Ellison elevates murder charge for Chauvin, charges 3 other officers in George Floyd death

By: and - June 3, 2020 1:24 pm

Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes in May, killing him.

Attorney General Keith Ellison elevated charges against former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, formally accusing him of second-degree murder after he kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Ellison also filed charges against the other three officers present when Floyd died.

“I believe the evidence available to us now supports the stronger charge,” Ellison said, adding that he consulted with Hennepin County Mike Freeman to reach Wednesday’s charging decision. 

Ellison took over prosecution of the case from Freeman on Monday but is continuing to work with him. Black activists have long mistrusted Freeman for his uneven record in prosecuting officers accused of misconduct. 

The charges come amid continued protests that have erupted nationally and even internationally, as people call for justice and widespread, systematic changes in policing. 

“I feel a tremendous sense of weight,” Ellison said of his role, although he will not personally prosecute the case. “I feel that this is a very serious moment. I take no joy in this. But I feel a tremendous sense of duty and responsibility.”

Attorney Ben Crump, who represents the family of George Floyd, issued a statement praising the decision.  

“This is a bittersweet moment for the family of George Floyd,” Crump said. “We are deeply gratified that Attorney General Keith Ellison took decisive action in this case, arresting and charging all the officers involved in George Floyd’s death and upgrading the charge against Derek Chauvin to felony second-degree murder. This is a significant step forward on the road to justice, and we are gratified that this important action was brought before George Floyd’s body was laid to rest.”

Gov. Tim Walz called the charges “a meaningful step toward justice for George Floyd.”

He added: “But we must also recognize that the anguish driving protests around the world is about more than one tragic incident. 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.”

In a criminal complaint filed Wednesday, Ellison also charged Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. They were fired, along with Chauvin, early last week.

According to the complaint, “Mr. Floyd said, ‘I can’t breathe’ multiple times and repeatedly said, ‘Mama’ and ‘please,’ as well. At one point, Mr. Floyd said ‘I’m about to die.’ Officer Chauvin and the other two officers stayed in their positions.””

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey in a statement said Floyd’s death “will live forever as the most chilling moments in our city’s history.”

He added: “Failing to act amounted to a failure to recognize George’s humanity. As Chief Arradondo has stated, silence is complicity, and complicity cannot be tolerated.”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a former data reporter for the Minnesota Reformer. Rilyn was born and raised in Minnesota and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.

Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez

Ricardo Lopez was a senior political reporter for the Reformer.