Charges against Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd during an arrest are being upgraded from third to second degree unintentional murder on Wednesday, and the three other officers who were present and did not help Floyd will also be also charged with aiding and abetting second degree murder.
Chauvin was captured on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than 8 minutes as Floyd begged for help, said he couldn’t breathe, and eventually died. Floyd’s death on May 25 sparked a national outgrage, protests and violence over police brutality by Chauvin and others.
All four officers were fired after the video became public, and Chauvin was arrested on Friday, but the protests in numerous major cities have not abated.
Unintentional second degree murder carries a sentence of 12 and-a-half years in prison. The sentence for intentional second degree murder is 25 years.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (D) upgraded the charges against Chauvin and also charged Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, who were on scene but did not step forward to help Floyd.
It is not clear whether the new charges will appease protesting crowds or what will make that happen at this point.
Floyd’s death was ruled a homicide after the official autopsy said he died of a heart attack that was aggravated by Chauvin’s pressure on his neck. An independent autopsy conducted by the Floyd family had a different finding, asphyxiation due to the sustained pressure.
The way Chauvin restrained Floyd has been widely condemned by police all over the country as inappropriate and dangerous.
New investigation into police
Ellison announced the new charges against the officers during a press conference. He is taking lead on the case with Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.
An investigation into the Minneapolis police department will also be conducted by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights to see whether mistreatment of people of color is systemic “and ensure any such practices are stopped.”
Floyd’s death and the protests that followed have opened a national discussion about race relations and whether police or other systems in the U.S. are mistreating people of color in the country.
Protesters are demanding an end to conditions that they feel cause unarmed men of color to be frequently killed by police.