Autopsies from both a county medical examiner and independent pathologists agree on George Floyd’s manner of death: It was a homicide.
But the exact cause of his death — and whether underlying factors contributed — is still in dispute after Minneapolis officials and pathologists hired by Floyd’s family released their separate autopsy reports Monday.
The Hennepin County medical examiner said that the 46-year-old black man died of cardiac arrest, or cardiopulmonary arrest “complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.” The office also noted that Floyd had “arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease,” plus "fentanyl intoxication" and "recent methamphetamine use." Preliminary findings last week said a combination of his health issues and potential intoxicants contributed to his death, after fired officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
The independent pathologists hired by Floyd’s family, however, said he died of asphyxiation, which cut off blood flow to his brain — also from law enforcement pressure to the back of his neck. Dr. Michael Baden, one of two hired pathologists, also made a point of saying Monday that Floyd was in good health, and that no other conditions had contributed to his death.
At a press conference announcing the independent results, Allecia Wilson, director of autopsy and forensic services at the University of Michigan, acknowledged that further investigations were ongoing and that, at the time, toxicology results hadn’t been released. While toxicology results are “helpful in understanding the circumstances of death,” they wouldn’t show a “cause or contributing cause of death,” the pathologists wrote.
Floyd’s death has ignited anguish and days of ongoing protests against police brutality across the country. Multiple videos were taken of his brutal arrest; Floyd can be heard crying out in them that he can’t breathe, and onlookers repeatedly asked the cops to let him up.
Minneapolis Police said they were attempting to arrest him for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill last Monday when he allegedly resisted. After Floyd was handcuffed, Chauvin pulled him to the ground, according to a criminal complaint. He then knelt on his neck for several minutes while two other officers held down his legs. Another officer stood by, watching. Floyd cried for his mother, air, and water. Officers told him he was fine because he was still speaking. Then he wasn’t.
“The tragic cause of this death is incredibly clear,” Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney representing Floyd’s family, said in a statement Monday.
Chauvin knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, according to a criminal complaint. He stayed on him for nearly three minutes after Floyd became unresponsive. By the time emergency medical services arrived, Floyd had no pulse.
Wilson and Baden said they concluded in their independent autopsy that Floyd also died as a result of the weight on his back. Floyd’s family members have called for heightened charges for Chauvin and the arrest of all officers involved.
Chauvin was arrested last week and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The other officers on the scene were not arrested. All four were fired.
Cover: A makeshift memorial is seen at the place where George Floyd died, Monday, June 1, 2020, in Minneapolis. Protests continued following the death of Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)