UPDATED June 3, 5:28 p.m.
Minnesota’s attorney general has announced upgraded charges on the former Minneapolis cop accused of killing George Floyd last week. The state also charged the three other ex-officers who assisted in Floyd’s fatal arrest with aiding and abetting murder.
“About nine days ago, the world watched Floyd utter his very last words, ‘I can’t breathe,’ as he pled for his life,” Keith Ellison said Wednesday afternoon.
Ellison, who recently took over the case at the urging of Floyd’s family and activists, charged former officer Derek Chauvin with second-degree murder, adding to existing charges.
Chauvin was previously charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter after video showed him pinning Floyd to the ground with his knee for almost nine minutes. The earlier charges against him still stand, but Ellison said evidence supported the second-degree murder charge brought Wednesday.
Ellison acknowledged that a successful prosecution wouldn’t rectify the pain of his community and others, and that greater work is still needed to address a broader sense of injustice nationwide. Floyd’s death sparked widespread outrage and protests across the U.S. against police brutality, going on for the past eight days.
A representative for Chauvin’s attorney declined to comment Wednesday.
Attorneys for Floyd’s family had repeatedly demanded first-degree murder charges. Still, Floyd’s family said in a statement Wednesday that they were “gratified that this important action was brought before George Floyd’s body was laid to rest.”
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar called Ellison’s reported change “another important step for justice” on Twitter Wednesday.
The three other officers present for Floyd’s arrest were also charged Wednesday with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Those officers are Tou Thao, J. Alexander Keung, and Thomas Lane. They are in the process of being taken into custody.
All four were fired last week.
Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, while Keung and Lane held down his legs, according to a criminal complaint released after Chauvin was arrested Friday. The officers were detaining Floyd over an alleged “forgery in progress” at a local store around 8 p.m. on Memorial Day, and said he resisted arrest. Floyd pleaded that he couldn’t breathe until he became unresponsive. Meanwhile, Thao stood by, arguing with the bystanders who filmed the encounter and begged the officers to let Floyd go.
Floyd was pronounced dead at a local hospital later that night, but emergency responders said he was without a pulse when they arrived. He was 46. The Hennepin County Medical examiner ruled his death a homicide.
Floyd’s family visited the site of the fatal arrest for the first time Wednesday, according to their attorney, Ben Crump.
Cover: In this Wednesday, May 27, 2020, file photo, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison answers questions during a news conference in St. Paul, Minn., about the investigation into the death of George Floyd. (John Autey/Pioneer Press via AP, Pool, File)