Minnesota‘s Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday said Derek Chauvin, the white Minneapolis officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck, now faces an upgraded charge of second-degree murder and arrest warrants have been issued for the three other officers at the scene.
Chauvin previously had been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, charges that remained in effect. The other three officers involved – Thomas Lane, J.A. Kueng, and Tou Thao – were being charged with two counts of aiding and abetting and second-degree murder.
If convicted on both counts, the officers face a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison affirmed that with the upgraded charges, all four officers faced the same potential maximum sentence.
Chauvin was arrested Friday on third-degree murder and manslaughter charges. A day after Floyd, who is black, died in police custody on Memorial Day, all four officers were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department. The three other officers were in custody by Wednesday night.
Peaceful protests, nighttime rioting and violent clashes with the police ensued for over a week straight in major metropolitan cities across the country in response to Floyd’s death.
In a press conference earlier Wednesday, Floyd’s family demanded that the other three former police officers involved in his death be arrested and charged before the memorial in his honor Thursday.
The lead attorney for the Floyd family, Ben Crump, joined by Floyd’s son Quincy Mason, held a press conference Wednesday in Minneapolis in the same spot captured on video Memorial Day. Floyd is seen in the footage in custody with a white Minneapolis police officer’s knee to his neck and is heard saying, “I cannot breathe.”
Floyd, who is black, died soon afterward.
“We expect all of the police officers to be arrested before we have the memorial here in Minneapolis tomorrow. Because we cannot have two justice systems in America – one for black America, one for white America. We must have equal justice for the United States of America,” Crump said.
Crump reiterated that the family’s independent autopsy confirmed Floyd died by “mechanical asphyxiation caused by the knee to neck and two knees to his back.”
“Change is going to come in the criminal justice system. I proclaim, with his son as my witness, that change starts today,” Crump said. “We are confident Attorney General Keith Ellison is working feverishly to do the right thing to make sure George Floyd’s family achieves justice, holding the officers accountable to the full extent of the law — each and every one of them.”
“Witness Donna Williams who yesterday was the person in the video saying ‘You all are gonna kill him’ likened it to suffocation like a fish out of water, gasping for air,” Crump said. “The independent autopsy performed by the family concluded that George Floyd was starving for air. He needed a breath and the ambulance that came here to pick him up from this very spot was the hearse for George Floyd.
The family’s attorney also thanked Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz for “bringing human rights charges against the Minneapolis police department because we absolutely believe he was tortured in the last 8 minutes and 46 seconds of his life.”