Murder of George Floyd
|Date||May 25, 2020|
|Time||c. 8:08–8:28 pm (CDT)|
|Location||Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.|
Location of Minneapolis, where the event took place, in Hennepin County and in the state of Minnesota.
Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, murdered George Floyd, a 46 year old African-American man, during an arrest on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The murder started the George Floyd protests against racism in the United States and in other countries.
George Floyd was a 46 year old African-American man from Houston, Texas. Chauvin, a police officer of the Minneapolis Police Department, killed Floyd while he was under arrest for using counterfeit cash. Chauvin put his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd was gasping for breath. Witnesses said Floyd told the officers, "I can't breathe" many times before he lost consciousness. This happened in the Powderhorn area of Minneapolis.
In late May, after days of protests, the officer who killed Floyd, Derek Chauvin, was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. The charge was later changed to second-degree murder. The three other officers were charged on June 3 with aiding and abetting second-degree murder, meaning they are charged with helping Chauvin kill Floyd.
People involved[change | change source]
George Floyd[change | change source]
George Floyd was a 46-year-old African-American man from Houston, Texas. He was a rapper who worked with the Houston-based hip hop group Screwed Up Click and freestyled under the alias "Big Floyd" on mixtapes released by DJ Screw. In 2009, Floyd was sentenced to five years in prison for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon. Floyd moved to Minnesota around 2014. At the time of his death, Floyd had recently lost his job due to Minnesota's stay-at-home order during the COVID-19 pandemic. Floyd was the father of two daughters, aged 6 and 22.
Police officers[change | change source]
- Derek Michael Chauvin, a 44-year-old white man, had been an officer in the Minneapolis Police Department since around 2001. Chauvin had 18 complaints on his official record, two of which ended in punishments. He had been involved in three police shootings, one of which killed at least one person. Floyd and Chauvin both worked as security guards at the Latin nightclub, El Nuevo Rodeo.
- Three other officers who helped hold down Floyd were Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao.
Event[change | change source]
Shortly after 8:00 p.m. on May 25, Memorial Day, Minneapolis Police Department officers responded to a "forgery in progress" on Chicago Avenue South in the Powderhorn neighborhood of Minneapolis. Floyd "tried to use forged documents at a nearby deli." According to a co-owner of Cup Foods, Floyd attempted to use a $20 bill that a staff member identified as counterfeit. According to police, Floyd was in a nearby car and "appeared to be drunk."
According to the Minneapolis police, officers "were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress," and called for an ambulance. No weapons were used in the arrest, according to a statement from the Minneapolis police.
According to the Minneapolis Fire Department, paramedics moved Floyd from the location and were doing CPR and other lifesaving measures on an "unresponsive, pulseless male." Floyd was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Floyd was buried in Houston, Texas on June 9.
Autopsies[change | change source]
On June 1, the Hennepin County medical examiner released a report. This report said that Floyd died because of homicide, which means killing, but does not mean that anybody is guilty of murder. The report also said that Floyd had recently used methamphetamine and had fentanyl intoxication. Prosecutors said that the Hennepin County medical examiner did not think Floyd died from lack of air. Prosecutors said they thought Floyd must have had heart disease or taken alcohol or drugs and that the police officers' actions would not have been enough to kill him by themselves. On June 3, they said Floyd had tested positive for COVID-19 in April, but they did not say this helped cause his death.
George Floyd's family hired Dr. Allecia M. Wilson of the University of Michigan and Dr. Michael Baden, who used to be a medical examiner for New York City, to examine Floyd's body and figure out how he died. They said that Floyd died from lack of air because the heavy weight of the officers on his back kept him from breathing, in addition to the knee on his neck. Dr. Baden said, "The autopsy shows that Mr. Floyd had no underlying medical problem that caused or contributed to his death. This is confirmed by information provided to Dr. Wilson and myself by the family." They also called his death a homicide.
Trials[change | change source]
On May 29, 2020, Derek Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. On June 3, Chauvin was also charged with second-degree murder, a more serious crime. Chauvin was scheduled for arraignment, to appear in court, on June 8. In October, a judge took away the third-degree murder charge. In March 2021, Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder again.
J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao were charged with aiding and abetting (helping) second-degree murder, and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Kueng, Lane, and Thao each paid bail money and were released from jail by July. To be released on bail means that the suspect gives some money or a deed to property to the court and promises not to run away. If the suspect appears at the trial, the money or deed is returned. If the suspect runs away, the court keeps it. Lane was released on June 10, Kueng on June 19, and Thao on July 4.
At a pre-trial hearing during the last week in June, Minneapolis Judge Peter Cahill told lawyers and other officials to stop making public statements about the trial. He said if they did not stop, he would order the trial to take place somewhere other than Minneapolis. He also said, if they continued talking, he would issue a gag order, meaning they could be punished if they continued talking.
In January 2021, Judge Cahill decided that there would be two trials. The trial for Derek Chauvin would begin on March 8, 2021. The trial for Kueng, Lane, and Thao would begin on August 23, 2021.
Chauvin's trial began on March 8, 2021. On March 9, the judge and attorneys began to select the jury. Six of the jurors were white, four were black, and two were multiracial. The oldest juror was in her sixties. The trial was broadcasted on video. The court did not show pictures of the jury, but did broadcast their voices when talking.
On Tuesday, April 20, 2021, a jury found Chauvin guilty of three crimes: second-degree unintentional murder of someone while committing a big crime, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. The jurors had talked to each other for ten hours in two pieces, on Monday and Tuesday. The judge is scheduled to give him his sentence eight weeks later. The largest penalty the judge could give Chauvin is 40 years in prison but most people who commit these crimes spend 10-15 years in prison. That means the jury decided that Chauvin might not have meant to kill Floyd but did mean to assault him and that Chauvin knew that he was doing something dangerous that could kill Floyd.
Chauvin tax trial[change | change source]
On July 22, 2020, Derek Chauvin and his wife, Kellie Chauvin, were charged with several different kinds of tax evasion. They had not paid the correct sales tax or income tax for six years. Kellie Chauvin began the divorce process in May, but legally she is still responsible for tax evasion during her marriage.
Aftermath[change | change source]
Beginning on May 26 and 27, there were protests near the place where Floyd died. The protests started out peacefully, but some parts became violent later, with people attacking a police precinct and local businesses. The protests on May 28 included looting and property set on fire. On May 28, hundreds of people marched to the center of Minneapolis holding signs saying "I can't breathe" and "Fuck Donald Trump." The city of Minneapolis instituted an 8:00 p.m. curfew, meaning no one was meant to be on the street after that time.
There were sister protests in Oakland, New York, Chicago, Denver, and other parts of the United States. Over 500 people were arrested at one sister protest in Los Angeles. Parts of the Los Angeles protest were peaceful and parts were violent. There were also protests outside the United States, in London, Toronto, Berlin and other places. Some of these international protesters said they wanted to support George Floyd but also notice the racist actions by police in their own countries.
On the morning of May 28, white Minneapolis police officers arrested Omar Jimenez, a reporter for CNN, and his crew while they were filming the protests. Jiminez is black. Jiminez told the officers that he and his crew were journalists and offered to move further away, but the officers arrested them anyway. They were released later that day. The governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz, apologized to CNN, and said publicly that Jiminez and his crew had only been doing their jobs and acting within their rights. A white CNN reporter who had been working a block away from Jiminez noted that he had not been bothered by the police, only asked who he was.
Protests continued into Friday, May 29, with protesters approaching the White House in Washington, D.C. and pulling away temporary fences. Some of the protesters threw bricks at the officers, which included United States Secret Service and United States Park Police.
Reaction from Governor Tim Walz[change | change source]
On Thursday May 28, Governor Tim Walz called for change: "It is time to rebuild. Rebuild the city, rebuild our justice system, and rebuild the relationship between law enforcement and those they're charged to protect. George Floyd's death should lead to justice and systemic change, not more death and destruction."
After the arrest of CNN reporter Omar Jiminez, Walz apologized to CNN, saying "I take full responsibility."
Walz also told the National Guard to be ready to come to the twin cities if they were needed and put the city under an 8:00 p.m. curfew. He said he thought the worst looters were probably outsiders who came from the city to hide in the crowds and cause problems.
Reaction from President Donald Trump[change | change source]
President Donald Trump said on Twitter that he had asked the FBI do an investigation, adding, "My heart goes out to George's family and friends. Justice will be served!" Trump also called Floyd's death as "Sad and Tragic."
Later, President Donald Trump called the protesters of the killing "thugs" and said "when the looting starts, the shooting starts." Twitter hid the post because it broke their rules about presenting violence as good. On May 30, Trump complimented the Secret Service agents who had kept the protesters away from the White House, saying the Service had "vicious dogs and the most ominous weapons." He also posted on Twitter suggesting that his supporters stage a counter-protest: "Tonight, I understand, is MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE???" "MAGA" is an acronym for the Trump slogan "Make America Great Again."
Reaction from President Joe Biden[change | change source]
Joe Biden was not president in 2020 when Floyd was killed but he was president in 2021 during the trial of Derek Chauvin. In April 2021, he said the guilty verdict was a "giant step forward in the march toward justice in America," but "much too rare." Before he became President, Biden had promised to make a police commission for the whole country during his first 100 days as president, but he had not done so as of April 2021.
Other politician's reactions[change | change source]
Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowswer would write, also on Twitter: "While [Trump] hides behind his fence afraid/alone, I stand w/ people peacefully exercising their First Amendment Right after the murder of #GeorgeFloyd & hundreds of years of institutional racism," she wrote. "There are no vicious dogs & ominous weapons. There is just a scared man."
Former Florida congressman Carlos Cubelo, a Republican, said, "The president seems more out-of-touch and detached from the difficult reality the country is living than ever before."
Minneapolis police department civil rights investigation[change | change source]
On June 2, after days of protests, Governor Walz announced the Minnesota Department of Human Rights would investigate the Minneapolis police department to see if the police in general were mistreating people of color. The Minneapolis City Council agreed, saying, "We urge the state to use its full weight to hold the Minneapolis Police Department accountable for any and all abuses of power and harms to our community and stand ready to aid in this process as full partners."
City of Minneapolis[change | change source]
On June 5, Minneapolis announced a new rule saying the police were not allowed to use chokeholds on people. 
State of Minnesota[change | change source]
The Minnesota state legislature attempted to write a new law that would redesign all police departments, but the Democrats wanted large changes to policing and the Republicans wanted small changes, and they could not agree in time for any new bill to become law.
References[change | change source]
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