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Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced that the charges against the former Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd will be heightened with second-degree murder.
During a press conference on June 3, Ellison said ex-Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin’s charges were upgraded because “the evidence available now supports the stronger charge of second-degree murder.” Former Minneapolis Police Department officers Thomas Lane, 37, J. Alexander Keung and Tou Thao, 34, were also charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
“We strongly believe these developments are in the interest of justice for Mr. Floyd, his family, this community and our state,” he told reporters.
“George Floyd mattered. He was loved, his family was important and his life had value,” Ellison said. “We will seek justice for him and for you and we will find it.”
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said on May 31 that Ellison would take the lead on any prosecutions in Floyd’s death, CBS News reported.
“This case is unusual because of the way that Mr. Floyd was killed and who did it: at the hands of the defendant, who was a Minneapolis police officer,” said Ellison. “Prosecuting police officers for misconduct, including homicide and murder, is very difficult. And if you look at the cases that have been in front of the public in the last many years, it’s easy to see that is true. Every single link in the prosecutorial chain will come under attack as we present this case to a jury or a fact-finder.”
In the upgraded criminal charge obtained by the Associated Press, the complaint stated that “Chauvin’s restraint of Mr. Floyd in this manner for a prolonged period was a substantial causal factor in Mr. Floyd losing consciousness, constituting substantial bodily harm, and Mr. Floyd’s death as well.”
Lane and Keung were the two officers who helped Chauvin restrain Floyd, while Thao just stood there. Chauvin killed Floyd by pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, despite his pleas and telling Chauvin that he could not breathe. The former officer was previously charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Video of Floyd’s killing quickly spread on social media and has sparked worldwide Black Lives Matter protests.
Following the news of the heightened charges, Walz wrote on Twitter that the charges were a “meaningful step toward justice for George Floyd.”
“George Floyd’s death is the symptom of a disease. We will not wake up one day and have the disease of systemic racism cured for us,” Walz wrote. “This is on each of us to solve together, and we have hard work ahead.”
Attorney Benjamin Crump, who represents Floyd’s family, called the news a “bittersweet moment” for Floyd’s family.
“This is a source of peace for George’s family in this painful time,” Crump said in a statement read.
What the charges mean
According to Minnesota law, there are two types of second-degree murder: intentional murder; drive-by shootings and unintentional murders. The charge for intentional murder; drive-by shootings “causes the death of a human being with intent to effect the death of that person or another, but without premeditation; or causes the death of a human being while committing or attempting to commit a drive-by shooting.”
Under Minnesota law, second-degree murder “causes the death of a human being without intent to effect the death of any person, while intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm upon the victim, when the perpetrator is restrained under an order for protection and the victim is a person designated to receive protection under the order.”
Chauvin was charged with unintentional second-degree murder, according to the AP. He could face up to less than 40 years in prison.
Ex-officers Lane, Keung and Thao were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder, which means that “a person is criminally liable for a crime committed by another if the person intentionally aids, advises, hires, counsels, or conspires with or otherwise procures the other to commit the crime,” according to Minnesota state law.
On June 2, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights filed a civil rights charge against the Minneapolis Police Department in response to Floyd’s death, KSTP reported. The department will also launch an investigation into Minneapolis Police.