required Thou to undergo de-escalation training, racial training, or whether Thou suffered any further consequences.
In the lawsuit, Thao allegedly stopped Ferguson with no probable cause, handcuffed him without reason for arrest, and then a physical altercation allegedly occurred in which Thao threw Ferguson to the ground. At this point, the lawsuit claimed that the officer kicked Ferguson in the mouth.
So, it appears that two of the officers involved in the murder of George Floyd have a history of police brutality, a history of complaints against them, and even a police brutality lawsuit on the books. Yet, these officers were still on the job the day that George Floyd was killed. One wonders whether the family can pursue wrongful death against the Minneapolis police force for gross negligence given the fact that officers with this kind of record were still on the job? One also has to wonder what kind of disciplinary measures these officers received after these complaints and lawsuits and whether the city of Minneapolis required the officers to undergo de-escalation training. It doesn’t appear that the city of Minneapolis or its police force have done enough to protect the lives of black and brown men.
- Protests in Minneapolis
When neither the police nor the FBI charged the officers with the murder of Floyd, protesters began to gather in Minneapolis. In response to the killing of Floyd, protestors gathered in the streets of Minneapolis. A police precinct was set on fire. The National Guard has been called to the city to restore order. The city acknowledges that trust has been broken between the residents and the police, and is asking that people gather to protest peacefully. Calls for calm have been made by officials, but until just recently, the police remained free and not charged with a crime.
- A Closer Look at the Police Report Shows How Officers Try to Hide Police Brutality
Look closely at the language of the police report and you won’t see described in the report what the video of the murder of George Floyd clearly reveals. According to the New York Times, in the police report, the suspect “physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress.” The video, however, reveals a different story. The officers appear to have subdued Floyd, clearly holding him down by the vehicle. The video doesn’t show this man resisting arrest. In fact, this is a man who is pleading for his life, telling officers clearly that he cannot breathe. The police report was later updated to indicate that what took place was “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction.” This update only took place when the FBI announced that it would be joining the investigation.
- Former Police Officer Derek Chauvin Arrested for Murder
The New York Times reports that former police officer, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third degree murder and manslaughter. According to CNN, Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd’s neck for a total of 8 minutes, and for almost three minutes of this time, George Floyd was unresponsive. The Times reports that Chauvin’s family wanted a charge of first degree murder. First degree murder requires premeditation and planning, while second degree murder involves a more spur of the moment killing. Third degree murder is a charge that indicates that the person didn’t intend to cause death, but acted with a depraved mind that showed disregard for human life.
- Civil Rights Violations and the Law
George Floyd’s family is calling for a first-degree murder charge and wants the Minneapolis police to acknowledge and account for deficiencies in the way that it handles interactions with the black community. The family’s civil rights lawyer has asked why Minneapolis police have not been trained in non-lethal restraint methods, why they have not been trained to make sure that those they restrain don’t have restricted airflow, and why none of the officers involved stopped the civil rights violation from taking place. Also, why did it take so long for an ambulance to be called? The family is calling for criminal action to be filed against the officers involved and is calling for the police department in Minneapolis to be held to account.
- The Importance of Holding Police Accountable for Police Brutality
These are the facts. The police officers involved in the killing of George Floyd have a history of prior complaints of police brutality. These officers had engaged in acts of excessive force, and yet remained on the job. In fact, they remained on the job and continued to engage in performing acts of excessive force—acts of excessive force that eventually led to George Floyd’s death. George Floyd’s family, the black residents of Minneapolis and the country, and the citizens of Minneapolis have reason to be angry and upset.
These kinds of acts of police brutality will not be stopped as long as families remain silent. If you or someone you love suffered injuries, even minor ones, at the hands of police, now is the time to speak up and hold police officers accountable. The more families who step up and seek legal action against police departments when their officers use excessive force, the better chance there will be of an official record of offending officers should these officers prove to be repeat offenders, and the better chance we will all have to put a stop to this violence.
The call for justice must be loud and clear. It can involve peaceful protests in the streets and it can involve the use of the civil courts to hold police officers, precincts, and cities accountable when officers are not trained in de-escalation tactics, and when officers act violently toward black and brown men and women.
Update – June 3rd 2020
Amy Klobuchar tweeted that Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is increasing the charges against Derek Chauvin to 2nd degree murder, and also charging the other three officers. The charges for the other three officers are aiding & abetting 2nd degree murder.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is increasing charges against Derek Chauvin to 2nd degree in George Floyd’s murder and also charging other 3 officers. This is another important step for justice.
— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) June 3, 2020