American Police Officer Who Knelt On Black Man’s Neck Charged With Murder

The white Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck was arrested and charged with murder Friday, and authorities imposed an overnight curfew to try to stem three nights of often-violent protests that left dozens of stores burned and looted.

Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the case. He was also accused of ignoring another officer at the scene who expressed concerns about the black man as he lay handcuffed on the ground, pleading that he could not breathe. Floyd had been arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill at a small grocery store.

An attorney for Floyd’s family welcomed the arrest, but said he expected a more serious murder charge and wants all four officers involved to be arrested.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said more charges were possible. He said the investigation into the other three officers continues, but authorities “felt it appropriate to focus on the most dangerous perpetrator.”

Meanwhile, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey declared a curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. The order said no one can be out in public except emergency responders and people seeking medical care, fleeing danger or those who are homeless.

“I know that whatever hope you feel today is tempered with skepticism and a righteous outrage,” Frey said in a statement. “Today’s decision from the County Attorney is an essential first step on a longer road toward justice and healing our city.”

George Floyd

According to the criminal complaint, Chauvin allegedly disregarded the concerns of another officer, who wanted to roll Floyd onto his side as he was being held down.

The papers also said that an autopsy revealed nothing to support strangulation as the cause of death.

The exam concluded that the combined effects of being restrained, potential intoxicants in Floyd’s system and his underlying health issues, including heart disease, likely contributed to his death. Floyd’s family was seeking an independent autopsy.

Police were trying to put Floyd in a squad car when he stiffened up and fell to the ground, saying he was claustrophobic, the complaint said. Chauvin and officer Tou Thoa arrived to help and tried several times to get the struggling Floyd into the car, it said.

At one point, Chauvin pulled Floyd out of the car’s passenger side, and Floyd, who was handcuffed, went to the ground face down. Officer J.K. Kueng held Floyd’s back, and officer Thomas Lane held his legs, while Chauvin put his knee on Floyd’s head and neck area, the complaint said.

When Lane asked if Floyd should be rolled onto his side Chauvin said, “No, staying put is where we got him.” Lane said he was “worried about excited delirium or whatever,” and Chauvin replied, “That’s why we have him on his stomach,” according to the complaint.

After Floyd apparently stopped breathing, Lane again said he wanted to roll Chauvin onto his side. Kueng checked for a pulse and said he could not find one, the complaint said.

In all, Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes, 46 seconds, including nearly three minutes after Floyd stopped moving and talking, according to the complaint.

Chauvin’s attorney had no comment when reached by The Associated Press.

Freeman, whose home has been picketed by protesters, highlighted the “extraordinary speed” in charging the case just four days after Floyd’s death, but also defended himself against questions about why it did not happen sooner.

He said his office needed time to put together evidence, including what he called the “horrible” video recorded by a bystander.

All four officers at the scene of Floyd’s arrest on Monday were fired the next day. After the charges were announced, protesters outside government offices chanted, “All four got to go.”

It was not immediately clear whether Chauvin’s arrest would quiet the unrest, which escalated again Thursday night as demonstrators burned a Minneapolis police station soon after officers abandoned it.

Protestors demonstrate outside of a burning Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Minneapolis. Credit: AP

Protests also spread across the US, fueled by outrage over Floyd’s death, and years of violence against African Americans at the hands of police.

Demonstrators clashed with officers in New York and blocked traffic in Columbus, Ohio, and Denver.

News of the arrest came moments after Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz acknowledged the “abject failure” of the response to the protests and called for swift justice for the officers. Walz said the state had taken over the response to the violence.

“Minneapolis and St. Paul are on fire. The fire is still smoldering in our streets. The ashes are symbolic of decades and generations of pain, of anguish unheard,” Walz said. “Now generations of pain is manifesting itself in front of the world — and the world is watching.”

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United States President, Donald Trump, threatened action, tweeting “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” which prompted a warning from Twitter for “glorifying violence.” Trump later said he was referring to shooting that had happened during the protests.

The governor faced tough questions after National Guard leader Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen blamed a lack of clarity about the Guard’s mission for a slow response.

Walz said the state was in a supporting role and that it was up to city leaders to run the situation.

Walz said it became apparent as the 3rd Precinct was lost that the state had to step in. Requests from Minneapolis and nearby St. Paul for resources “never came,” he said.

Trump
United States President, Donald Trump

“You will not see that tonight, there will be no lack of leadership,” Walz said.

On Friday morning, nearly every building in a shopping district a couple blocks from the abandoned police station had been vandalized, burned or looted.

National Guard members carrying assault rifles were lined up at some intersections, keeping people away from the police station. Dozens of volunteers swept up broken glass in the street.

Dean Hanson, 64, lives in a subsidised housing unit nearby, which is home to many older residents.

He said his building lost electricity overnight, and residents were terrified as they watched mobs of people loot and burn their way through the neighborhood.

“I can’t believe this is happening here,” he said. “It was pure hell.”

Dozens of fires were also set in St. Paul, where nearly 200 businesses were damaged or looted.

A visibly tired and frustrated Frey, the Minneapolis mayor, took responsibility for evacuating the police precinct, saying it had become too dangerous for officers.

Attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing Floyd’s family, asked to take custody of Floyd’s body to have an independent autopsy performed. Crump said that talk of a heart condition or asthma was irrelevant because Floyd was walking and breathing before his contact with police.

The doctor who will do the autopsy is Michael Baden, former chief medical examiner of New York City, who was hired to do an autopsy for Eric Garner, a black man who died in 2014 in New York after he was placed in a chokehold by police and pleaded for his life, saying he could not breathe.

State and federal authorities are also investigating Floyd’s death.

– Cop and Floyd Worked As Security guards at Same Club –

The owner of a popular Latin nightclub said Floyd and Chauvin both worked as security guards at the club as recently as the end of last year, but it’s not clear whether they worked together.

Chauvin worked at the El Nuevo Rodeo club as an off-duty security guard for nearly two decades, but Floyd had only worked there more recently for about a dozen events featuring African American music, Maya Santamaria told The Associated Press.

Santamaria said if Chauvin had recognized Floyd, “he might have given him a little more mercy.”

Santamaria, who recently sold the venue, said Chauvin got along well with the regular Latino customers but did not like to work the African American nights.

When he did, and there was a fight, he would spray people with mace and call for police backup and half-dozen squad cars would soon show up, something she felt was “overkill.”

– Family Demanded Justice –

Calls mounted Wednesday for the arrest of a Minneapolis policeman for killing a handcuffed black man by kneeling on his neck, amid outrage over the latest African American death at the hands of US law enforcement.

A day after angry protests in the northern US city were met with tear gas and rubber bullets, the family of George Floyd demanded the four white policemen involved in his death Monday be charged with murder.

“I would like those officers to be charged with murder, because that’s exactly what they did,” Bridgett Floyd, his sister, said on NBC television.

“They murdered my brother…. They should be in jail for murder.”

Demonstrators were gathering at two locations in the city for more protests for a second day Wednesday, demanding justice. 

A protestor sprays graffiti on a wall near the Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Minneapolis. Credit: AP

Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey said he could not understand why one officer, who was filmed holding his knee to Floyd’s neck on a Minneapolis street until the 46 year-old restaurant worker went limp, has not been arrested.

“Why is the man who killed George Floyd not in jail? If you had done it, or I had done it, we would be behind bars right now,” Frey said.

“Based on what I saw, the officer who had his knee on the neck of George Floyd should be charged,” he said.

– ‘I can’t breathe’ –

All four of the police officers involved in the latest example of police brutality against African Americans were fired Tuesday, as shocking video taken by a bystander spread across social media and television news.

Floyd had been detained on a minor charge of allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill to make a purchase at a convenience store. In the video, policemen hold him to the ground while one presses his knee to Floyd’s neck.

“Your knee in my neck. I can’t breathe…. Mama. Mama,” Floyd pleaded.

He grew silent and motionless, unable to move even as the officers told him to “get up and get in the car.”

Protestors demonstrate outside of a burning Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Minneapolis. Credit: AP

He was taken to hospital where he was later declared dead.

Another security video from a nearby restaurant’s security showed Floyd being arrested earlier without resisting, contrary to a claim in the original police report of the incident.

Thousands took to the Minneapolis streets in Tuesday, some smashing police cars and windows on buildings, before police countered with rubber ammunition and tear gas.

– ‘A Public Execution’ –

Calls for justice came from around the country.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said the FBI needs to thoroughly investigate the case.

“It’s a tragic reminder that this was not an isolated incident, but part of an engrained systemic cycle of injustice that still exists in this country,” Biden said.

“We have to ensure that the Floyd family receive the justice they are entitled to.”

Democratic Senator Kamala Harris called for a federal investigation into rights abuses by the police, calling the policeman’s using his knee on Floyd’s neck “torture.”

“This is not new, it has been going on a long time… what our communities have known for generations, which is discriminatory implementation and enforcement of the laws,” she said.

“He was begging to be able to breathe,” she said. “It was a public execution.”

– Tipping point? –

The protests evoked memories of the riots in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 after a policeman shot dead a young African American man suspected of robbery.

They also brought back memories of the 2014 death of New Yorker Eric Garner, who was detained by police for illegally selling cigarettes and filmed being held in an illegal chokehold by police that proved fatal.

Both cases gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement focusing on police killings of unarmed African American men, often for alleged non-violent offenses. 

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who was retained by Floyd’s family, said the case showed the US justice system treats blacks differently from whites.

“How many more of these senseless excessive-force killings from the people who are supposed to protect us can we take in America?” he said on NBC.

Crump pointed out that the arrest involved a minor, non-violent crime, and there was no sign, as police initially claimed, that Floyd resisted arrest.

“There is no reason to apply this excessive fatal force,” Crump said.

“That has to be the tipping point. Everybody deserves justice…. We can’t have two justice systems, one for blacks and one for whites.”

Floyd’s death added to two other recent deaths of African-Americans in which police wrongdoing is alleged.

On March 13 in Louisville, Kentucky, three white policemen forced their way into the home of a black woman, Breonna Taylor, and shot her as part of a drug investigation.

In Brunswick, Georgia, police, and prosecutors allegedly covered up the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, a young black jogger, by the son of a retired investigator for local law enforcement back in March.

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Associated Press

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