Revised Length of Time for Minneapolis Police Restraint of George Floyd

The criminal complaints against former Minneapolis police officers Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J.A. Kueng and Tou Thao all state that “at 8:19:38 . . . Mr. Floyd went to the ground face down and still handcuffedd. Kueng held Mr. Floyd’s back and Lane held his legs. [Chauvin] placed his left knee in the area of Mr. Floyd’s head and neck.” Those same complaints also state, “At 8:27:24 [Chauvin] removed his knee from Mr. Floyd’s neck.” (Emphases added.) [1]

Those same complaints later state, “[Chauvin] had his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in total.” (Emphasis added.)

Chuck Laszewski, the Hennepin County Media Coordinator, on June 18, stated that the 8:19:38 and 8:27:24 times for the beginning and ending of the restraint were correct, but that the total time of restraint was 7 minutes and 46 seconds, not 8 minutes and 46 seconds.[2] This is shown by the following table:

Clock Minutes Seconds
08:19:38—08:19:60     0     22
08:20:00—08:20:60     1       0
08:21:00—08:21:60     1       0
08:22:00—08:22:60     1       0
08:23:00—08:23:60     1       0
08:24:00—08:24:60     1       0
08:25:00—08:25:60     1       0
08:26:00—08:26:60     1       0
08:27:00—08:27:24     0     24
TOTAL     7     46

“These kinds of technical matters can be handled in future amendments to the criminal complaint if other reasons make it necessary to amend the complaint between now and any trials,” said Laszewski. He also said “the one-minute error made no difference to charge nor in the continuing legal hearings.”

Even this revised timing of the restraint on Floyd has been questioned. The New York Times reports that other videotapes of this horrible crime “show that . . . [Chaurvin] continued to hold his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for more than a minute after the ambulance arrrived” and that Chauvin’s knee was on Mr. Floyd’s neck “for at least eight minutes and 15 seconds.”[3]

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[1] What Happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, dwkcommentareis.com (June 5, 2020); The Criminal Complaints Against the Other Three Policemen Involved in George Floyd’s Death, dwkcommentaries.com (June 14, 2020).

[2] Walsh, 7 minutes, 46 seconds: Error in George Floyd killing timeline won’t affect charges, county says, StarTribune (June 18, 2020).

[3] Bogel-Burroughs, 8 Minutes, 46  Seconds Became a Symbol in George Floyd’s Death, The Exact Time Is Less Clear, N.Y. times (June 18, 2020).

 

May 25th Calls for Help at George Floyd Scene 

Additional evidence discloses the transcript of the initial 911 call from Cup Foods on May 25th that started George Floyd’s encounter with the Minneapolis police and death plus other 911 calls while George Floyd was being pinned on the pavement at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue.

First, here is the initial 911 call, 8:01 p.m., from the Cup Foods store:[1]

  • Caller:{S]omeone comes our store and give us fake bills and we realize it before he left the store, and we ran back outside, they was sitting on their car. We tell them to give us their phone, put their (inaudible) thing back and everything and he was also drunk and everything and return to give us our cigarettes back and so he can, so he can go home but he doesn’t want to do that, and he’s sitting on his car cause he is awfully drunk and he’s not in control of himself.
  • Operator: what type of vehicle does he have?
  • Caller: And…. um he’s got a vehicle that is ah…ah he got a vehicle that is ah…one second let me see if I can see the license. The driver license is BRJ026.
  • Operator: Okay, what color is it?
  • Caller: It’s a blue color. It’s a blue van.
  • Operator:Blue van?
  • Caller:Yes, van.
  • Operator:Alright blue van, gotcha. Is it out front or is it on 38th St.?
  • Caller: Ah it’s on 38th St.
  • Operator:On 38th St. So, this guy gave a counterfeit bill, has your cigarettes, and he’s under the influence of something?
  • Caller:Something like that, yes. He is not acting right.
  • Operator:What’s he look like, what race?
  • Caller: Um, he’s a tall guy. He’s like tall and bald, about like 6…6½, and she’s not acting right so and she started to go, drive the car.
  • Operator:Is it a girl or a boy that did this?
  • Caller: It is a man.
  • Operator: Is he white, black, Native, Hispanic,  Asian?
  • Caller:Something like that.
  • Operator:Which one? White, black, Native, Hispanic, Asian?
  • Caller: No, he’s a black guy.”

Second, here (in bold) are the 911 calls while Mr. Floyd was pinned to the pavement on 38th Street that are interspersed with events at the scene according to this blogger’s judgment and the criminal complaint against Officer Derek Chauvin:[2]

  • 8:08 p.m. Officers Thomas Lane and J.A. Kueng arrive at the scene.
  • 8:14 p.m. Officers Lane and Kueng “stood Mr. Floyd up and attempted to walk Mr. Floyd to their squad car. As the officers tried to put Mr. Floyd in their squad car, Mr. Floyd stiffened up and fell to the ground. Mr. Floyd told the officers he was not resisting but he did not want to get in the back seat and was claustrophobic.”
  • 8:?? p.m. Officers Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao arrive at the scene.
  • 8:19:38 p.m. Chauvin “pulled Mr. Floyd out of the passenger side of the squad car . . . and Mr. Floyd went to the ground face down and still handcuffed. Kueng held Mr. Floyd’s back and Lane held his legs.”
  • 8:24:24 p.m. “Mr. Floyd stopped moving.”
  • 8:25:31 p.m. The “the video appears to show Mr. Floyd ceasing to breathe or speak. Lane said, ‘want to roll him on his side.’ Kueng checked Mr. Floyd’s right wrist for a pulse and said, ‘I couldn’t find one.’ None of the officers moved from their positions.”
  • 8:?? p.m. 911 call from an off-duty firefighter, who said, “I am on the block of 38th and Chicago and I literally watched police officers not take a pulse and not do anything to save a man, and I am a first responder myself, and I literally have it on video camera. I just happened to be on a walk so, this dude, this, they (expletive) killed him so…” The firefighter asked to speak to the officers’ supervisors, but the line disconnected.
  • 8:27:24 p.m. Chauvin “removed his knee from Mr. Floyd’s neck. An  ambulance and emergency medical personnel arrived, the officers placed Mr. Floyd on a gurney, and the ambulance left the scene. Mr. Floyd was pronounced dead at Hennepin County Medical Center.”
  • 8:30? p.m. 911 dispatcher who was watching real-time footage of the Floyd arrest called a supervisor and said, “I don’t know, you can call me a snitch if you want to but we have the cameras up for [squad] 320’s call, and…I don’t know if they had to use force or not, but they got something out of the back of the squad, and all of them sat on this man, so I don’t know if they needed you or not, but they haven’t said anything to me yet.” The unnamed supervisor responded, “Yeah, they haven’t said anything yet…just a takedown, which doesn’t count, but I’ll find out.” The dispatcher replied, “No problem, we don’t get to ever see it so when we see it we’re just like, well, that looks a little different, but…” This call ended at 8:31 p.m.
  • 8:32 p.m. 911 call by a bystander who said an officer “pretty much just killed this guy that wasn’t resisting arrest.”
  • 8:45 p.m. A supervisor, Sgt. David Pleoger, arrived at the scene.

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[1] Minneapolis Police Department, 911 Call Transcript. Incident Number: 20-1401629, (May 25, 2020), 20:01:14); Martinez, Minneapolis releases transcript of George Floyd 911 call, CBS News (May 29, 2020).

[2] Jany, Phone tapes: Concerned Minneapolis 911 dispatcher asked police supervisor to respond to George Floyd scene, StarTribune (June 15, 2020). The Criminal Complaint Against Derek Chauvin Over the Death of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (June 12, 2020).

 

Five St. Paul Police Officers Fired for Failing To Intervene in Assault by Ex-Cop     

On June 11, St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell fired five police officers for failing to intervene to stop an ex-cop from beating another man with a baton at a bar last summer.[1]

On Sunday, June 14, Chief Axtel held a press conference to announce these firings over what was an “ugly day in our department’s history.”  He added that this was “a violation of trust, deceit and significant policy violation. . . .Our officers have the duty and obligation at the very least to adhere to our professional standards, and officers are expected to intervene when violent criminal acts occur in their presence. Officers are expected to protect the vulnerable. And officers are expected — I demand that officers tell the truth. When officers fail to live up to these standards it affects everyone who wears a badge and has earned the privilege and the honor to wear this uniform, and that’s why I’ve taken this action. This community deserves to know that its St. Paul police officers will always do the right thing and will always tell the truth.”

The decision to fire the officers was made after an investigation by the department’s internal affairs unit, and after recommendations by the Police Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission.

The St. Paul police union, the St. Paul Police Federation, according to its attorney, Chris Wachtler, will challenge the firings. “We don’t believe the facts of the case warrant any termination of the five officers, and we will fully exercise our rights under the collective bargaining agreement.” Wachtler also said he believed that Chief Axtell violated the Minnesota Data Practices Act by revealing details of the case during the news conference.

Conclusion

This action in St. Paul underscores the importance of the pending “aiding and abetting” criminal case against three Minneapolis policemen for failure to intervene to stop Officer Derek Chauvin’s using his knee to pin George Floyd to the pavement and allegedly causing Floyd’s death.[2]

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[1] Nelson & Furst, Five St. Paul police officers fired for failing to intervene in assault by ex-cop, StarTribune (June 14, 2020).

[2] The Criminal Complaints Against the Other Three Policemen Involved in George Floyd’s Death, dwkcommentaries.com (June 14, 2020).

 

The Criminal Complaints Against the Other Three Policeman Involved in George Floyd’s Death 

As is now well known, four Minneapolis policemen were involved in the May 25th death of George Floyd.

On May 29th and June 3rd criminal charges were filed against Derek Chauvin, the one who placed his knee against Floyd’s neck; the later superseding pleading set forth charges of second and third degree murder and second degree manslaughter, all as discussed in a prior post.

Also on June 3rd Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed criminal charges against the other three policemen who were involved—Thomas K. Lane, J.A. Kueng and Tou Thao: aiding and abetting second degree murder and second degree manslaughter.[1]

In announcing these new charges and the additional charge against Chauvin, Ellison said the cases were still under investigation and encouraged anyone with additional evidence to come forward and cooperate. “We are following the path of all evidence, wherever it leads. We are investigating as quickly as we can, because speed is important. We are also investigating as thoroughly as we can, because thoroughness is also important — and thoroughness takes time.”

“[Such] thoroughness is important because every link in the prosecutorial chain needs to be strong. It needs to be strong because trying this case will be hard. Winning a conviction will be hard. I say that not because I doubt our resources or abilities or resolve, but because history shows that trying and winning a case like this one is hard.“[2]

At their initial hearing in June bail for each of the three officers was set at $1 million (without conditions) and $750,000 (with conditions), and on June 10 Lane posted bail of $750,000 and was released from jail.[3]

Here we will examine and analyze the specific allegations of these charges against the other three policemen.

Criminal Charges Against the Other Officers

All three face the same two Counts:

Count I. Aiding and Abetting Second Degree Murder (Unintentional While Committing a Felony)(Minn. Stat. 609.19.2(1) with reference to 609.05.1. “That on or about May 25, 2020, in Hennepin County, Minnesota, [Lane/Kueng/Thao]  intentionally aided, advised, hired, counseled, or conspired with or otherwise procured the other to commit the crime, namely causing the death of a human being, George Floyd, without intent to effect the death of any person, while committing or attempting to commit a felony offense other than criminal sexual conduct in the first or second degree with force or violence or a drive-by shooting, namely assault in the third degree.”

Count II. Aiding and Abetting Second Degree Manslaughter (Culpable Negligence Creating Unreasonable Risk) (Minn. Stata. 609.205(1) with reference to 609.05.01. “That on or about May 25, 2020, in Hennepin County, [Lane/Kueng/Thao] intentionally aided, advised, hired, counseled, or conspired with or otherwise procured the other to commit the crime, namely caused the death of another, George Floyd, by his culpable negligence, creating an unreasonable risk and consciously took the chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another, George Floyd.”

The three complaints also contained the following essentially identical Statement of Probable Cause (except where indicated, Lane, Kueng and Thao had unique passages). These three Statements of Probable Cause also are the same, in many respects, as the Statement of Probable Cause in the Chauvin complaints):

  • “On May 25, 2020, someone called 911 and reported that a man bought merchandise from  a Cup Foods at 3759 Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota with counterfeit $20 bill. At 8:08 p.m. Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) Officers Thomas Lane . . . and J.A. Kueng . . . arrived  with their bodyworn cameras (BWCs) activated and running. The officers learned from store personnel that the man who passed the counterfeit $20 was parked in a car around the corner  from the store on 38th Street.”
  • “BWC video obtained by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension shows that the Officers approached the car, Lane on the driver’s side and Kueng on the passenger  side. Three people were in the car; George Floyd was in the driver’s seat, a known adult male was in the passenger seat and a known adult female in the backseat. As [Lane] began speaking with Mr. Floyd, [Lane] pulled his gun out and pointed it at Mr. Floyd’s open window and directed Mr. Floyd to show his hands. When Mr. Floyd put his hands on the steering wheel, [Lane] put his gun back in its holster.”
  • “While [Kueng] was speaking with the front seat passenger, [Lane] ordered Mr. Floyd out of the car, put his hands on Mr. Floyd and pulled him out of the car. [Lane] handcuffed Mr. Floyd.”
  • “Once handcuffed, Mr. Floyd  walked with [Lane] to the sidewalk and sat on the ground at [Lane’s] direction. When Mr. Floyd sat down he said, “thank you man” and was calm. In a conversation that lasted just under two minutes, [Lane] asked Mr. Floyd for his name and identification. [Lane] asked Mr. Floyd if he was “on anything” and noted there was foam at the edges of his mouth. [Lane] explained that he was arresting Mr. Floyd for passing counterfeit currency.”
  • “At 8:14 p.m., . . . [Kueng] and [Lane] stood Mr. Floyd up and attempted to walk Mr. Floyd to their squad car. As the officers tried to put Mr. Floyd in their squad car, Mr. Floyd stiffened up and fell to the ground. Mr. Floyd told the officers he was not resisting but he did not want to get in the back seat and was claustrophobic.”
  • “MPD Officers Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao then arrived in a separate squad car.”
  • “[Lane] together with the other officers made several attempts to get Mr. Floyd in the backseat of their squad car by pushing him from the driver’s side. As the officers were trying to force Mr. Floyd in the backseat, Mr. Floyd repeatedly said that he could not breathe. Mr. Floyd did not voluntarily sit in the backseat and the officers physically struggled to try to get him in the backseat.”
  • “Officer Chauvin went to the passenger side and tried to get  Mr. Floyd into the car from that side and [Lane] and [Kueng] assisted.”
  • “Officer Chauvin pulled Mr. Floyd out of the passenger side of the squad car at 8:19:38 p.m. and Mr. Floyd went to the ground face down and still handcuffed. [Kueng] held Mr. Floyd’s back and [Lane] held his legs. Officer Chauvin placed his left knee in the area of Mr. Floyd’s head and neck. Mr. Floyd said, ‘I can’t breathe’ multiple times and repeatedly said ‘Mama’ and ‘please,’ as well. At one point, Mr. Floyd said ‘I’m about to die.’ Officer Chauvin and the other two officers stayed in their positions.”
  • [Only in Thao Complaint: “[Thao] initially obtained a hobble restraint from the squad car to restrain Mr. Floyd in that manner, but the officers chose not to use it and maintained their positions. During this time [Thao] looked directly at how Chauvin was restraining Mr. Floyd with Chauvin’s knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck area, and observed that the three officers had Mr. Floyd subdued in this manner. [Thao] then became concerned about a number of citizens who had gathered and were watching the officers subdue Mr. Floyd, and potential traffic concerns, and so {Thao] stood between those citizens and the three officers restraining Mr. Floyd. When one citizen stepped off the curb, imploring Chauvin to get off of Mr. Floyd, [Thao] put his hands on the citizen to keep him back.”
  • “One of the officers said, ‘You are talking fine’ to Mr. Floyd as he continued to move back and forth. [Lane] asked, ‘should we roll him on his side?’ and Officer Chauvin said, ‘No, staying put where we got him.’ [Lane] said, ‘I am worried about excited delirium or whatever.’ Officer Chauvin said, ‘That’s why we have him on his stomach.’ Officer Chauvin and Kueng held Mr. Floyd’s right hand up.”[Only in Lane Complaint: “Despite his comments, [Lane] took no actions to assist Mr. Floyd, to change his position, or to reduce the force the officers were using against Mr. Floyd.”] [Only in Kueng Complaint: “[Kueng] was in between Chauvin and Lane and in a position to hear their comments.”] Officer Chauvin and [Keung] held Mr. Floyd’s right hand up. None of the three officers moved from their positions.”
  • “While Mr. Floyd showed slight movements, his movements and sounds decreased until at 8:24:24, Mr. Floyd stopped moving. At 8:25:31 the video appears to show Mr. Floyd ceasing to breathe or speak. [Lane] said, ‘want to roll him on his side.’ [Keung] checked Mr. Floyd’s right wrist for a pulse and said, ‘I couldn’t find one.’ None of the officers moved from their positions.”
  • “At 8:27:24, Officer Chauvin removed his knee from Mr. Floyd’s neck. An  ambulance and emergency medical personnel arrived, the officers placed Mr. Floyd on a gurney, and the ambulance left the scene. Mr. Floyd was pronounced dead at Hennepin County Medical Center.”
  • “The Hennepin County Medical Examiner (ME) conducted Mr. Floyd’s autopsy on May 26, 2020. While the ME did not observe physical findings supportive of mechanical asphyxia, the ME opines that Mr. Floyd died from cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officers. The autopsy revealed that Mr. Floyd had arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease, and toxicology testing revealed the presence of fentanyl and evidence of recent methamphetamine use. The ME opined that the effects of the officers’ restraint of Mr. Floyd, his underlying health conditions, and the presence of the drugs contributed to his death. The ME listed the cause of death as ‘ [c]ardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdural, restraint, and neck compression,’ and concluded the manner of death was homicide.”[4]
  • Officer Chauvin, [Lane and Kueng] subdued Mr. Floyd prone to the ground in this manner for nearly 9 minutes. During this time, Mr. Floyd repeatedly stated he could not breathe and his physical condition continued to deteriorate such that force was no longer necessary to control him. Officer Chauvin had his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in total. Two minutes and 53 seconds of this was after Mr. Floyd was non-responsive. Police are trained that this type of restraint with a subject in a prone position is inherently dangerous. Officer Chauvin’s restraint of Mr. Floyd in this manner for a prolonged period was a substantial causal factor in Mr. Floyd’s losing consciousness, constituting substantial bodily harm, and Mr. Floyd’s death as well.”

 Analysis of the Complaints Against the Other Three Officers

 The predicate for all counts against the other three officers is a finding of Chauvin’s being guilty of second degree murder and/or second degree manslaughter that were analyzed in a prior post.

Under that scenario, the most direct statutory provision for the other policemen is the following: “A person is criminally liable for a crime committed by another if the person intentionally aids, advises, hires, counsels, or conspires with or otherwise procures the other to commit the crime.” (Minn. Stat. section 609.05, subd. 1.)(emphasis added).)

Here, there can be no claim that any of these three officers advised, hired, counseled or conspired with or otherwise procured Chauvin to use his knee to restrain Mr. Floyd on the ground for such a long period of time. Thus, the issue for these three officers is whether each of them aided Chauvin in some way to do so.

Since Lane and Kueng physically helped Chauvin in pinning Mr. Floyd to the pavement, they were clearly ‘intentionally aiding” Chauvin in pinning Mr. Floyd.

In addition, the two of them along with Thao failed to intervene to stop Chauvin from his pinning of Mr. Floyd. This raises the issue of  whether the word “aids” includes failure to intervene to stop the commission of the crime of second degree murder or second degree manslaughter. Legal research should examine that issue under cases in Minnesota and other states.

This statutory provision about aiding and abetting is buttressed by the Minneapolis Police Department’s Manual, which under the heading “Duty To Intervene” states: “ Sworn employees have an obligation to protect the public and other employees.” (Manual sec. 5-303.01(A).) And “It shall be the duty of every sworn employee present at any scene where physical force is being applied to either stop or attempt to stop another sworn employee when force is being inappropriately applied or is no longer required.” (Manual sec. 5-303.01(B).)

The Statement of Probable Cause clearly states that these three officers were in close proximity to Chauvin’s pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck, observed that action and Floyd’s reactions, heard Floyd’s saying he could not breathe and had the opportunity to intervene and stop the pressing of Floyd’s neck, but failed to do so.. Indeed, after Floyd stopped moving, they had three more minutes to intervene and stop the pressing of the neck before Chauvin did so himself, but none of the three intervened to stop that action. And after Floyd stopped breathing, they all had nearly two minutes (113 seconds) to intervene, but again did not do so. Lane came closest to doing so when he twice suggested that Floyd be turned over, but then he and the others did nothing further after Chauvin rejected the suggestion. And Officer Kueng could not find a pulse, but then he and the others did not intervene to stop Chauvin’s action in the following near two minutes (113 seconds) of that conduct.

Conclusion

These criminal charges against the other three policemen, according to Christy E. Lopez,  a professor at Georgetown Law School and a former attorney in the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, are “appropriate, but difficult.”  It would be good for the public . . . [and] in the best interest of police.” However, “Social science tells us that intervening to prevent wrongdoing in the middle of a tense incident is far more difficult than we recognize. Notwithstanding the legal duty, there are inhibitors to intervention that most officers will be unable to overcome in the moment unless they have been prepared in advance.”[5]

Lopez adds, “Progressive police agencies and reform advocates have long recognized the importance of officer intervention. Indeed, police have a legal “duty to intervene,” and the Minneapolis Police Department changed its force policy in 2016 to require officers to intervene if they witness another officer using excessive force. The Minnesota attorney general’s Working Group Report on Police-Involved Deadly Force Encounters, released this year, similarly recommended that all law enforcement officers in Minnesota be required to intervene to prevent unreasonable force.”

Such a change, she says, requires training of the police. But “creating a police culture of peer intervention requires more than training. It requires agency reinforcement at every level, and accountability for officers who fail to intervene when they clearly should have — as, again, the video of Floyd’s death depicts.”

The difficulties of one policeman’s intervening to stop another’s abuse are illustrated by a Buffalo New York female officer’s 2016 intervention to stop a white officer’s choking a handcuffed black  protester. The white officer then accused her of jimping on him as he struggled for control and prevailed in an arbitration that led to her being fired. Since then she has been pursuing a lawsuit for reinstatement and passage of a new state law for protection of those who intervene.[6]

At the initial hearing for these three officers, the attorneys for Lane and Keung argued how could new cops like their clients tell or order Chauvin, a policeman with at least 19 years of experience, to stop pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck. Moreover, their lawyers did not mention what may well be true, that there is a culture of policemen backing up each other, and if you intervene and develop a reputation within the police force of being someone who cannot be trusted, then you will not be able to get timely backup when you need it.[7]

This conflict has emerged in other ways.

Immediately after the killing and before the firing of the four police officers involved in this case, Minneapolis Police Federation President Lt. Bob Kroll  stated, ““Now is not the time to rush to judgment and immediately condemn our officers. We ask that the community remain calm and the investigation be completed in full.” And on June 1, Kroll said he was working with the union’s attorneys to help the four fired officers get their jobs back because they were “terminated without due process” while devoting most of his comments to criticizing the city’s handling of resulting riots and making policemen “scapegoats” for the violence.[8]

In addition, the bringing of these criminal charges and the associated protests against the Minneapolis police have caused seven of those officers to resign while another half dozen are in the process of leaving. “Morale has sunk to new lows in recent weeks, say department insiders, as officers reported feeling misunderstood and squeezed by all sides: by the state probe; by protesters, who hurled bricks and epithets their way; by city leaders, who surrendered a police station that later burned on national television, and by the media. Numerous officers and protesters were injured the rioting.”9]

Others at the Police Department have responded differently.[10]

The Minneapolis Police Chief, Medaria Arrandondo, immediately “condemned and fired the four officers involved. He visited the location where Floyd was killed. He spoke directly to Floyd’s family members on national television. He pledged to cooperate with the state’s probe into his department’s practices and make ‘substantive policy changes.’”

On June 11, 14 Minneapolis police officers wrote an open letter to Minneapolis citizens and everyone else. Claiming to speak on behalf of “the vast majority” of their colleagues, the letter’s signatories– Cmdr. Charlie Adams, who now runs its community engagement efforts; Lt. Mark Klukow, who now works in the First Precinct in downtown Minneapolis; Lt. Rick Zimmerman, who runs the homicide unit; Sgt. Darcy Klund, who commands the First Precinct community response team; John Delmonico, the former head of the police union; and others–  said the following:

  • “We wholeheartedly condemn Derek Chauvin. We Are With You in the denouncement of Derek Chauvin’s actions on Memorial Day, 2020. Like us, Derek Chauvin took an oath to hold the sanctity of life most precious. Derek Chauvin failed as a human and stripped George Floyd of his dignity and life. This is not who we are.”
  • “We Are With You and want to communicate a sentiment that is broad within our ranks. We ask that our voices be heard. We are leaders, formal and informal, and from all ranks within the Minneapolis Police Department. We’re not the union or the administration. We are officers who represent the voices of hundreds of other Minneapolis Police Officers. Hundreds. We acknowledge that Chief Arradondo needs each of us to dutifully follow him while he shows us the way. We stand ready to listen and embrace the calls for change, reform and rebuilding.”
  • “We Are With You moving forward. We want to work with you and for you to regain your trust.”

The next event in this important legal proceeding will be hearing in all four criminal cases in Hennepin County District Court on June 29.

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[1] Press Release, Attorney General Ellison charges Derek Chauvin with 2nd-degree murder of George Floy, three former officers with aiding and abetting 2nd degree murder. (June 3, 2020); Complaint, State v.Tou Thao, Prosecutor File No. 33.EC55.0227, Court File No. 27-CR-20-12949 (Dist. Ct., 4th Judicial Dist. June 3, 2020); Complaint, State v. Thomas Kiernan Lane, Prosecutor File No. 33.EC56.0227, Court File No. 27-CR-20-12951 (Dist. Ct., 4th Judicial Dist. June 3, 2020); Complaint, State v. J. Alexander Kueng, Prosecutor File No. 33.EC57.0227, Court File No. 27-CR-20-???? (Dist. Ct., 4th Judicial Dist. June 3, 2020); Shammas, Beilware & Dennis, Murder charges filed against all four officers in George Floyd’s death as protests against biased policing continue, Wash. Post (June 3, 2020); Kornfield, Guarino, Beachum, Thebault, Mettier, Knowles, Chiu, Shepard & Armus, 3 more officers charged in Floyd’s death as protesters gather for 9th night, Wash. Post (June 4, 2020); Montemayor & Xiong, Four fired Minneapolis officers charged, booked in killing of George Floyd, StarTribune (June 4, 2020).

[2] Press Release, Attorney General Ellison charges Derek Chauvin with 2nd-degree murder of George Floyd, three former officers with aiding and abetting 2nd degree murder. (June 3, 2020).

[3]  Initial Hearings in Criminal Cases for Killing of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (June 10, 2020); Karnowski, Judge: $750K bail for 3 ex-officers accused in Floyd death, StarTribune (June 4, 2020); Xiong, Bail set at $1 million for three ex-Minneapolis police officers charged in Floyd case, StarTribune (June 4, 2020); Walsh, Fired Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane, one of 4 charged in George Floyd’s death, posts bail and leaves jail, StarTribune (June 11, 2020).

[4]  Complaint, State v. Chauvin, #  27-CR-20-12646 (Henn. Cty. Dist. Ct. (June 3, 2020).

[5]  Lopez, George Floyd’s death could have been prevented if we had a police culture of intervention, Wash. Post (May 29, 2020).

[6] Sondel & Knowles, George Floyd died after officers didn’t step in. These police say they did—and paid a price, Wash. Post (June 12, 2020).

[7] Condon & Richmond, Duty to intervene: Floyd cops spoke up but didn’t step in, StarTribune (June 7, 2020).

[8] Navratil & Jany, As Mayor Frey calls for officer’s arrest, violence intensifies in Minneapolis, StarTribune (May 28, 2020); Jany & Navratil, Kroll, Minneapolis union head, blasts city’s riot response in letter to officers, StarTribune (June 1, 2020).

[9] Jany & Sawyer, Seven Minneapolis police officers resign after George Floyd protests, citing lack of support from city leaders, StarTribune (June 13, 2020).

[10] Jany & Evans, After George Floyd’s death, Minneapolis police chief is caught in force’s racial legacy, StarTribune (June 8, 2020); Olson, Minneapolis police officers issue open letter condemning colleague in George Floyd’s death, pledging to work toward trust, StarTribune (June 12, 2020).

 

 

 

Judge Peter Cahill Appointed To Handle Criminal Cases Over Death of George Floyd     

On June 12, Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill was appointed to handle the four criminal cases against Minneapolis police officers over the death of George Floyd.[1]

Cahill was appointed to the bench in 2007 by Governor Tim Pawlenty (Rep.) and elected to continue in that position in 2008 and 2014. Known for being decisive and direct, Cahill has handled other significant criminal cases.

In 2019, he presided over the jury trial of Kenneth Lilly for shooting a school bus driver on a snowy winter day. After the jury’s guilty verdict, Cahill sentenced Lilly to seven years in prison, saying the judge accepted that the defendant was “not a monster,” but did not believe the defendant’s assertions that he feared for his life when his car was hit by the slow-moving bus and that he did not know a child was on the bus. Lilly was represented by Thomas Plunkett, who argued for a lower sentence because Lilly had Asperger’s syndrome and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from two attempted robberies. Plunkett now represents one of the four Minneapolis policemen (J. Alexander Kueng) in the Floyd case.[2]

Last year Cahill also presided over the case of Thomas Incantalupo, a former ice skating coach with a local skating club. As the trial for nine counts of sexual assaults with a young girl skater was set to commence in June 2019, the defendant accepted a deal for pleading guilty to two counts in exchange for a prison sentence between 12 and 30 years. Thereafter Cahill sentenced him to 24 years in prison after saying that there was “overwhelming evidence” against the defendant, that the defendant’s apologies “ring hollow” and that the defendant’s actions were “not cheating on your wife. This is a crime against a child.” That defendant was represented by attorney Earl Gray, now the attorney for policeman Thomas Lane in the Floyd case.[3]

Plunkett and Gray and the other two attorneys in the George Floyd case now have 10 days from June 12 to move to replace Cahill, but without having any say on who might be the                replacement and without having the right to move to replace the successor judge.

Before becoming a judge, Cahill was an attorney in the Hennepin County Public Defenders Office, 1984-1987, an attorney in private practice in the Twin Cities, 1987-1997 and in the Hennepin County Attorney’s office, 1997-2007, when Amy Klobuchar was the County Attorney (1999-2007).  His J.D. degree was awarded, magna cum laude, in 1984 by the University of Minnesota Law School.

Cahill will replace his fellow judges Jeannice Reding and Paul Scoggin, who presided respectively at the initial hearings in the Chauvin case and the other case involving the other three policemen.[4] Cahill’s appointment was made by Hennepin County District Judge Toddrick Barnette, who will become the first African-American Chief Judge of the court on July 1, 2020.[5]

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[1] Olson, Judge Peter Cahill to oversee cases of four officers charged in Floyd killing. StarTribune (June 12, 2020); The judge assigned in Floyd’s murder trial is a former assistant to Amy Klobuchar, N.Y. Times (June 12, 2020).

[2] Walsh & Jany, Suspected gunman arrested after school bus driver shot in apparent road-rage incident near downtown Minneapolis, StarTribune (Feb. 7, 2019); Charges filed against man who shot bus driver, (Video), StarTribune (Feb. 7, 2019); Walsh, Charges: Man claims self-defense for shooting Minneapolis school bus driver with girl aboard, StarTribune (Feb. 8, 2019); Xiong, Shooter who wounded school bus driver sentenced to 7 years in prison, StarTribune (Sept. 15, 2019).

[3]  Stahl, Ice-skating coach charged with sexually assaulting 14-year-old student, StarTribune (Jan. 11, 2018); Walsh, Twin Cities skating coach admits sexually abusing girl he instructed, StarTribune (June 19, 2019); Xiong, Minneapolis-area figure skating coach gets decades in prison for girl’s sex abuse, StarTribune (Sept. 27, 2019).

[4] Initial Hearings in Criminal Cases for Killing George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (June 10, 2020).

[5] Xiong. First chief judge of color elected in Hennepin County, StarTribune (May 5, 2020).

The Criminal Complaint Against Derek Chauvin Over the Death of George Floyd

On May 29, Minneapolis’ Hennepin County Attorney, Mike Freeman, issued the first criminal Complaint over the May 25th death of George  Floyd. It stated there was probable cause that former Minneapolis Policeman Derek Michael Chauvin had caused the death of George Floyd in a manner that constituted Third Degree Murder and Second Degree Manslaughter under Minnesota law.[1]

On June 3 the above complaint was superseded by a second criminal Complaint against Chauvin that was issued by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who had been appointed only two days earlier by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz to assume overall responsibility for the case. This pleading added the charge of second degree murder.[2]

As noted in a prior post, on June 8 Chauvin had his initial hearing in this case and his bail was increased to $1,250,000 without conditions and $1 million with conditions; his next hearing is scheduled for June 29, when he is expected to enter his plea to the charges.

The Second Criminal Complaint Against Chauvin[3]

COUNT I: Second Degree Murder (Unintentional While Committing a Felony).

The Complaint alleges In violation of Minnesota Statute 609.19.2(1), “on or about May 25, 2020, in Hennepin County, Minnesota, . . . Chauvin, caused the death of a human being, George Floyd, without intent to effect the death of any person, while committing or attempting to commit a felony offense other than criminal sexual conduct in the first or second degree with force of violence or a drive-by shooting, namely assault in the third degree.”

Section 609.19.2(1) od Minnesota Statutes states, “Whoever does . . . the following is guilty of unintentional murder in the second degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 40 years: causes the death of a human being, without intent to effect the death of any person, while committing or attempting to commit a felony offense other than criminal sexual conduct in the first or second degree with force or violence or a drive-by shooting.”

“Assault” is defined in Minnesota Statutes section 609.02.10 as(1) an act done with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death; or (2) the intentional infliction of or attempt to inflict bodily harm upon another.” And “assault in the third degree” is defined in section 609.223.1 as “Whoever assaults another and inflicts substantial bodily harm may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than five years or to payment of a fine of not more than $10,000, or both.”

‘Bodily harm” is defined in Minnesota Statutes 609.02.7 as “physical pain or injury, illness, or any impairment of physical condition,” while ”substantial bodily harm” in section 609.02.8 is defined as “bodily injury which involves a temporary but substantial disfigurement, or which causes a temporary but substantial loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ, or which causes a fracture of any bodily member.”

Thus, the key factual issues for this Count are (1) whether Chauvin’s placing of his knee on Floyd’s neck and not removing that hold was done with intent to cause Floyd to fear immediate bodily harm or death or with intent to inflict or attempt to inflict bodily harm on Floyd; (2) whether Chauvin’s placing of his knee on Floyd’s neck and not removing that hold caused Floyd substantial bodily harm; and (3) whether Chauin’s placing his knee on Floyd’s neck and not removing that hold caused Floyd’s death.

COUNT II: Third Degree Murder (Perpetrating Eminently Dangerous Act and Evincing Depraved Mind)

The Complaint alleges,“In violation of Minnesota Statute 609.195(a),on or about May 25, 2020, in Hennepin County, . . . Chauvin caused the death of another, George Floyd,  by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life.”

That statute states, “Whoever, without intent to effect the death of any person, causes the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life, is guilty of murder in the third degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than 25 years.”

Thus, the key factual issues for this Count are (1) was Chauvin’s placing his knee on Floyd’s neck and not removing that hold an eminently dangerous act; (2) did Chauvin’s placing his knee on Floyd’s neck and not removing that hold evince a depraved mind; and (3) did Chauvin’s placing his knee on Floyd’s neck and not removing that hold cause Floyd’s death.

COUNT III: Second Degree Manslaughter (Culpable Negligence Creating Unreasonable Risk)

The Complaint alleges, In violation of Minnesota Statute 609.205(1), “on or about May 25, 2020, in Hennepin County, Minnesota,  . . . [Chauvin] caused the death of another, George Floyd,  by his culpable negligence, creating an unreasonable risk and consciously took the chances of causing death or great bodiliy harm  to another, George Floyd.”

That statute states, “A person who causes the death of another by . . . [the person’s] culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to [another] is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than ten years or to payment of a fine of not more than $20,000, or both.” “Great bodily harm’ is defined as “bodily injury which creates a high probability of death, or which causes serious permanent disfigurement, or which causes a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ or other serious bodily harm.” (Minn. Stat. sec. 609.02.8.)

Thus, the key fact issues on this Count are (1) did Chauvin’s placing his knee on Floyd’s neck and not removing that hold create an unreasonable risk of causing death or great bodily harm to Floyd; (2) did Chauvin’s placing his knee on Floyd’s neck and not removing that hold consciously take the chances of causing death or great bodily harm to Floyd; and (3) did Chauvin’s placing his knee on Floyd’s neck and not removing that hold cause Floyd’s death.

Statement of  Probable Cause

“On May 25, 2020, someone called 911 and reported that a man bought merchandise from  a Cup Foods at 3759 Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota with counterfeit $20 bill. At 8:08 p.m., Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) Officers Thomas Lane and J.A. Kueng arrived with their bodyworn cameras (BWCs) activated and running. The officers learned from store personnel that the man who passed the counterfeit $20 was parked in a car around the corner from the store on 38th Street.”

“BWC video obtained by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension shows that the Officers approached the car, Lane on the driver’s side and Kueng on the passenger  side. Three people were in the car; George Floyd was in the driver’s seat, a known adult male was in the passenger seat and a known adult female in the backseat. As Officer Lane began speaking with Mr. Floyd, he pulled his gun out and pointed it at Mr. Floyd’s open window and directed Mr. Floyd to show his hands. When Mr. Floyd put his hands on the steering wheel, Lane put his gun back in its holster.”

“While Officer Kueng was speaking with the front seat passenger, Officer Lane ordered Mr.  Floyd out of the car, put his hands on Mr. Floyd and pulled him out of the car. Officer Lane handcuffed Mr. Floyd.”

“Once handcuffed, Mr. Floyd  walked with Officer Lane to the sidewalk and sat on the ground at Officer Lane’s direction. When Mr. Floyd sat down he said, “thank you man” and was calm. In a conversation that lasted just under two minutes, Officer Lane asked Mr. Floyd for his name and identification. Officer Lane asked Mr. Floyd if he was “on anything”and noted there was foam at the edges of his mouth. Officer Lane explained that he was arresting Mr. Floyd for  passing counterfeit currency.”

“At 8:14 p.m., MPD Officers Kueng and Lane stood Mr. Floyd up and attempted to walk Mr. Floyd to their squad car. As the officers tried to put Mr. Floyd in their squad car, Mr. Floyd stiffened up and fell to the ground. Mr. Floyd told the officers he was not resisting but he did not want to get in the back seat and was claustrophobic.”

“MPD Officers Derek Chauvin (the defendant) and Tou Thao then arrived in a separate squad car.”

“The officers made several attempts to get Mr. Floyd in the backseat of their squad car by pushing him from the driver’s side. As the officers were trying to force Mr. Floyd in the backseat, Mr. Floyd repeatedly said that he could not breathe. Mr. Floyd did not voluntarily sit in the backseat and the officers physically struggled to try to get him in the backseat.”

“[Chauvin] went to the passenger side and tried to get  Mr. Floyd into the car from that side and Lane and Kueng assisted.”“[Chauvin] pulled Mr. Floyd out of the passenger side of the squad car at 8:19:38 p.m. and Mr. Floyd went to the ground face down and still handcuffed. Kueng held Mr. Floyd’s back and Lane held hie legs . [Chauvin] placed his left knee in the area of Mr. Floyd’s head and neck. Mr. Floyd said, ‘I can’t breathe’ multiple times and repeatedly said ‘Mama’ and ‘please,’ as well. At one point, Mr. Floyd said ‘I’m about to die.’ [Chauvin] and the other two officers stayed in their positions.”

“One of the officers said, ‘You are talking fine’ to Mr. Floyd as he contintued to move back and forth. Lane asked, ‘should we roll him on his side?’ and [Chauvin] said, ‘ No, staying put where we got him.’ Officer Lane said, ‘I am worried about delirium or whatever.’ [Chauvin] said, ‘That’s why we have him on his stomach.’ [Chauvin] and Kueng held Mr. Floyd’s right hand up. None of the three officers changed their positions.”

“While Mr. Floyd showed slight movements, his movements and sounds decreased until at 8:24:24, Mr. Floyd stopped moving. At 8:25:31 the video appears to show Mr. Floyd ceasing to breathe or speak. Lane said, ‘want to roll him on his side.’ Kueng checked Mr.Floyd’s right wrist for a pulse and said, ‘I couldn’t find one.’ None of the officers moved from their positions.”

“At 8:27:24, [Chauvin] removed his knee from Mr. Floyd’s neck. An  ambulance and emergency medical personnel arrived, the officers placed Mr. Floyd on a gurney, and the ambulance left the scene. Mr. Floyd was pronounced dead at Hennepin County Medical Center.”

“The Hennepin County Medical Examiner (ME) conducted Mr. Floyd’s autopsy on May 26,     2020. While the ME did not observe physical findings supportive of mechanical asphyxia, the ME opines that Mr. Floyd died from cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officers. The autopsy revealed that Mr. Floyd had arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease, and toxicology testing revealed the presence of fentanyl and evidence pf recent methamphetamine use. The ME opined that the effects of the officers’ restraint of Mr. Floyd, his underlying health conditions, and the presence of the drugs contributed to his death. The ME listed the cause of death as ‘ [c]ardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdural, restraint, and neck compression,’ and concluded the manner of death was homicide.”[4]

[Chauvin] and Officers [Lane] and Kueng subdued Mr. Floyd prone to the ground in this manner for nearly 9 minutes. During this time, Mr. Floyd repeatedly stated he could not breathe and his physical condition continued to deteriorate such that force was no longer necessary to control him. [Chauvin] had his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in total. Two minutes and 53 seconds of this was after Mr. Floyd was non-responsive. Police are trained that this type of restraint with a subject in a prone position is inherently dangerous. Officer Chauvin’s restraint of Mr. Floyd in this manner for a prolonged period was a substantial causal factor in Mr. Floyd’s losing consciousness, constituting substantial bodily harm, and Mr. Floyd’s death as well.”

“[Chauvin] is in custody.”

Analysis of Second Complaint Against Chauvin

In addition to the previously stated factual issues under the Minnesota criminal statutes xfor the three counts of the Complaint, others are raised by  the Minneapolis Police Department Policy and Procedures Manual, which at the time recognized both a “choke hold” and “neck restraint” as permissible under certain circumstances.[5]

The Manual stated that a “Choke Hold’ is a “deadly force option” by “applying direct pressure on a person’s trachea or airway (front of the neck), blocking or obstructing the airway.” (Manual sec. 5-311(I).)

“Deadly force” is defined in the Manual, quoting Minn. Stat. sec. 609.066, subd. 2, as “Force which the actor uses with the purpose of causing, or which the actor should reasonably know creates a substantial risk of causing death or great bodily harm.” (Manual sec. 5-302.)

“Neck restraint,” on the other hand, is stated in the Manual as a “non-deadly force option” and is defined as “compressing one or both sides of a person’s neck with an arm or leg, without applying direct pressure to the trachea or airway (front of the neck). Only sworn employees who have received training from the MPD Training Unit are authorized to use neck restraints.” In addition, the Manual  “authorizes two types of neck restraints: Conscious Neck Restraint and Unconscious Neck Restraint.”

  • “The “Conscious Neck Restraint:The subject is placed in a neck restraint with intent to control, and not to render the subject unconscious, by only applying light to moderate pressure.” It “may be used against a subject who is actively resisting.”
  • The “Unconscious Neck Restraint:The subject is placed in a neck restraint with the intention of rendering the person unconscious by applying adequate pressure.” It “shall only be applied in the following circumstances:
    • 1. On a subject who is exhibiting active aggression, or;
    • 2. For life saving purposes, or;
    • 3. On a subject who is exhibiting active resistance in order to gain control of the subject; and if lesser attempts at control have been or would likely be ineffective.”

These provisions raise the factual issues of whether or not Chauvin was applying “direct pressure” on Mr. Floyd’s “trachea or airway” and thus using a “chokehold.” The other requirement for chokehold seems established: he at least reasonably should have known that this procedure  created a “substantial risk of causing death or great bodily harm,” especially after the warnings by bystanders and by Lane and Kueng.

If, however, Chauvin was not applying direct pressure on Mr. Floyd’s trachea or airway and was not applying a “chokehold,” he was applying a “neck restraint.” But the Complaint definitely suggests that Mr. Floyd was not “actively resisting” and thus it was not a”conscious neck restraint.” In addition, the facts alleged in the Complaint strongly suggest that Mr. Floyd was not “exhibiting active aggression . . . [or] resistance. . . and that it was not used for “life saving purposes.” And thus it was not a valid “unconscious neck restraint.” Moreover, had Chauvin received “training from the MPD Training about neck restraints”? If not, then his use of a neck restraint was not authorized.

Criminologists who have seen the videotape of Chauvin’s treatment of Floyd say that Chauvin’s  “knee restraint not only puts dangerous pressure on the back of the neck, but that Mr. Floyd was kept lying on his stomach for too long. Both positions. . .run the risk of cutting off someone’s oxygen supply.”[6]

A professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law who studies policing. Seth W. Stoughton, said. “Keeping Mr. Floyd in the facedown position with his hands cuffed behind his back is probably what killed him.” About 20 years ago police training started emphasizing avoiding that prone position. Moreover, Stoughton offered, applying the knee to the back of the neck rather than to the sides risks killing or seriously injuring someone by cutting off the air supply or damaging the cervical spine and other delicate bones in the neck. No department permits such a technique in ordinary circumstances.

Mylan Masson, who directed a law enforcement training course at Hennepin Technical College in Minnesota, said she stopped teaching the knee restraint technique to new police officers after the Eric Garner case in 2014.

These criminologist also said that the fact that Mr. Chauvin kept applying pressure when Mr. Floyd was no longer struggling made it appear to be a case of an officer trying to punish a suspect for doing something the police did not like. Philip M. Stinson, a former police officer and now a criminal justice professor at Bowling State University, said it was “a form of ‘street justice,’ . . . bullying [to teach] someone a lesson—next time you will think twice about what you do.”

As a New York Times journalist observed, “For police trainers and criminologists, the episode appears to be a textbook case of why many police departments around the country have sought to ban outright or at least limit the use of chokeholds or other neck restraints in recent years: The practices have led too often to high-profile deaths.”

Conclusion

 An immense debt of gratitude is owed by everyone to the 17-year-old woman who was at the scene and pulled out her cell phone to video record this police encounter.The next day she said, “I started recording as soon as I heard him trying to fight for his life. The world needed to see what I was seeing.” She added, “Stuff like this happens in silence too many times. She hopes her video can in some way bring about “peace and equality. We are tired of police killing us.”  Later her attorney said, “She had no idea she would witness and document one of the most important and high-profile police murders in American history. If it wasn’t for her bravery, presence of mind, and steady hand, and her willingness to post the video on Facebook and share her trauma with the world, all four of those police officers would still be on the streets, possibly terrorizing other members of the community.”[7]

Her example should be remembered by everyone should we ever be in a similar situation. Get out your cell phone and video the encounter. Indeed, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo encouraged others to do the same when confronted with such a scene involving officers’ actions. “Record. Record, absolutely. Record, call. Call a friend. Yell out. Call 911. We need a supervisor to the scene. Absolutely. I need to know that. We need to know that. So the community plays a vital role and did two weeks ago.”

Without that video in the George Floyd case, just imagine how difficult it would be to mount such a prosecution.

However, there still will be challenges for the prosecution in this case.[8]

Former Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner said the prosecution needed to be “painstakingly thorough” with this case and that such cases “are way more complicated and the burden on the prosecution is higher than I think the public understands.”  Of the same opinion was Thomas Heffelfinger, former U.S. Attorney for Minnesota, who said, “It’s not a slam dunk and these cases never are. These cases are hard to prove and we have to make sure we do it correctly.”

Those comments are perfectly understandable in cases where the policeman has to make split-second decisions when his or her life is at stake. But that is not this case here. So I wonder about these assessments by Gaertner and Heffelfinger even though they are both capable attorneys whom I know and who have significant criminal law experience that I do not share.

Another Minnesota attorney, Stephen Grego, saw the following challenges. First, inflammatory statements from elected officials in Minneapolis may have created substantial pretrial prejudice, leading to a change of venue from Hennepin County, which in turn could decrease minority juror representation. Second, causation will be a contested issue with the defense emphasizing the medical examiner’s findings of “fentanyl intoxication” and “recent methamphetamine use” to argue that Chauvin did not cause the death. Third, Minnesota law gives police officers broad discretion to use force when making an arrest. Fourth, can a person with a “depraved mind” direct his or her actions against a specific individual?

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[1] Read the complaint charging ex-Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, StarTribune (May 30, 2020); Xiong & Walsh, Ex-police officer Derek Chauvin charged with murder, manslaughter in George Floyd death, StarTribune (May 29, 2020); Hennepin County attorney announces charges against Derek Chauvin (Video). StarTribune (May 29, 2020); Assoc. Press, Ex-Minneapolis officer faces 12-plus years on murder count, StarTribune (May 29, 2020); Bjorhus, Derek Chauvin in custody,; other officers lay low, StarTribune (May 30, 2020); Walsh, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman faces new challenge in case against former Minneapolis police officer, StarTribune (May 31, 2020); Hill, Tiefenthaler, Triebert, Jordan, Willis & Stein, 8 Minutes and 46 Seconds: How George Floyd Was Killed in Police Custody, N.Y. Times (May 31, 2020).

[2] Montemayor, Minnesota AG Keith Ellison to take over case in Floyd killing, StarTribune (June 1, 2020); Montemayor, Ellison center stage in case of officer charged with murder, StarTribune (June 1, 2020); Four fired Minneapolis police officers charged, booked in killing of George Floyd, StarTribune (June 4, 2020); Jany & Xiong, BCA investigators in George Floyd killing sought access to police training and medical records, surveillance footage, StarTribune (June 1, 2020); Editorial, Ellison can help build trust that justice will be served in Floyd case, StarTribune (June 2, 2020).

[3] Hennepin County Medical Examiner, Press Release Report (Case No. 2020-3700  (June 1, 2020);Click to access 2020-3700%20Floyd,%20George%20Perry%20Update%206.1.2020.pdf

Click to access 2020-3700%20Floyd,%20George%20Perry%20Update%206.1.2020.pdf

 

Hennepin County Medical examiner declares George Floyd death homicide, Fox9 News (June 1, 2020); Forliti & Karnowski, Hennepin County autopsy concludes Floyd died of homicide caused by restraint, neck compression, Pioneer Press (June 1, 2020); Navratil & Walsh, Hennepin Medical Examiner classifies George floyd’s death as ‘homicide,’ StarTribune (June 2, 2020). The Floyd attorney and family commissioned another autopsy that might become an issue in the criminal cases. (See Xiong, George Floyd’s family blasts county autopsy, calls for peaceful protests, StarTribune (June 2, 2020); Autopsy report shows Floyd tested positive for coronavirus, Assoc. Press (June 4, 2020); Walsh, George Floyd autopsy report released; he tested positive for COVID-19 in April, StarTribune (June 4, 2020).

[4]  Complaint, State v. Chauvin, #  27-CR-20-12646 (Henn. Cty. Dist. Ct. (June 3, 2020).

[5] On June 8, the Hennepin County District Court approved a Stipulation and Order compelling the City of Minneapolis to amend the Police Policy and Procedure Manual to prohibit the use of all neck restraints and choke holds for any reason. (Court Approves Agreement on Police conduct Between City of Minneapolis and Minnesota Department of Human Rights, dwkcommentaries.com (June 9, 2020).

[6] Winston, Medical examiner Testifies Eric Garner Died of Asthma Caused by Officer’s Chokehold, N.Y. Times (May 15, 2019)

[7] Walsh, ‘World needed to see,’ says woman who took video of man dying under officer’s knee, StarTribune (May 26, 2020);

Walsh, Teen who recorded George Floyd video wasn’t looking to be a hero, her lawyer says, StarTribune (June 11, 2020).

[8] Grego, Prosecution of the four officers won’t be easy, StarTribune (June 8, 2020); MacFarquar, In George Floyd’s Death, a Police Technique Results in a Too-Familiar Tragedy, N.Y.Times (May 29, 2020); Dewan & Kovaleski, Thousands  of Complaints Do Little to Change Police Ways, N.Y. Times (May 30 & 31, 2020)(review of Minneapolis Police Department); Miller, Former prosecutors weigh case against Minneapolis officers, MPR (June 1, 2020) (interview of Susan Gaertner & Tom Heffelfinger); Hennessy & LeBlanc, 8:46: A number becomes a potent symbol of police brutality, StarTribune (June 4, 2020);Xiong, A timeline of events leading to George Floyd’s death as outlined in charging documents, StarTribune (June 4, 2020).

 

Initial Hearings in Criminal Cases for Killing George Floyd

There are now four criminal cases against former Minneapolis police officers for the killing of George Floyd, all pending in the Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis, and all four have had their brief initial hearings.

Derek Chauvin [1]

On June 8 Chauvin made his initial appearance by a video feed from a room at the Minnesota State Prison in Oak Heights, Minnesota. The only issue was the amount of his bail,  and the hearing lasted only 15 minutes without any comments by Chauvin or his attorney, Eric Nelson.

The prosecutor, Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank, said that the “severity of the charges” and the strong public opinion against Chauvin made him a more likely flight risk if he were released and, therefore, requested the bail be increased from $1 million to $1.25 million. The attorney for Chauvin, Eric Nelson, did not object, and Hennepin County District Judge Jeannice Reding, increased the bail to $1.25 million without conditions and to $1.0 million with conditions.

Chauvin’s next hearing, when he is expected to enter a plea to the charges, will be on June 29.

Judge Reding was appointed to the bench in January 2006, by Governor Tim Pawlenty (Rep.) and was elected to continue in that position in 2008 and 2014. After graduating cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1990, she was an attorney in a private Minneapolis law firm for seven years, a Minnesota Administrative Law Judge for two years and a Hennepin County District Magistrate and Referee for eight years. She is a founding member and past treasurer of the Minnesota American Indian Bar Association and served as a guardian ad Litem for children of tribal members in the tribal court of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane & Tou Thao

Each of these three officers has been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. At their initial hearing on June 4, Hennepin County District Court Judge Paul Scoggin set bail for each at $1 million without conditions or $750,000 with conditions. [3]

The prosecutor, Minnesota Assistant Attorney General, Matthew Frank, argued for high bail amounts because the charges were “very serious” and due to intense public interest each of these defendants was a flight risk. Each of the attorneys for the defendants objected to such amounts and instead argued for bail between $50,000 and $250,000.

Lane’s attorney, Earl Grey, disputing the complaint’s allegation that Chauvin had pulled Floyd out of one of the squad cars, claimed instead that Floyd had reisited arrest, “asserted himself” and  “flew out” of the squad car. Gray also emphasized that on the day of the Floyd death Lane was only on his fourth day as a full-time officer. Therefore, Gray argued, ““What is my client supposed to do but follow what the [senior] officer says? What was [Lane] supposed to do … go up to Mr. Chauvin and grab him and throw him off?” Instead, Lane thought he was doing what was right because he twice asked Chauvin whether they should roll Floyd over. “The strength of this case,” said Gray, “is extremely weak.” As a result, Gray said he would move to dismiss the complaint for lack of evidence.

More generally, Grey said Lane previously had worked as a juvenile counselor at a few “juvenile places” in the Twin Cities and once received a community service award from Mayor Jacob Frey and Minneapolis Police Chief Arradondo for volunteering with children.

Keung’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, made a similar argument. He said, “At all times Mr. Keung and Mr. Lane turned their attention to that 19-year veteran. [They] were trying to communicate that this situation needs to change direction.” In addition, Plunkett said that  Keung is a black man who grew up in north Minneapolis with a single mom who adopted four at-risk children from the community and that Keung has always lived within 10 miles of his childhood home, was captain of the soccer team at Patrick Henry High School, where he graduated, coached youth soccer and baseball, and volunteered to build a school in Haiti. “He turned to law enforcement because he wanted to make that community a better place,” his lawyer said.

Thao’s attorney, Robert Paule, had a different tack. He said Thao had given a statement to investigators from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and that he is not a flight risk because he has deep roots in the community. He  is a lifelong resident of the metro area, is married and has children.

Judge Scoggin was appointed to the bench in 2015 by Governor Mark Dayton (DFL) and elected to continue in that office in 2016. His J.D. was awarded cum laude in 1984 by the University of Minnesota Law School, after which he was an Assistant Hennepin County Attorney through 2014 with a stint in 2009-10 as an International Prosecutor with the European Union External Action.

Conclusion

Subsequent posts will examine the  criminal complaints against the four officers and their second hearing scheduled for June 29.

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[1] Stanley & Xiong, $1.25M bail set for Derek Chauvin at his initial appearance Monday in George Floyd’s death, StarTribune (June 8, 2020); Karnowski, Officer charged in Floyd’s death held on $1 million bail, StarTribune (June 8, 2020); Bail Set for Up to $1.25 Million for Officer Charged With Murder in George Floyd Case, N.Y. Times (June 8, 2020).

[2] Xiong, Two ex-Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd’s death cast blame on more senior colleague, StarTribune (June 5, 2020); Gordon & Richmond, Duty to intervene: Floyd cops spoke but didn’t step in, StarTribune (June 7, 2020); Karnowski, Officer charged in Floyd death held on $1 million bail, StarTribune (June 8, 2020); Condon & Richmond, Duty to intervene: Floyd cops spoke up but didn’t step in, StarTribune (June 7, 2020).

[3] On June 10, Lane posted cash bail of $750,000 with conditions (surrendering firearms, remaining law-abiding and making all future court appearances) and was released from jail. (Walsh, Fired Minneapolis police officer, Thomas Lane, one of 4 charged in George Floyd’s death, posts bail and leaves jail, StarTribune (June 10, 2020).)

 

 

Court Approves Agreement for Police Conduct Between City of Minneapolis and Minnesota Human Rights Department     

On June 5 The City of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights signed a Stipulation and Order mandating certain changes for conduct of the City’s police. Most prominent were a ban on the use of choke holds and neck restraints and requiring officers to intervene when inappropriate force is used. The agreement was in the form of a Stipulation and Order for approval of the Hennepin County District Court.[1]

On June 8 that approval was granted by Hennepin County District Judge Karen Janisch.[2] That approval was in the form of a court order for the Minneapolis Police Department immediately to implement  the following measures[3]

  • Ban the use of all neck restraints and chokeholds.
  • Any police officer, regardless of tenure or rank, must report while still on scene if they observe another police officer use any unauthorized use of force, including any chokehold or neck restraint.
  • Any police officer, regardless of tenure or rank, must intervene by verbal and physical means if they observe another police officer use any unauthorized use of force, including any choke hold or neck restraint.
  • Only the Police Chief or the Chief’s designee at the rank of Deputy Chief may approve the use of crowd control weapons, including chemical agents, rubber bullets, flash-bangs, batons, and marking rounds, during protests and demonstrations.
  • The Police Chief must make timely and transparent discipline decisions for police officers as outlined in the order.
  • Civilian body worn camera footage analysts and investigators in the City’s Office of Police Conduct Review have the authority to proactively audit body worn camera footage and file or amend complaints on behalf of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department.

As a result, the court has the power to enforce compliance with these measures and failure to do so could lead to court-imposed sanctions.

According to Minnesota Commissioner of Human Rights Rebecca Lucero, “Today’s court order will create immediate change for communities of color and Indigenous communities who have suffered generational pain and trauma as a result of systemic and institutional racism and long-standing problems in policing.”

Judge Janisch was appointed to the bench in 2009 by Governor Tim Pawlenty (Rep). and was elected to that position in 2010 and 2016. She obtained her J.D. magna cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1992 and was a Minnesota Supreme Court law clerk, 1992-93, an associate and partner in a Minneapolis law firm, 1993-2003 and General Counsel to Governor Pawlenty, 2003-2009.

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[1]  Ban on Police Choke Holds and Neck Restraints in Agreement Between City of Minneapolis and Minnesota Human Rights Department, dwkcomentaries.com (June 6, 2020.)

[2] Press release, Court Orders Minneapolis Police Department to Make Immediate Changes, Minn. Dep’t Human Rts. (June 8, 2020); Griswold, Court orders Minneapolis Police Department to implement immediate changes,  KARE11 News (June 8, 2020).

[3] Stipulation and Order, State of Minnesota v. City of Minneapolis Police Department, City of Minneapolis, Ct. file # 27-CV-20-8182 (Henn. Cty. Dist. Ct. June 8, 2020).

 

Ban on  Police Choke Holds and Neck Restraints in Agreement Between City of Minneapolis and Minnesota Human Rights Department

On June 5, the City of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights announced an agreement to ban Minneapolis police from using choke holds and neck restraints and to require officers to intervene when inappropriate force is used. The agreement was approved that same day by the Minneapolis City Council and signed by Mayor Jacob Frey, who said, “George Floyd’s service yesterday underscored that justice for George requires more than accountability for the man who killed him – it requires accountability from elected leadership to deep, structural reforms. Today’s agreement with the state will help bring those layers of accountability. This unprecedented energy and momentum for police reform has left Minneapolis poised not just to address our shortcomings, but to become a model for shifting police culture and uprooting systemic racism.” [1]

The agreement is in the form of a Stipulation and Order to be signed by a Hennepin County District Judge after the Department files a lawsuit against the City, which a StarTribune article says happened in the afternoon of June 5, but which was not yet publicly available..[2] This is a result of the Department’s  June 2nd filing a civil rights charge against the City related to the George Floyd death and launching a general investigation of whether and how the Minneapolis Police Department has for the past 10 years engaged in discretionary practices toward people of color.[3]

This Stipulation, if and when it is approved by a district judge, would order the City of Minneapolis as follows:

  1. BAN CHOKEHOLDS: “Within 10 days of the Effective Date, the City will amend Police Department Policy and Procedure Manual §§ 5-100 (Code of Conduct), 5-300 (Use of Force), and 5-311 (Use of Neck Restraints and Choke Holds) to prohibit the use of all neck restraints or choke holds for any reason.”
  2. DUTY TO REPORT: Regardless of tenure or rank, any member of the City’s Police Department who observes another member of the City’s Police Department use any unauthorized use of force, including any choke hold or neck restraint, in violation of this Stipulation and Order, has an affirmative duty to immediately report the incident while still on scene by phone or radio to their Commander or their Commander’s superiors.”
  3. DUTY TO INTERVENE: Regardless of tenure or rank, any member of the City’s Police Department who observes another member of the City’s Police Department use any unauthorized use of force, including any choke hold or neck restraint in violation of this Stipulation and Order, must attempt to safely intervene by verbal and physical means, and if they do not do so shall be subject to discipline to the same severity as if they themselves engaged in the prohibited use of force.”
  4. CROWD CONTROL AUTHORIZATION: During protests and demonstrations, use of all crowd control weapons must be authorized only by the Chief of Police, or if the Chief is unavailable, the Chief’s designee at the rank of Deputy Chief or above. Crowd control weapons include, but are not limited to, chemical agents, rubber bullets, flash-bangs, batons, and marking rounds. The Police Department shall contemporaneously document the person who authorized the use of crowd control weapons and retain such documentation for a period of not less than seven years. Accordingly, within 10 days of the Effective Date, the City will amend Police Department Policy and Procedure Manual § 5-313 to reflect that chemical agents, regardless of canister size, may be used during crowd control situations if authorized only by the Chief of Police, or if the Chief is unavailable, the Chief’s designee at the rank of Deputy Chief or above. Any other provisions of the Police Department Policy and Procedure Manual that identify the authorized use of other crowd control weapons must also be amended within 10 days of the Effective Date to reflect that use of such weapons must be authorized only by the Chief of Police.”
  5. TIMELY DISCIPLINE DECISIONS: For all recommendations that are pending as of the Effective Date of this Stipulation and Order, the Police Chief must issue a decision on any recommendation from the City’s Office of Police Conduct Review (OPCR) within 45 calendar days of the Effective Date. For all recommendations of merit provided by the OPCR after the Effective Date of this Stipulation and Order, and for the duration of this Stipulation and Order, the Police Chief must issue a written memorandum explaining the basis their decision, including the relevant facts, policies and law supporting the decision, within 30 calendar days. If and when permitted by Minn. Stat. § 13.43, the decision and written memorandum will be immediately made available to the public via the City’s website and must also be available for physical inspection. Within 90 calendar days of the Effective Date of this Stipulation and Order, the City shall amend any city ordinances to conform to the requirements of this paragraph. The City shall also amend any city ordinances to fashion an appropriate remedy for the person filing the complaint if a determination on the OPCR’s recommendation of merit is not made within the 30 calendar day time period.”
  6. BODY WORN CAMERA FOOTAGE REVIEW: Civilian body worn camera footage analysts and investigators in the OPCR will have the authority to proactively and strategically audit body worn camera (BWC) footage and file or amend complaints on behalf of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department. Within 90 calendar days of the Effective Date, the City of Minneapolis will submit to the Department of Human Rights a plan for detailing how it intends to strategically utilize this audit function to identify discriminatory practices in policing, including officer misconduct.”

In addition, the Stipulation, if and when it is approved by a district judge, would order the City of Minneapolis to do certain things to aid the Department’s current investigation as well as the following for “Building Toward Systemic Change:”

  1. “On or before July 30, 2020, the City Attorney shall prepare a report listing the State of Minnesota Laws that impede public transparency of police data and/or prevent the Mayor and Chief of Police and/or impede civilian oversight from disciplining and terminating police officers who do not adhere to Minneapolis Police Department policies and standards. “
  2. “The City shall prohibit all forms of retaliation, intimidation, coercion, or adverse action against any person, including any City employee, who reports misconduct or cooperates with MDHR’s Commissioner’s charge investigation. Any violation of this provision shall be considered a material breach of the Order and may result in further enforcement action by MDHR.“

12.“All forms of retaliation, interference, intimidation, and coercion against a City employee or any member of the public who reports misconduct or cooperates with MDHR’s Commissioner’s charge investigation, are strictly prohibited. This prohibited conduct includes anyone employed by the City’s Police Department, or a representative of such employee, who intentionally aids, abets, incites, compels, or coerces a person to engage in any of the practices forbidden by this Stipulation and Order.”

  1. “The City shall notify all employees that it is unlawful to intentionally obstruct or prevent any person from complying with the MHRA, MDHR’s Commissioner’s Charge investigation, or any order issued thereunder, or to resist, prevent, impede, or interfere with the Commissioner or any of the Commissioner’s employees or representatives in the performance of their duties.”

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said, ““George Floyd’s service yesterday underscored that justice for George requires more than accountability for the man who killed him — it requires accountability from elected leadership to deep, structural reforms.”

Presumably the Minneapolis Police Union has a right to intervene in this lawsuit and to oppose the proposed Stipulation and Order that would have to be ruled on by the district court.

We will wait to see whether they do so and what happens.

Reactions

These proposed revisions of the MPD Manual, in this blogger’s opinion, should be approved by the court after a hearing.

If and when approved by the court, however, they would only go into effect for subsequent actions by the police. Therefore, they are not relevant to the pending criminal cases about the killing of George Floyd. However, provisions of the existing MPD Manual will be relevant to these cases as discussed below.

Case Against Derek Chauvin[4]

That  Manual states that a “Choke Hold’s is a “deadly force option” by “applying direct pressure on a person’s trachea or airway (front of the neck), blocking or obstructing the airway.” (Manual sec. 5-311(I).)

“Deadly force” is defined in the Manual, quoting Minn. Stat. sec. 609.066, subd. 2 as ““Force which the actor uses with the purpose of causing, or which the actor should reasonably know creates a substantial risk of causing death or great bodily harm.”(Manual sec. 5-302.).

“Neck restraint,” on the other hand, is stated in the Manual as a “non-deadly force option” and is defined as “compressing one or both sides of a person’s neck with an arm or leg, without applying direct pressure to the trachea or airway (front of the neck). Only sworn employees who have received training from the MPD Training Unit are authorized to use neck restraints.” In addition, the Manual  “authorizes two types of neck restraints: Conscious Neck Restraint and Unconscious Neck Restraint.” (Manual sec. 5-311.)

  • Conscious Neck Restraint:The subject is placed in a neck restraint with intent to control, and not to render the subject unconscious, by only applying light to moderate pressure.” It “may be used against a subject who is actively resisting.”
  • Unconscious Neck Restraint:The subject is placed in a neck restraint with the intention of rendering the person unconscious by applying adequate pressure.” It “shall only be applied in the following circumstances:
  1. On a subject who is exhibiting active aggression, or;
  2. For life saving purposes, or;
  3. On a subject who is exhibiting active resistance in order to gain control of the subject; and if lesser attempts at control have been or would likely be ineffective.”

Criminologists who have seen the videotape of Chauvin’s treatment of Floyd say that Chauvin’s  “knee restraint not only puts dangerous pressure on the back of the neck, but that Mr. Floyd was kept lying on his stomach for too long. Both positions. . .run the risk of cutting off someone’s oxygen supply.”

These criminologist also said that the fact that Mr. Chauvin kept applying pressure when Mr. Floyd was no longer struggling made it appear to be a case of an officer trying to punish a suspect for doing something the police did not like. Philip M. Stinson, a former police officer and now a criminal justice professor at Bowling State University, said it was “a form of ‘street justice,’ . . . bullying [to teach] someone a lesson—next time you will think twice about what you do.”

Case Against Other Officers

The existing MPD Manual, under the heading “Duty To Intervene” states: “ Sworn employees have an obligation to protect the public and other employees.” (Manual sec. 5-303.01(A).) And “It shall be the duty of every sworn employee present at any scene where physical force is being applied to either stop or attempt to stop another sworn employee when force is being inappropriately applied or is no longer required.” (Manual sec. 5-303.01(B).)

Conclusion

 Subsequent posts will cover the future court hearing and decision on the proposed changes to the MPD Manual while other posts will analyze the pending criminal cases and developments.

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[1] Navratil,Tentative agreement would ban chokeholds, neck restraints by Minneapolis police, StarTribune (June 5, 2020); Minneapolis to ban the use of chokeholds in response to George Floyd’s death, N.Y. Times (June 5, 2020); Governor Walz, Walz-Flanagan Administration, City of Minneapolis Agree on Immediate Changes to Minneapolis Police Department Policies (June 5, 2020); Chavez, Sanchez & Alonso, Minneapolis City council votes to ban chokeholds one day after George Floyd memorial, cnn.com (June 5, 2020); Collins, Chapman, Martinez & Li, Weekend George Floyd Protests Planned, Seeking Reforms, W.S.J. (June 5, 2020); ‘Layers of accountability’: Mayor Jacob Frey Signs Restraining Order Forcing Immediate Reforms in Mpls. Police Dept., CBS Minnesota (June 5, 2020).

[2] Stipulation and Order [unsigned], State of Minnesota v. City of Minneapolis Police Department, City of Minneapolis (undated2020) (unsigned).

[3] Berkl & Navratil, Minnesota Human Rights Department launches probe into Minneapolis police, StarTribune (June 3, 2020);

Minn. Dep’t Human Rts., Civil Rights Investigation into Minneapolis Police Department (June 3, 3030); Governor Walz, Walz Administration’s Department of Human Rights Files Civil Rights Charge Against Minneapolis Police Department (June 2, 2020).

[4] MacFarquar, In George Floyd’s Death, a Police Technique Results in a Too-Familiar Tragedy, N.Y.Times (May 29, 2020).

 

What Happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020

By now, everyone in the U.S. and the rest of the world knows or could know that on the evening of May 25 in Minneapolis, Minnesota (at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue) George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, was killed by a Minneapolis policeman (Derek Chauvin) in the presence of three other Minneapolis policemen (Alexander Keung, J. Alexander Lane and Tou Thao).[1] Here is what is believed to be a fair summary of those horrendous 17 minutes of police encounters with Floyd and certain preceding events that evening:

  • That evening Floyd buys a package of cigarettes at a convenience store (Cup Foods) and pays for it with a $20 bill.
  • After Floyd left the store, a store employee inspects the $20 bill and believes it is forged. Two store employees then go outside and see Floyd in the driver’s seat of a dark blue Mercedes SUV across 38th Street .     
  • The two store employees go to the SUV and one of them from the driver’s side and the other from the passenger’s side of the SUV ask for the return of the package of cigarettes of a man in the passenger seat and Floyd in the driver’s seat. The request is denied.
  • The two employees return to the store and presumably one of them or another employee dials 911 to report a customer who had paid for cigarettes with an alleged forged $20 bill. They apparently also said that the African-American man appeared to be drunk and was now in a SUV across the street from the store.
  • At 8:08 p.m. two MPD officers (Lane and Keung) arrive at the scene and a store employee directs them to an African-American man (Floyd) in the driver’s seat of the Mercedes SUV across 38th Street.  This starts the approximate 17 minutes of police encounters with Floyd before he is removed on a gurney by medics in an ambulance.
  • Lane arrives at the driver’s side of this SUV and with his revolver drawn tells the African-American man (Floyd) to put his hands on the steering wheel. Floyd immediately does so without resistance and Lane puts the revolver back in his holster.
  • Lane then pulls Floyd out of the car, and he and Keung handcuff  Floyd’s hands behind his back and take him across the sidewalk and seat him on the sidewalk with his back to the brick wall, all without any resistance by Floyd.
  • At 8:14 p.m. Lane and Keurig had Floyd get up from the sidewalk and walk across 38th Street to their squad car and tried to get him into the back seat. Floyd said he was not resisting, but could not get into back seat because he is claustrophobic. But officers get him into the back seat.
  • At 8:19 p.m. Officers Chauvin and Thao arrive at the scene in a different squad car. Chauvin pulled Floyd out of the back seat of the first squad car with Floyd, still handcuffed, who falls to the pavement. Clausen then puts his left knee on the neck of the fallen Floyd while Kueng held Floyd’s back and Lane one of his legs.
  • At some time Lane asked Chauvin if they should roll Floyd on his side, but Chauvin says “no” and the officers do not change what they are doing.
  • At 8:24 p.m. Floyd stopped moving.
  • At 8:25 p.m. Floyd appeared to stop breathing and Lane asked again if they should move Floyd onto his side, but Chauvin again refused to do so.
  • At 8:27 p.m. Chauvin moved his leg off Floyd’s neck or 8 minutes and 46 seconds after he had placed his knee on the neck and 2 minutes and 53 seconds after Floyd had become non-responsive. The latter happened when an ambulance and emergency medics arrived and placed Floyd on a gurney to go the Hennepin County Medical Center..
  • At 9:25 p.m. Floyd was pronounced dead at the Medical Center after an hour of unsuccessful attempts to revive him.

Subsequent posts will examine the criminal charges brought against Chauvin and then against the other three policemen, their initial court appearances, initial comments by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freenman, subsequent comments by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and the commencement of efforts to change and reform various aspects of Minnesota and federal criminal law and procedure.

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[1] E.g., Hill, Tiefenthaler, Triebert, Jordan, Willis & Stein, 8 Minutes and 46 Seconds: How George Floyd Was Killed in Police Custody, N.Y. Times (May 31, 2020);  Hennesy & LeBlanc, 8:46: A number becomes a potent symbol of police brutality, Star Tribune (June 4, 2020); Xiong, A timeline of events leading to George Floyd’s death as outlined in charging documents, StarTribune (June 4, 2020).