ST. PAUL — The former Minneapolis police officer shown kneeling on George Floyd's neck in a viral video has been arrested and charged with murder and manslaughter.
At a Friday, May 29, news conference, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman confirmed the charges against former Minneapolis Police Department Officer Derek Chauvin. He said it took four days to charge Chauvin because there is a higher burden of proof to charge law enforcement officers.
"This is by far the fastest we've ever charged a police officer," Freeman said.
Chauvin, 44, has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, according to Hennepin County's criminal complaint. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension took him into custody Friday and he is being held in Minneapolis, according to the state Department of Public Safety.
According to the criminal complaint, Chauvin held his knee down on Floyd's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, during which Floyd eventually went unresponsive. The report said officers are trained to know that "this type of restraint (...) is inherently dangerous."
The three other officers who were at the scene Monday night, who did not intervene to stop Chauvin, have not been arrested, but Freeman said Friday that state and federal investigations are still open. He said his office has zeroed in on Chauvin specifically because "we felt it appropriate to focus on the most dangerous perpetrator."
In response to news of Chauvin's arrest, Floyd's family, as well as their attorney, Ben Crump, released a joint statement calling Chauvin's arrest a "welcome but overdue step on the road to justice." They said they want to see the other three officers from the scene arrested, and that they expect and want first-degree murder charges for Chauvin, not third.
"While this is a right and necessary step, we need the City of Minneapolis — and cities across the country — to fix the policies and training deficiencies that permitted this unlawful killing — and so many others — to occur," they said.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said Friday, “We are a nation at a crossroad, and today’s decision from the County Attorney is an essential first step on a longer road toward justice and healing our city."
Gov. Tim Walz responded to Chauvin's arrest on Twitter Friday saying it was a "good first step toward justice for George Floyd."
"But it doesn't change the systemic problems and persistent inequities that led to his death or the pain our communities live with every day," he added. "We’re committed to change."
Former Officer Chauvin's actions were horrific. His arrest is a good first step toward justice for George Floyd. But it doesn't change the systemic problems and persistent inequities that led to his death or the pain our communities live with every day. We’re committed to change.— Governor Tim Walz (@GovTimWalz) May 29, 2020
Floyd, 46, died at a hospital Monday, May 25, after he was apprehended by Minneapolis police on a forgery charge. Video footage shows Floyd and others asking a police officer to stop as he knelt on Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
Police initially said Floyd was sent to the hospital when he experienced medical distress during an arrest.
The viral video sparked state and federal investigations into Floyd's death and it prompted outrage in the state and beyond. Several local and state officials called for the officers involved to be prosecuted. The four officers present at the scene — Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J Alexander Kueng — were fired Tuesday.
Advocacy groups were quick to call for the arrests of Lane, Thao and Kueng as well. In a statement, Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations executive director Jaylani Hussein said the three should not be granted bail if taken into custody due to "the seriousness of the crime, and the pain it has caused the community."
The NAACP weighed in on Chauvin's arrest as well, saying on Twitter that "we will not rest until all of the officers have been charged in this murder."
#Breaking: Former Minneapolis Police Officer #DerekChauvin, who killed #GeorgeFloyd has been arrested. We will not rest until all of the officers have been charged in this murder. #WeAreDoneDying #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd— NAACP (@NAACP) May 29, 2020
Lawmakers weighed in, as well. In a Friday letter, state House members representing parts of Minneapolis penned a letter to Walz asking him to transfer jurisdiction over the case from the Hennepin County Attorney to the state Attorney General's Office. The representatives wrote that their constituents, particularly those of color, "have lost faith" in Freeman to carry out a fair process. They said transferring the case to Attorney General Keith Ellison "would be one of the most decisive actions that (Walz) could take to calm public anger and guarantee a fair process."
And from Congress, 28 Democratic U.S. senators, including Minnesota's Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, penned a Friday letter urging the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division to investigate "the patterns and practices of racially discriminatory and violent policing in the Minneapolis Police Department."
In order to serve Floyd justice, the senators said not only must the four officers present Monday be held accountable, but "we must work toward justice for the community, which means ensuring that the MPD accounts for and eliminates any unconstitutional police practices."
Former-President Barack Obama also weighed in a Friday statement, saying the onus falls primarily on Minnesota officials to investigate Floyd's death and serve justice, but he said what happened Monday "shouldn't be 'normal'" anymore.
"It galls on all of us, regardless of our race or station -- including the majority of men and women in law enforcement who take pride in doing their tough job the right way, every day -- to work together to create a 'new normal' in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts," he concluded.