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Cars: What We Know About the Death of George Floyd in Minneapolis


Mr. Floyd died after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by an officer’s knee in an episode that was captured on video, touching off nationwide protests.

Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man, died on May 25 after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a white police officer’s knee in an encounter that was captured on video and incited large protests against police brutality and systemic racism in Minneapolis and in more than 150 American cities in the weeks and months that followed.

The explosive footage, recorded by a bystander and shared widely on social media, led to community outrage, an F.B.I. civil rights investigation, and the firing and arrest of the officer, Derek Chauvin. The Minneapolis Police Department also fired three officers who were with Mr. Chauvin at the scene.

In June, Mr. Chauvin, 44, was charged with second-degree manslaughter and second-degree murder, a more serious charge than he had originally faced. If convicted, he could face up to 40 years in prison.

The other fired officers, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng, face aiding and abetting charges.

After Mr. Chauvin’s arrest in May was announced, Mr. Floyd’s relatives called the charges “a welcome but overdue step on the road to justice.”

On the evening of May 25, a man identified as George Floyd — not yet a household name — was taken to the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. He was pronounced dead at 9:25 p.m., according to the medical examiner.

The preliminary results from an autopsy found that Mr. Floyd did not appear to have died from strangulation or asphyxiation.

“Mr. Floyd had underlying health conditions, including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease,” prosecutors said in a criminal complaint, which also listed “potential intoxicants.”

The combined effects of his conditions and the way the police restrained him “likely contributed to his death,” the complaint said.

Credit…Minneapolis Police Department, via Reuters

Around 8 p.m. on May 25, Minneapolis police officers responded to a call from a store clerk who claimed Mr. Floyd paid for cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill, the Police Department said in a statement. The police said the man was found sitting on top of a blue car and “appeared to be under the influence.”

“He was ordered to step from his car,” the statement said. “After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress.” The statement said that the officers had called for an ambulance.

According to charging documents however, the officers had tried to get Mr. Floyd into a police vehicle. Mr. Floyd struggled with the officers, “intentionally falling down, saying he was not going in the car, and refusing to stand still.”

Mr. Floyd began saying repeatedly that he could not breathe.

Mr. Chauvin eventually placed him in the police car with Mr. Kueng’s help. At 8:19 p.m., Mr. Chauvin pulled Mr. Floyd out of the passenger side of the squad car. Mr. Floyd hit the ground, face down, handcuffs still on. Mr. Kueng held Mr. Floyd’s back while Mr. Lane held his legs.

Mr. Chauvin lodged his left knee in “the area of Mr. Floyd’s head and neck,” the documents said, and Mr. Floyd continued to protest: “I can’t breathe.”

The day after Mr. Floyd’s death, the police updated a statement, originally titled “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction,” to say that the F.B.I. was joining the investigation after additional information had “been made available.”

Bystanders pleaded and cursed, begging the officer to stop. A paramedic arrived and reached under the officer’s knee, feeling for a pulse on the man’s neck.

The medic turned away, and a stretcher was wheeled over. Mr. Floyd was rolled onto the stretcher, loaded into an ambulance and taken away.

The video did not show what had happened before he was pinned to the ground by his neck.


Credit…Darnella Frazier, via Agence France-Presse

Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis said he did not know how the initial police statement, which described a “medical incident,” had come to be written, but he said he wanted to be “absolutely as transparent as possible.”

Additional footage, from cameras worn by two officers, shows a delayed medical response.


Credit…Hennepin County Jail

On May 26, Mr. Frey announced that the four officers involved in the case had been terminated. “This is the right call,” he said on Twitter.

The Police Department’s statement said that no weapons had been used and that the officers’ body cameras were recording.

Mr. Frey said he had asked the F.B.I. to investigate, and in a statement posted on social media said, “Being Black in America should not be a death sentence.”

The same day, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said in a statement that the F.B.I. was conducting a federal civil rights investigation.

Keith Ellison, Minnesota’s attorney general, announced in June that Mr. Lane, Mr. Thao and Mr. Kueng had been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder as well as aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

Mr. Chauvin, who had initially been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in May, had his murder charge upgraded to the second-degree.

In July, Mr. Floyd’s family filed a lawsuit against the officers.


Credit…Caroline Yang for The New York Times

After the release of the initial video, demonstrators poured into Minneapolis streets for several nights to protest Mr. Floyd’s death.

Officers used tear gas and fired rubber bullets into the crowds.

Images on television and social media had captured businesses being lit on fire and people carrying goods out of a store that had been vandalized. Some demonstrators had gathered at the house of Mr. Chauvin and the house of the local prosecutor, according to The Star Tribune.

State officials said that a series of errors and misjudgments — including the Minneapolis police’s decision to abandon a precinct on May 28 that protesters overtook and burned — had allowed demonstrators to create what Gov. Tim Walz called “absolute chaos.”

On May 29, demonstrators returned to the street for a fourth consecutive night in violation of a curfew imposed by Mr. Walz, who activated the National Guard to help the police patrol the streets. Protesters had again overwhelmed law enforcement.


Credit…Caroline Yang for The New York Times

Minnesota’s top officials acknowledged on May 30 that they had underestimated the destruction that protesters in Minneapolis were capable of inflicting. The curfew did little to stop people from burning buildings and turning the city’s streets into a smoky battleground.

In total, a five-mile stretch of Minneapolis sustained extraordinary damage. Not since the 1992 unrest in Los Angeles has an American city suffered such destructive riots.

Protests had also spread across the country to Los Angeles, New York, Boston and Louisville, Ky., where demonstrators protested the March shooting by the police of Breonna Taylor, a young Black woman who worked as an emergency medical technician. That shooting is also under federal investigation.

As the video spread on social media, the arrest quickly drew comparisons to the case of Eric Garner, a Black man who died in New York police custody in 2014 after an officer held him in a chokehold. Mr. Garner’s repeated plea of “I can’t breathe” — also recorded by a cellphone — became a rallying cry at demonstrations against police misconduct across the country.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, had condemned the force used by the officers in Minneapolis.

“George Floyd deserved better and his family deserves justice,” Mr. Biden tweeted on May 26. “His life mattered.”

Days later, he addressed the nation in a brief speech from his Wilmington, Del., home and called on white Americans to confront the enduring inequities faced by Black Americans.

“The pain is too intense for one community to bear alone,” Mr. Biden said.

President Trump had called Mr. Floyd’s death “a very very sad event,” and later tweeted that he had asked for the F.B.I. investigation to be expedited, adding: “My heart goes out to George’s family and friends. Justice will be served!”

Mr. Trump later suggested on Twitter that protesters could be shot.

“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen,” Mr. Trump said. “Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”

Mr. Walz said Mr. Trump’s tweet was “just not helpful.”

“In the moment where we’re at, in a moment that is so volatile, anything we do to add fuel to that fire is really, really challenging,” he told reporters.

On Sept. 11, Mr. Chauvin and his fellow former officers appeared in court in person for the first time.

Prosecutors said in court documents that Mr. Chauvin had used neck and upper body restraints during at least seven previous arrests.

In four of those arrests over the last six years, prosecutors said that Mr. Chauvin used those restraint techniques “beyond the point when such force was needed under the circumstances.” Prosecutors signaled that they intended to describe the earlier arrests by Mr. Chauvin as a sign that what happened with Mr. Floyd was part of a pattern, not an outlying occurrence.

Lawyers for the defendants argued that they should be tried separately and that their trials should be moved out of Minneapolis. Prosecutors want one trial, arguing that all four acted together, and that separate trials would traumatize Mr. Floyd’s family and eyewitnesses.

Court filings offered indications of Mr. Chauvin’s defense: that he arrived late to the scene and that drugs found in Mr. Floyd’s system most likely caused his death, not Mr. Chauvin’s knee.

While the trial is scheduled for March 8, lawyers for the former officers also asked for a change of venue, arguing that the protests that shook the Twin Cities in May and June and the news media attention have made it impossible to get an impartial jury in Hennepin County.

Reporting was contributed by Maria Cramer, Christine Hauser, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Neil Vigdor, Audra D.S. Burch, John Eligon, Neil MacFarquhar and Manny Fernandez.

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