Minneapolis Police Officer Who Killed George Floyd Arrested and Charged With Third-Degree Murder, Manslaughter

Arrest Comes After State Troopers Detained Black CNN Journalist Reporting on Protests

Nicole Rojas
May 29, 2020 - 1:12

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Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd after kneeling on his neck while he was arrested has been arrested. Chauvin, who was fired from Minneapolis Police the day after Floyd’s murder, was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Floyd, who was Black, was brutally arrested at the 3700 Block of Chicago Avenue South in the evening of May 25 after officers allegedly responded to a report of a forgery. 

Officers’ claim that Floyd “physically resisted” officers was debunked by private security video footage reported by The Washington Post. Floyd’s arrest was captured in a 10-minute Facebook live video that quickly went viral. Officer Derek Chauvin was seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he lay handcuffed on the ground. 

Floyd pleaded with the officer, telling him he could not breathe. “Please, I can’t breathe,” he said. “…My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Everything hurts.” 

A mere minutes later, he went limp. An incident report stated that Floyd was unresponsive and pulseless when Minneapolis Fire Department personnel arrived. He was pronounced dead at Hennepin County Medical Center less than an hour later.

The four officers involved are Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng. All four men were fired from the police department and have invoked their Fifth Amendment rights, CNN reported. 

Chauvin, who is the officer seen with his knee on Floyd’s neck, had 18 previous complaints filed against him with the Minneapolis Police Department’s Internal Affairs, CNN reported. It was not clear what those complaints were about.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said on May 28 that his office was working on an investigation into Floyd’s death as quickly as possible, but warned it would take some time. He added that video of Floyd’s death was “graphic and horrific and terrible.” 

“We’re going to investigate [Floyd’s death] as expeditiously, as thoroughly and completely as justice demands,” Freeman said, according to WCCO. “Sometimes, that takes a little time and we ask people to be patient. We have to do this right.” 

At the same conference, U.S. Attorney Eric Macdonald said the Department of Justice made the investigation a top priority. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for District of Minnesota, the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office are conducting a criminal investigation into the matter. 

Black CNN Reporter Arrested

A Black CNN reporter and his production team covering the protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd were arrested by police in Minneapolis live on air. Minnesota State Patrol claimed that the three were released after they were confirmed to be members of the media, but CNN swiftly rebuked that claim with video footage of the three identifying themselves as journalists on live television. 

Reporter Omar Jiminez was reporting the situation on the ground live when he and his crew can be seen being surrounded by police in riot gear. Jiminez can be heard calmly complying with police and telling them he and his crew will move to wherever officers tell them to go. He can also be seen showing his press badge as he speaks. 

“Put us back where you want us,” Jiminez said. “We are getting out your way, so just let us know. Wherever you want us, we will go.” 

Two officers then began handcuffing him and telling him he was under arrest. “Why am I under arrest sir?” Jiminez asked as the officers took his microphone and handcuffed him. 

“You’re arresting him live on CNN. We told you before that we’re with CNN,” a CNN production team member can be heard telling police in the background. The crew members, later identified as producer Bill Kirkos and photojournalist Leonel Mendez, were then arrested. 

CNN blasted the arrests, calling them “a clear violation of their First Amendment rights.” The media company called on state authorities to immediately release the three CNN journalists. 

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz apologized to CNN president Jeff Zucker. Walz told Zucker he “deeply apologizes” for the incident and said he was working to have the three released. “It was totally unacceptable and totally inadvertent what happened. They clearly had the right to be there, the CNN team,” Walz said in a statement read live on CNN

Despite the governor’s comments, Minnesota State Patrol lied about the arrest in a statement on Twitter.

“In the course of clearing the streets and restoring order at Lake Street and Snelling Avenue, four people were arrested by State Patrol troopers, including three members of a CNN crew. The three were released once they were confirmed to be members of the media.” 

CNN’s communications team was quick to point out that the journalists repeatedly identified themselves as such live on air during their arrests. The crew members were later released and they were back on the streets reporting. 

The arrests were condemned by fellow journalists, media companies and civil rights organizations. 

“We condemn the arrest and detention of a crew of @CNN journalists who were simply doing their jobs in a tough situation on the ground in Minneapolis. This is a time when the work of journalists continues to be necessary to inform and educate the public,” MSNBC said in a statement

In a statement to The North Star, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) decried the arrests of the CNN crew. “Journalists should never be arrested in this country for doing their job. People are in the streets of Minneapolis demanding racial justice, and the public has a right to see it,” the ACLU said in a statement. “Public transparency is absolutely necessary for police accountability.” 

Protestors demonstrate outside of a burning Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Minneapolis. Protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody Monday, broke out in Minneapolis for a third straight night. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Protest in Minneapolis

The protests in Minneapolis began on May 26, the day after 46-year-old George Floyd was killed while in police custody.

Peaceful protesters flooded the intersection where Floyd was killed, but were met with a violent response from the city’s law enforcement. Police in riot gear used tear gas and smoke bombs in an attempt to disperse the crowds. 

On May 28, Governor Walz signed an executive action activating the Minnesota National Guard to contain the protests. The National Guard confirmed that 500 soldiers were activated to St. Paul, Minneapolis and surrounding communities. “Our mission is to protect life, preserve property and the right to peacefully demonstrate,” the National Guard said in a statement on Twitter. “A key objective is to ensure fire departments are able to respond to calls.”

There have been some reports of looting and destruction of property. The Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct was burned on May 28. 

However, reporters on the ground have noted that it is mostly a peaceful situation. In his on-the-ground reporting, MSNBC reporter Ali Velshi said, “I want to be clear on how I characterize this. This is mostly a protest. It is not, generally speaking, unruly.” 

Action Steps 

  • Call this hotline (612) 324-4499 to learn how to contact those in office who could seek justice for George Floyd. Shaun King will be on the other line to coach you through. Be sure to share that number on all your social media accounts. 
  • Visit JusticeForBigFloyd.com to sign a petition, which will then be emailed to everyone involved. We ask that you share the petition along with the phone number. 

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a senior writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.

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