I have written several articles on postings related to politics. A list of links have been provided at bottom of this article for your convenience. This article will, however address different aspects on these political events.
While I am not a conspiracy theory nut, I do believe that there are conspiracies out there. I believe the death of George Floyd was part of such a conspiracy. While a lot of this is part of my imagination, I will do my best to support it with as much supporting evidence as possible. I am sure part will be anecdotal in nature. As always I will let the facts lead the way. I will start this article with some background information on the two key characters. I am not here to tarnish George Floyd in any manner, but I am also not going to sugar coat his life either. The same goes with Derek Chauvin.
A long look at the complicated life of George Floyd
Years before a bystander’s video of George Floyd’s last moments turned his name into a global cry for justice, Floyd trained a camera on himself.
“I just want to speak to you all real quick,” Floyd says in one video, addressing the young men in his neighborhood who looked up to him. His 6-foot-7 frame crowds the picture.
“I’ve got my shortcomings and my flaws and I ain’t better than nobody else,” he says. “But, man, the shootings that’s going on, I don’t care what ‘hood you’re from, where you’re at, man. I love you and God loves you. Put them guns down.”
At the time, Floyd was respected as a man who spoke from hard, but hardly extraordinary, experience. He had nothing remotely like the stature he has gained in death, embraced as a universal symbol of the need to overhaul policing and held up as a heroic everyman.
But the reality of his 46 years on Earth, including sharp edges and setbacks Floyd himself acknowledged, was both much fuller and more complicated.
Once a star athlete with dreams of turning pro and enough talent to win a partial scholarship, Floyd returned home only to bounce between jobs before serving nearly five years in prison. Intensely proud of his roots in Houston’s Third Ward and admired as a mentor in a public housing project beset by poverty, he decided the only way forward was to leave it behind.
“He had made some mistakes that cost him some years of his life,” said Ronnie Lillard, a friend and rapper who performs under the name Reconcile. “And when he got out of that, I think the Lord greatly impacted his heart.”
A childhood in Houston and ‘Big Friendly’
Floyd was born in North Carolina. But his mother, a single parent, moved the family to Houston when he was 2, so she could search for work. They settled in the Cuney Homes, a low-slung warren of more than 500 apartments south of downtown nicknamed “The Bricks.”
The neighborhood, for decades a cornerstone of Houston’s black community, has gentrified in recent years. Texas Southern University, a historically black campus directly across the street from the projects, has long held itself out as launchpad for those willing to strive. But many residents struggle, with incomes about half the city average and unemployment nearly four times higher, even before the recent economic collapse.
Yeura Hall, who grew up next door to Floyd, said even in the Third Ward other kids looked down on those who lived in public housing. To deflect the teasing, he, Floyd and other boys made up a song about themselves: “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Cuney Homes kid. They got so many rats and roaches I can play with.”
Larcenia Floyd invested her hopes in her son, who as a second-grader wrote that he dreamed of being a U.S. Supreme Court justice.
“She thought that he would be the one that would bring them out of poverty and struggle,” said Travis Cains, a longtime friend.
Floyd was a star tight end for the football team at Jack Yates High School, playing for the losing side in the 1992 state championship game at the Houston Astrodome.
He was an atypical football player. “We used to call him ‘Big Friendly,’” said Cervaanz Williams, a former teammate.
“If you said something to him, his head would drop,” said Maurice McGowan, his football coach. “He just wasn’t going to ball up and act like he wanted to fight you.”
On the basketball court, Floyd’s height and strength won attention from George Walker, a former assistant coach at the University of Houston hired for the head job at what is now South Florida State College. The school was a 17-hour drive away, in a small town, but high school administrators and Floyd’s mother urged him to go, Walker said.
“They wanted George to really get out of the neighborhood, to do something, be something,” Walker said.
In Avon Park, Florida, Floyd and a few other players from Houston stood out for their size, accents and city cool. They lived in the Jacaranda Hotel, a historic lodge used as a dormitory, and were known as the “Jac Boys.”
“He was always telling me about the Third Ward of Houston, how rough it was, but how much he loved it,” said Robert Caldwell, a friend and fellow student who frequently traveled with the basketball team. “He said people know how to grind, as hard as it is, people know how to love.”
After two years in Avon Park, Floyd spent a year at Texas A&M University in Kingsville before returning to Houston and his mother’s apartment to find jobs in construction and security.
Larcenia Floyd, known throughout the neighborhood as Ms. Cissy, welcomed her son’s friends from childhood, offering their apartment as refuge when their lives grew stressful. When a neighbor went to prison on drug charges, Ms. Cissy took in the woman’s pre-teen son, Cal Wayne, deputizing George to play older brother for the next 2½ years.
“We would steal his jerseys and put his jerseys on and run around the house, go outside, jerseys all the way down to our ankles because he was so big and we were little,” said Wayne, now a well-known rapper who credits Floyd with encouraging him to pursue music.
George Floyd, he said, “was like a superhero.”
Drugs and prison
Floyd, too, dabbled in music, occasionally invited to rap with Robert Earl Davis Jr. — better known as DJ Screw, whose mixtapes have since been recognized as influential in charting Houston’s place as a hotbed of hip-hop.
But then, the man known throughout Cuney as “Big Floyd,” started finding trouble.
Between 1997 and 2005, Floyd was arrested several times on drug and theft charges, spending months in jail. Around that time, Wayne’s mother, Sheila Masters, recalled running into Floyd in the street and learning he was homeless.
“He’s so tall he’d pat me on my head … and say, ‘Mama you know it’s going to be all right,’” Masters said.
In August 2007, Floyd was arrested and charged with aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon. Investigators said he and five other men barged into a woman’s apartment, and Floyd pushed a pistol into her abdomen before searching for items to steal. Floyd pleaded guilty in 2009 and was sentenced to five years in prison. By the time he was paroled, in January 2013, he was nearing 40.
“He came home with his head on right,” said friend Travis Cains.
At a Christian rap concert in the Third Ward, Floyd met Lillard and pastor Patrick “PT” Ngwolo, whose ministry was looking for ways to reach residents in Cuney Homes. Floyd, who seemed to know everyone in the project, volunteered to be their guide.
Soon Floyd was setting up a washtub on the Cuney basketball courts for baptisms by Ngwolo’s newly formed Resurrection Houston congregation. He joined three-on-three basketball tournaments and barbecues, organized by the ministry. He knocked on doors with Ngwolo, introducing residents as candidates for grocery deliveries or Bible study.
Another pastor, Christopher Johnson, recalled Floyd stopping by his office while Johnson’s mother was visiting. Decades had passed since Johnson’s mother had been a teacher at Floyd’s high school. It didn’t matter. He wrapped her in a bear hug.
“I don’t think he ever thought of himself as being big,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of big dudes here, but he was a gentleman and a diplomat and I’m not putting any sauce on it.”
On the streets of Cuney, Floyd was increasingly embraced as an O.G. — literally “original gangster,” but bestowed as a title of respect for a mentor who’d learned from life experience.
In Tiffany Cofield’s classroom at a neighborhood charter school, some of her male students — many of whom had already had brushes with the law — told her to talk to “Big Floyd” if she wanted to understand.
Floyd would listen patiently as she voiced her frustrations with students’ bad behavior, she said. And he would try to explain the life of a young man in the projects.
After school, Floyd often met up with her students outside a corner store.
“How’s school going?” he’d ask. “Are you being respectful? How’s your mom? How’s your grandma?”
Leaving Houston for a fresh start in Minneapolis
In 2014, Floyd began exploring the possibility of leaving the neighborhood.
As the father of five children from several relationships, he had bills to pay. And despite his stature in Cuney, everyday life could be trying. More than once, Floyd ended up in handcuffs when police came through the projects and detained a large number of men, Cofield said.
“He would show by example: ‘Yes, officer. No, officer.’ Very respectful. Very calm tone,” she said.
A friend of Floyd’s had already moved to the Twin Cities as part of a church discipleship program that offered men a route to self-sufficiency by changing their environment and helping them find jobs.
“He was looking to start over fresh, a new beginning,” said Christopher Harris, who preceded Floyd to Minneapolis. Friends provided Floyd with money and clothing to ease the transition.
In Minneapolis, Floyd found a job as a security guard at the Salvation Army’s Harbor Light Center — the city’s largest homeless shelter.
“He would regularly walk a couple of female co-workers out … at night and make sure they got to their cars safely and securely,” said Brian Molohon, director of development for the Army’s Minnesota office. “Just a big strong guy, but with a very tender side.”
Floyd left after a little over a year, training to drive trucks while working as a bouncer at a club called Conga Latin Bistro.
“He would dance badly to make people laugh,” said the owner, Jovanni Thunstrom. “I tried to teach him how to dance because he loved Latin music, but I couldn’t because he was too tall for me.”
Floyd kept his connection to Houston, regularly returning to Cuney.
When Houston hosted the Super Bowl in 2017, Floyd was back in town, hosting a party at the church with music and free AIDS testing. He came back again for his mother’s funeral the next year. And when Cains spoke with him last, a few weeks ago, Floyd was planning another trip for this summer.
By then, Floyd was out of work. Early this spring, Thunstrom cut Floyd’s job when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the club to close.Who was George Floyd? Unemployed due to coronavirus, he’d moved to Minneapolis for a fresh start. »
On the evening of Memorial Day, Floyd was with two others when convenience store employees accused him of paying for cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill, then called the police. Less than an hour later, Floyd breathed his last breath.
Those who knew him search for meaning in his death.
“I’ve come to the belief that he was chosen,” said Cofield, the teacher. “Only this could have happened to him because of who he was and the amount of love that he had for people, people had for him.”
It’s a small comfort, she admits. But, then, in Big Floyd’s neighborhood, people have long made do with less.
Background Check: Investigating George Floyd’s Criminal Record
The question of past arrests often surfaces among people who want to rationalize police officers’ actions when Black men are killed in custody.
As cities worldwide erupted in protests over the death of George Floyd — a Black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for about nine minutes in Minneapolis — the leader of that city’s police federation sent the below-displayed email to union members. In it, he criticized journalists’ and politicians’ portrayal of the man whose death had sparked a global reckoning over racism in policing.
“What is not being told is the violent criminal history of George Floyd,” said former Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) Lt. Bob Kroll, who represented more than 800 police officers at the time of Floyd’s death. “The media will not air this.”
The June 1, 2020, letter by Kroll, whom Snopes could not reach for this report and retired in early 2021, inspired a wave of claims online about Floyd’s alleged arrests and incarcerations before his death — mostly among people who seemed to be searching for evidence that either the actions by the Minneapolis police officer who choked Floyd were justified, or memorials to honor him were unnecessary.
Among the most popular claims were those by the right-wing commentator Candace Owens, who, in a roughly 18-minute video that’s been viewed more than 6 million times, made several accusations about Floyd’s past and the events that led to his death. She said:
No one thinks that he should have died in his arrest, but what I find despicable to be is that everyone is pretending that this man lived a heroic lifestyle when he didn’t. …I refuse to accept the narrative that this person is a martyr or should be lifted up in the black community. …He has a rap sheet that is long, that is dangerous. He is an example of a violent criminal his entire life — up until the very last moment.”
She claimed reporters had wrongly interpreted Floyd’s death to the public by purposefully omitting details about his past unlawful behavior, and she falsely and inappropriately called police brutality a “myth” and part of some nefarious scheme by news media to polarize Americans before the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
That video, as well as misleading photographs, memes like the one displayed below, and sensationalized tabloid stories about Floyd’s past, prompted numerous inquiries to Snopes from people wondering if he had indeed served time in jail or prison before his death at age 46.
The claims in this meme are a mixture of true and false, as we’ll document below. In brief, the alleged crimes and time periods are mostly accurate, with the caveat that Floyd was convicted of theft in 1998, not armed robbery. But the following information makes other aspects of the post misleading: Not all the crimes resulted in prison time, but rather jail sentences; no evidence suggests a woman involved in the 2007 charge was pregnant; it’s an exaggeration of toxicology results to claim Floyd “was high on meth” when he was choked by a cop, and there’s no proof that Floyd was “getting ready to drive a car” before his fatal encounter with police other than the fact that officers say they approached him as he sat in the driver’s seat of a vehicle.
What follows is everything we know about crimes committed by Floyd — who was born in North Carolina, lived most of his life in Houston and moved to Minneapolis in 2014 — based on court records and police accounts to fulfill those requests. Additionally, this report explores the following:
- Did Floyd’s past arrests and incarcerations have any effect on police officers’ actions during the 911 call that led to his death?
- Was he “high on meth” when he was choked by the Minneapolis cop and died, like the above-displayed meme claims?
- How will Floyd’s criminal record and autopsy toxicology results play a role in the murder trials for the police officers charged in his death?
- Why do some people draw attention to the criminal histories of non-white people killed by police?
We should note at the outset that attorney Ben Crump, who represents Floyd’s family, did not respond to Snopes’ multiple requests for comment, and when we reached an MPD spokesman by phone for this report, he requested an email interview but did not complete it.
Also, we should make clear that four officers involved in Floyd’s death, including the cop who knelt on his neck, were fired from MPD and have been criminally charged (details below).
Police Arrested Floyd a Total of 9 Times, Mostly on Drug and Theft Charges
According to court records in Harris County, which encompasses Floyd’s hometown of Houston, authorities arrested him on nine separate occasions between 1997 and 2007, mostly on drug and theft charges that resulted in months-long jail sentences.
But before we get into the specifics of those cases, first, some biographical details, per The Associated Press (AP): Floyd was the son of a single mother, who moved to Houston from North Carolina when he was a toddler so she could find work. They settled in what’s called “Cuney Homes,” a low-income public housing complex of more than 500 apartments in the city’s predominately Black Third Ward. As a teen, Floyd was a star football and basketball player for Jake Yates High School, and later he played basketball for two years at a Florida community college. After that, in 1995, he spent one year at Texas A&M University in Kingsville before returning to his mother’s Cuney apartment in Houston to find jobs in construction and security.
Another piece of important context while exploring how, and under what circumstances, police arrested Floyd in the late 1990s and early 2000s when he lived in Cuney Homes: On multiple occasions, police would make sweeps through the complex and end up detaining a large number of men, including Floyd, a neighborhood friend named Tiffany Cofield told the AP. Additionally, Texas has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, per the Prison Policy Initiative, and several studies show authorities are way more likely to target Black Texans for arrests than white residents.
As to the details of Floyd’s arrests, the first occurred on Aug. 2, 1997, when he was almost 23 years old. According to prosecutors, police in that case caught him delivering less than one gram of cocaine to someone else, so they sentenced him to about six months in jail. Then, the following year, authorities arrested and charged Floyd with theft on two separate occasions (on Sept. 25, 1998, and Dec. 9, 1998), sentencing him to a total of 10 months and 10 days in jail.
Then, about three years later (on Aug. 29, 2001), Floyd was sentenced to 15 days in jail for “failure to identify to a police officer,” court documents say. In other words, he allegedly didn’t give his name, address or birth date to a cop who was arresting him for reasons that are unknown (the court records don’t say why police were questioning him in the first place) and requesting that personal information.
Between 2002 and 2005, police arrested and charged Floyd for another four crimes: for having less than one gram of cocaine on him (on Oct. 29, 2002); for criminal trespassing (on Jan. 3, 2003); for intending to give less than one gram of cocaine to someone else (on Feb. 6, 2004); and for again having less than one gram of cocaine in his possession (on Dec. 15, 2005). He was sentenced to about 30 months in jail, total, for those crimes.
Lastly, in 2007, authorities arrested and charged Floyd with his most serious crime: aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon.
According to police officers’ probable-cause statement, which is often the basis of prosecutors’ case against suspects, the incident (on Aug. 9, 2007) unfolded like this: Two adults, Aracely Henriquez and Angel Negrete, and a toddler were in a home when they heard a knock at the front door. When Henriquez looked out the window, she saw a man “dressed in a blue uniform” who said “he was with the water department.” But when she opened the door, she realized the man was telling a lie and she tried shutting him out. Then, the statement reads:
However, this male held the door open and prevented her from doing so. At this time, a black Ford Explorer pulled up in front of the Complainants’ residence and five other black males exited this vehicle and proceeded to the front door. The largest of these suspects forced his way into the residence, placed a pistol against the complainant’s abdomen, and forced her into the living room area of the residence. This large suspect then proceeded to search the residence while another armed suspect guarded the complainant, who was struck in the head and side areas by this second armed suspect with his pistol after she screamed for help. As the suspects looked through the residence, they demanded to know where the drugs and money were and Complaint Henriquez advised them that there were no such things in the residence. The suspects then took some jewelry along with the complainant’s cell phone before they fled the scene in the black Ford Explorer.
About three months later, investigators in the Houston Police Department narcotics unit “came across this vehicle during one of the their respective investigations and identified the following subjects as occupants of this vehicle at the time of their investigation: George Floyd (Driver)…,” the statement reads.
At 6-foot-7, Floyd was identified as the “the largest” of the six suspects who arrived at the home in the Ford Explorer and had pushed a pistol against Henriquez’ abdomen before looking for items to steal. (Nothing in the court documents suggests she was pregnant at the time of the robbery, contrary to what memes and Owens later claimed.) He pleaded guilty in 2009 and was sentenced to five years in prison. He was paroled in January 2013, when he was almost 40 years old.
We Don’t Know If MPD Officers Knew of Floyd’s Past Arrests and Incarcerations
But to fully explore this, we’ll lay out what happened on May 25, 2020. Around 8 p.m., someone inside a South Minneapolis convenience store called police to report that a man had used a $20 counterfeit bill to buy cigarettes, and then he ran outside to a vehicle parked nearby. The caller did not identify Floyd by name, according to the 911 transcript.https://6b299df332826c5102a1945f38868431.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
But here are some details about that call we learned after Floyd’s death: The owner of the store, Mahmoud Abumayyaleh, told NPR that clerks are trained to let management know when someone uses counterfeit money, and the workers try to handle the crime themselves without cops, unless things escalate to violence. But in Floyd’s case, Abumayyaleh said a teenage clerk who had only been employed for six months called 911, essentially implying the worker had not fully understood their protocol. Additionally, the owner said Floyd had been a regular customer for about a year, and he never caused any issues.
According to court documents, two MPD officers — Thomas Lane and J. A. Kueng — responded to the 911 call and, after talking to people inside the store, went to find Floyd in a parked vehicle nearby.
As Lane began speaking with Floyd, who was sitting in the driver’s seat of the vehicle, the officer pulled his gun out and instructed Floyd to show his hands. Floyd complied with the order, whereupon the officer holstered his gun. Then, Lane ordered Floyd out of the car and “put his hands on Floyd, and pulled him out of the car,” and handcuffed him, according to prosecutors. Then, charging documents state:
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., 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 that he was not resisting but did not want to get in the back seat and was claustrophobic.
At that point, two other officers — Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao — arrived at the scene and tried again to get Floyd into a squad car. While they attempted to do so, he began asserting that he could not breathe. Then, according to criminal charges against Chauvin, the officer pulled Floyd out of the squad car, and “Mr. Floyd went to the ground face down and still handcuffed.” The complaint continues:
Officer Kueng held Mr. Floyd’s back and Officer 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.’
A Minnesota judge released footage from Lane and Kueng’s body cameras in early August 2020 — new evidence that showed their attempts to put Floyd into the squad car, and his repeated requests for the officers to consider his health. The videos also showed Chauvin kept Floyd pinned to the ground and knelt on his neck for about nine minutes, including for nearly three minutes after Floyd became non-responsive.
Then, per emergency medical technicians’ and fire department personnel’s accounts of the incident, medics loaded Floyd into an ambulance, where they used a mechanical chest compression device on Floyd, though he did not regain a pulse and his condition did not change.
It’s unclear whether at any point before or during the call the MPD officers knew of Floyd’s past arrests in Texas and, if so, whether that information at all influenced how they acted, consciously or subconsciously. MPD spokespeople did not respond to Snopes’ questions about the officers’ prior knowledge of Floyd before the call from the convenience store, nor did the department answer whether officers in general adjust their responses to 911 calls, or how they approach suspects, based on the criminal records of people involved.
Charging documents, police records and other court filings that lay out Floyd’s criminal history are all publicly available via the Harris County District Clerk online database. Additionally, according to MPD’s policy and procedure manual, which outlines everything from how officers should dress on the job to use-of-force guidelines, officers use a computerized dispatch system to handle 911 calls and often rely on computers in their squad cars to look up and document information.
All of that said, MPD Chief Medaria Arradondo said on June 10, 2020: “There is nothing in that call that should have resulted in the outcome with Mr. Floyd’s death.”
It’s an Exaggeration of Toxicology Findings To Claim Floyd Was ‘High on Meth’ When He Died
In response to one of Owens’ claims — “George Floyd at the time of his arrest was high on fentanyl and he was high on methamphetamine” — as well as assertions by social media users who seemed to be in search of proof for why the MPD officers acted the way they did, here we unpack the results of Floyd’s autopsy report.
The claim is two-pronged: that Floyd had meth in his system and that he was high on the drug when Chauvin knelt on his neck, choking him.
Firstly, on May 29, 2020, court documents revealed the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s investigation into Floyd’s death showed “no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxiation,” and that “potential intoxicants” and preexisting cardiovascular disease “likely contributed to his death.” (Note: Coronary artery disease and hypertension typically increase patients’ risk of stroke and heart attack over years, not minutes, and asphyxia, or suffocation, does not always leave physical signs, according to doctors.)
Two days later, the county released a statement that attributed Floyd’s cause of death to “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression” — which essentially means he died because his heart and lungs stopped while he was being restrained by police. That announcement came just hours after Floyd’s family released findings of a separate, private autopsy that determined Floyd had indeed died from a combination of Chauvin’s knee on his neck and pressure on his back from the other officers. (A copy of that autopsy with all of its details has not been made public.)
According to the county’s postmortem toxicology screening, which is summarized below and was performed one day after Floyd’s death, he was intoxicated with fentanyl and had recently used methamphetamines (as well as other substances) before Chauvin choked him.
More Specifically, Floyd tested positive for 11 ng/mL of fentanyl — which is a synthetic opioid pain reliever — and 19 ng/mL of methamphetamine, or meth, though it’s unclear by what method the intoxicants got into his bloodstream or for what reasons.
But more complex is proving whether “he was high” at the time of his fatal encounter with police. While everyone’s reaction to and tolerance for such drugs varies, and the effects of mixing drugs can be totally unpredictable, lab technicians say fentanyl slowly leaves users’ systems, mostly via urination, over the course of three days from when they first shot up. Additionally, they consider “the presence of fentanyl above 0.20 ng/mL” — which is significantly less than the amount found in Floyd’s system — to be “a strong indicator that the patient has used fentanyl,” according to Mayo Clinic Laboratories.
For methamphetamines, which are typically smoked or injected, users feel an instant euphoria, and then the tapering effects of the drug last anywhere from eight to 24 hours. After that initial “rush,” the amount of meth reduces in their bloodstreams and tests for the drug can be positive for up to five days. Per the University of Rochester Medical Center, the amount of methamphetamines found in Floyd’s bloodstream (19 ng/mL or .019 mg/L) is “within the range” of some patients’ “therapeutic or prescribed use” of the drug.
Also, Hennepin County medical examiners stated Floyd’s blood levels made it seem like he had “recently” used meth in the past, not that he was peaking on a high from it, and the county investigators did not list the drugs as Floyd’s cause of death, but rather as “significant conditions” that influenced how he died. For those reasons and considering the amount of methamphetamines detected in Floyd’s toxicology report, it’s an exaggeration of the scientific evidence to claim Floyd “was high on meth” before police choked him — though his bloodstream did test positive for the drug.
But while making that analysis, it is important to consider the insight of a group of emergency room doctors and psychiatrists, who in the wake of Floyd’s death wrote in the Scientific American: “When Black people are killed by police, their character and even their anatomy is turned into justification for their killer’s exoneration. It’s a well-honed tactic.”
Furthermore, a letter on behalf of thousands of Black doctors and health care workers in America titled “The ‘Collective Black Physicians’ Statement’ on the death of Mr. George Floyd” stated:
Any mention of potential intoxicants of which Mr. Floyd may have been under the influence is meritless at this stage of the physical autopsy examination. In a medicolegal autopsy, the results of a urinary toxicology screen are often inaccurate. All substances must be detected and confirmed in blood and/or particular organs before it can be said that an individual was intoxicated and that death is a complication of that toxicity.
Floyd’s Rap Sheet and Toxicology Results Are Likely To Play a Role in Officers’ Murder Trials
We can credit history for our conclusion on this point. For example, during the murder trial of George Zimmerman — who, though not a police officer, was eventually acquitted of homicide charges in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, a Black teenager, in 2012 — reports of Martin’s alleged truancy and petty crimes made news headlines. Similarly, people called attention to the arrest record of Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old Black man who was shot and killed by a white police officer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 2016, as his surviving relatives filed a wrongful death lawsuit against police and the city (which remains ongoing as of this writing).
In the latest high-profile case of deadly use of force by police, all four officers — Lane, Kueng, Chauvin and Thao — were fired from MPD the day after Floyd’s controversial killing and were criminally charged.
For 19-year MPD veteran Chauvin, 44, who faces the most severe charges of the four men, Hennepin County prosecutors initially charged him with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. But in early June, after Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz requested the state’s Attorney General Keith Ellison to take over the case, Ellison upgraded those charges so the ex-MPD officer now faces a more severe charge of second-degree murder, in addition to the original charges brought forth by county prosecutors. (Read that latest complaint here.) He made his first court appearance on June 8, 2020, which was mostly procedural, and was held on $1.25 million bail.
Meanwhile, Thao, Kueng and Lane face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder while committing a felony, and with aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s killing. (You can read the full charges against Thao here; Kueng here, and Lane here.) They made their first court appearances on June 4, 2020, where a judge set bail for each of them at $750,000 if they agreed to certain conditions, such as leaving law enforcement work and avoiding contact with Floyd’s family. One week later, Lane, 37, posted that amount and was freed from Hennepin County jail, and his attorney told the Star Tribune he was planning to file a motion to dismiss the charges.
As of this report, all four officers were scheduled to make their next court appearance June 29, 2020, and no court proceedings have focused on Floyd’s criminal history or drug use, with the exception of the charging documents that mention Hennepin County’s autopsy report and toxicology findings.
Why People Draw Attention to Criminal Histories of Black Men Who Die in Police Custody
For decades, corners of the internet and journalists have highlighted the criminal records of non-white people killed by authorities or caught in viral videos, no matter the relevancy of the rap sheets.
One of the uglier examples is the case of Charles Ramsey, a self-described “scary looking black dude” who helped rescue Amanda Berry, a Cleveland woman who had been kidnapped and held hostage for years in a home near Ramsey’s, in 2013. His interviews about the rescue spread like wildfire online, but then a local TV station aired a story on his criminal past (it was later removed and the station apologized).
More similar to the case of Floyd are the above-mentioned examples of Sterling and Martin, Black men who died at the hands of police and a neighborhood watch volunteer, respectively, and whose histories were trotted out in news stories after they died, seemingly as part of an effort to deny them martyrdom.
Advocates for police reform say the pattern puts unjust blame on victims of police violence and distracts the public from the most important issue at the center of these incidents: Officers too often resort to violence when dealing with citizens, especially if they are Black, indigenous, or people of color.
Kevin O Cokley, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies police brutality against Black Americans, explained the psychology behind the media pattern in an email to Snopes. Of people calling attention to Floyd’s criminal past, specifically, he wrote:
It fits into what psychologists have called the just-world hypothesis, which is a cognitive bias where people believe that the world is just and orderly, and people get what they deserve. It is difficult for people to believe that bad things can happen to good people or to people who don’t deserve it. This is because if people know that these things do happen, they have to decide whether they want to do something about it or sit by silently knowing that there is injustice happening around them.
Furthermore, his colleague Richard Reddick, an associate dean in the university’s College of Education, told us in a phone interview the claims about Floyd were also a product of the era’s highly polarized media environment, compounded by years of problematic storytelling by politicians and reporters that portrays Black men only as “criminal entities” instead of nuanced people. He said:
This is something that Black men are subject to quite a bit — not often seen as complex, whole human beings, who have done wonderful things and not so great things in their lives, but simply a criminal. … This is something that seems to be very specific to Black men who are ex-judiciously murdered; we have to find a rationale, or excuse, or justification for it, no matter what it was.
In other words, he said, shifting the public narrative away from police officers’ actions and onto Floyd’s criminal history is a reoccurring communication strategy “that’s intended to make us not see him as a victim, to dehumanize him, and to make him a caricature.” People can subscribe to the “he had it coming” trope so they don’t have to feel sorry for the victim of police brutality and can deny police responsibility for their actions, Reddick said. He added:
I don’t trust the motivations of the folks bringing this forward. … Of course they’re asking, ‘Why isn’t [Floyd’s criminal history] covered in the major media?’ And it’s because it’s not relevant to this kind of story. What happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis has nothing to do with what happened to him, what he did, in 2007.
To that point, Reddick said Floyd’s past arrests and incarcerations may justifiably appear in “wholesome portraits” about Floyd’s life (such as this AP story), while O Cokley said the news media should not include the background in its stories about Floyd because it “has no relevance to the officer’s behavior,” and because “there is no standardization of the inclusion of background information on stories involving victims of police misconduct.” Reddick summed up the phenomenon like this:
We shouldn’t conflate the complexity of a person’s life with an event that ended with their life being lost — those moments and that time is relevant, but not a criminal conviction from years prior because this is supposedly a country where, when you’ve served your sentence, you’re now able to go rebuild your life, as what he was trying to do.
In January 2013, after Floyd was paroled for the aggravated robbery, people who knew him said he returned to Houston’s Third Ward “with his head on right.” He organized events with local pastors, served as a mentor for people living in his public housing complex, and was affectionately called “Big Floyd” or “the O.G.” (original gangster) as a title of respect for someone who’d learned from his experiences. Then in 2014, Floyd, a father of five, decided to move to Minneapolis to find a new job and start a new chapter.
“The world knows George Floyd, I know Perry Jr.,” said Kathleen McGee, his aunt (in reference to her nickname for Floyd), at his funeral on June 9, 2020. “He was a pesky little rascal, but we all loved him.”Rumors are surging in the wake of George Floyd’s death and resulting protests against police violence and racial injustice in the United States.
Fact check: Fentanyl present in George Floyd’s system but not enough to cause his death, experts say
The claim: George Floyd had enough fentanyl in his system to kill three grown men
The trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin has seen the defense focus on George Floyd’s history of drug use, with Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson suggesting the handcuffed man’s inability to breathe may have been because of an overdose.
Chauvin is facing murder and manslaughter charges over the death of Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old Black man who died May 25, 2020, when Chauvin kneeled on his neck for more than nine minutes. Floyd’s death sparked protests across the U.S. and worldwide.
Despite expert witnesses rebutting the argument, claims on social media have asserted drugs, not Chauvin’s kneeling, were involved in Floyd’s death.
“George floyd had enough (fentanyl) in his system to kill 3 grown Men or 2 Stacy Abrams,” alleges a graphic shared in an April 10 Facebook post.
USA TODAY has reached out to the poster for further comment.
Setting aside the odd reference to Abrams, a well-known politician and voting rights activist, we should note this is far from the first time a claim like this has surfaced. References to a fatal-seeming level of the synthetic opioid were suggested back in August by conservative media outlets like The Blaze, and recently again by conservative political pundit Ben Shapiro.
But fentanyl isn’t what killed Floyd, and the amount in his system was similar to that found in people who took the drug and were arrested for DUI, but didn’t die. Here’s what we found.
Fact check: Man charged with murder in North Carolina is not George Floyd’s brother
Fentanyl level not fatal
Blood tests conducted as part of Floyd’s post-mortem autopsy revealed 11 nanograms per milliliter, or ng/ml, of fentanyl present. According to expert witnesses, this wasn’t enough to be considered fatal
Dr. Daniel Isenschmid, a toxicologist at NMS Labs in Pennsylvania, presented data at trial from more than 2,300 blood samples in fentanyl DUI cases from the last year. He showed that while the average fentanyl blood level was close to 9.6 ng/ml, a quarter of people tested had 11 ng/ml or higher. (Important to note: Blood samples were taken from drivers who tested positive for fentanyl and were alive at the time of collection.)
Isenschmid also showed that Floyd’s blood ratio of fentanyl to norfentanyl, the molecule fentanyl is broken down to once in the body, was lower than the average ratio both for people who died of overdoses and those arrested for DUI who lived.
Overdose victims who die rarely have norfentanyl in their blood, since death often occurs before the body can break the drug down, he said.
Fact check: Viral image does not show President Joe Biden apologizing to George Floyd’s child
Isenschmid’s testimony was supported by pulmonologist and critical care specialist Dr. Martin Tobin of Loyola University Medical Center.
“Mr. Floyd died from a low level of oxygen, and this caused damage to his brain that we see. And it also caused a PEA (pulseless electrical activity) arrhythmia that caused his heart to stop,” he told the court. He explained Floyd’s body position on the street, handcuffs pulling his arms back and a knee on his neck, back and sides, led to his low oxygen levels.
“All of these four forces are ultimately going to result in the low tidal volume, which gives you the shallow breaths” that can’t effectively bring oxygen into the lungs, Tobin said.
He stated because fentanyl typically slows down a person’s breathing, the drug was not a contributing factor based on his calculations of Floyd’s breathing rate based on witness video, which at the time appeared about the same as a healthy individual.
Our ruling: False
We rate the claim Floyd had enough fentanyl in his system to kill three grown men FALSE, based on our research. While Floyd’s toxicology report did reveal fentanyl present, expert witnesses at his murder trial have stated there was not enough to be considered fatal or impact his breathing and oxygen levels. Floyd died due to lack of oxygen from the force of Chauvin’s knee on his neck.
The quiet life of Derek Chauvin before the public death of George Floyd
The four teenagers drove around Minneapolis playing a game of Nerf Gun Assassin on a May evening before graduation in 2013. One of them randomly fired an orange dart out the window.
It was a stupid teenager move. What happened next was deadly serious: Two Minneapolis police officers pulled up, pointed their guns at the teenagers and shouted orders laced with expletives, two of them later recalled.
Kristofer Bergh, then 17, said he kept telling himself not to move suddenly or give the police any reason to shoot him. The youth who had fired the dart was steered into their cruiser for what seemed like an hour, and the officers seized everyone’s Nerf guns. One officer made a lasting impression; in fact, Bergh and another passenger said they would never forget him, nor what he said as he gave them back their guns.
It was Derek Chauvin, the white police officer who, seven years later, would become known around the world for putting his knee on the neck of a Black man named George Floyd during an arrest and holding it there for more than eight minutes, until he no longer had a pulse.
Floyd’s death sparked protests across the country. But even as the Minneapolis police chief called Floyd’s death “murder” and claimed that Chauvin “knew what he was doing,” little has emerged about the 44-year-old officer, now charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, or what in his career might have led up to an arrest so chilling in its quiet ferocity.
The roadside encounter with the four teenagers led to a complaint against Chauvin, and it reflected what both co-workers and citizens told the New York Times about encountering the officer over his 19 years with the Minneapolis Police Department: Chauvin did his job as if he were playing a role — a tough Dirty Harry on the lookout for bad guys.
“He was overly aggressive and not understanding that we were just kids,” recalled Noah McGurran-Hanson, who was in the car with Bergh and the two others, all of whom are white. “He was treating us like we had been tried and convicted.”
Chauvin, his lawyer and family members have declined to talk to the Times. Yet dozens of interviews with acquaintances depict a police officer who seemed to operate at an emotional distance from those around him. Chauvin was a quiet and rigid workaholic with poor people skills and a tendency to overreact — with intoxicated people, especially — when a less aggressive stance might have led to a better outcome, interviews show.
He was awkward. Other officers often didn’t like him or didn’t know him. He didn’t go to parties and didn’t seem to have many friends. Some neighbors knew so little about him that they didn’t even know he was a police officer until after his arrest. Even his wife of 10 years, a Hmong refugee and real estate agent, ended up estranged: Days after Floyd’s death, she filed for divorce and asked to change her last name.
Chauvin always wanted action. He continued to pound the streets in one of Minneapolis’s busiest precincts on its hardest shift, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., long after many others his age moved to desk jobs or the day shift.
That earned him kudos. He received two medals of commendation, for tackling an armed suspect and arresting an armed gang member. He also was awarded two medals of valor, after shooting a man wielding a sawed-off shotgun and subduing a domestic-violence suspect — whom he shot and wounded in the process.
But his performance also led to at least 22 complaints or internal investigations. Only one resulted in discipline. (Bergh said his complaint was shrugged off by a sergeant who apologized for any “negative interaction.”)
That is a high number compared with other officers, said Dave Bicking, a board member of Communities United Against Police Brutality, based in the Twin Cities. “His numbers should have definitely raised alarm with the department and triggered a review,” said Bicking, adding that most officers might get one or two complaints in seven years.
On his off nights, such as they were, Chauvin often worked security at a nightclub.
Even on the police force, Chauvin was an outsider. He often partnered with a rookie he was training, exacting in his expectations. That was fine with veteran colleagues, who did not necessarily want to ride alongside him.
“Occasionally, he would seem a little cocky,” said Lucy Gerold, a retired police commander who knew Chauvin. He was, she said, “the guy not everybody liked or wanted to work with.”
A FACE IN THE CROWD
Chauvin spent his early years in suburban West St. Paul, with a stay-at-home mother and a father who earned about $1,000 a month as a certified public accountant, barely enough for their small family. When Derek was 7, his mother filed for divorce, asking for the family home and child support for Derek and his baby sister.
His father soon asked for a paternity test of Derek’s baby sister; a blood test showed he was not the father. His father ended up with the family home and shared custody of Derek. His mother married her lover. And Derek attended four elementary schools in five years.
Derek did not play sports in school — at least, not that anyone remembers. He did not have a yearbook photo for his junior or senior years. One classmate from Park High School in Cottage Grove remembered him as the student in ROTC who never talked but always held the flag. Another classmate, Scott Swanson, said Derek flew under the radar.
“I don’t think he was an outcast or anything like that,” said Swanson, who said he had talked to fellow classmates in recent weeks who also barely recalled him. “He was just a face in the crowd.”
Weeks after graduation, Chauvin started as a prep cook at Tinucci’s, a Newport restaurant 10 minutes from home. He enrolled that fall at a local technical college to study “quantity food preparation.”
But Chauvin decided he wanted a uniform.
He studied law enforcement at a community college; eventually, he would also earn a Metropolitan State University degree in law enforcement. After joining the military police, he was deployed to a U.S. Army base in Germany, where he studied for the Minnesota police exam in his spare time. He did not socialize much or drink alcohol.
“He volunteered to be a designated driver for the guys who wanted to go into town at night and have a few beers,” said Jerry Obieglo, a platoon sergeant who supervised Chauvin.
Back home, in September 2000, at age 24, he applied to the Minneapolis police.
From the beginning, Chauvin stood out as gung-ho. When he reported for training after the police academy, he showed up in a new white Crown Victoria outfitted to resemble a police car, recalled one officer, speaking on condition of anonymity because talking to the news media could get him fired.
Leaving work, most officers dressed casually. But Chauvin, who stood ramrod straight like he was still in the military, left in full uniform, his pants pulled higher than most people wore them, his boots polished.
“In a group setting he would never connect and stand there like a small child,” the officer said. He added: “I was put off by his lack of communication skills. You never felt like he was present.”
Chauvin landed in the Third Precinct, one of the city’s busiest.
The biggest call of his young career came when he was 30, in 2006: Shortly after midnight, he and five other officers pursued a car driven by a man suspected of stabbing two friends. The man soon pointed a sawed-off shotgun at officers, the police said. They shot the man, fatally. Chauvin received a medal of valor.
Chauvin soon earned two letters of reprimand for his behavior on another call — his only formal discipline.
In August 2007, Melissa Borton was heading home from grocery shopping when Chauvin and a fellow officer pulled her over. Chauvin reached into the open window of Borton’s minivan, unlocked her door, undid her seat belt and started pulling her out, without any explanation, she recalled. Her baby and dog were left in the vehicle.
She said the officers put her in their cruiser and told her that they were looking for a vehicle resembling hers that had been involved in a crime. Eventually they told Borton, who was by then quite upset, that she could leave.
“When I got out, they noticed that my shirt was wet, which was from being a breastfeeding mother,” Borton recalled. She could not tell who taunted her as she returned to her car. “Chauvin or the other officer rudely said, ‘You probably have postpartum depression, and you need help.’”
A WIFE AND A HOME
Until he was 27, Chauvin’s home address was his grandmother’s suburban house in Inver Grove Heights.
But about the time he pulled over Borton, Chauvin was becoming serious with his girlfriend, Kellie Xiong.
Xiong was a survivor. Her father had been a Hmong soldier fighting Communists in Laos before the family fled in the late 1970s. After more than a year in a Thai refugee camp, the family moved to Wisconsin, sponsored by a church in Eau Claire.
Xiong married another Hmong refugee in 1991 in what she later told the Pioneer Press was an arranged marriage. She was 16. By 19, she had given birth to two sons.
She later left her husband, whom she described as abusive, and moved to the Minneapolis area to work as a radiology technician at Hennepin County Medical Center. There, she met Chauvin, who had brought someone in for a health check before an arrest, she told the Pioneer Press. He soon asked her out.
By 2008, they were planning their lives. Two weeks after Xiong filed for divorce from her first husband, Chauvin bought a new house in a new subdivision for $441,000. It was fit for a family, with four bedrooms, four bathrooms and a three-car garage.
The couple married in June 2010. From the beginning, they spread their money thin. Not only did Chauvin hold on to a townhouse he had bought in 2003, but the couple also bought a vacation home near Disney World in Florida in 2011.
Chauvin soon fell behind on fees for his townhouse. On a delinquency notice for $280 in 2013, Chauvin responded that he had paid everything and added, “So no payment is actually owed!” He faxed the response at 3:17 a.m., after finishing his shift in the Third Precinct.
By July 2014, the small debt had snowballed into a judgment of almost $8,000 because Chauvin never came to court.
Meanwhile, the Chauvins downsized. They sold their large house for almost $60,000 less than its purchase price. They bought a home a few blocks away, almost half the size.
In 2015, they appeared to toy with moving to Florida. They sold the home they had just bought. Kellie Chauvin got her radiology technology license in Florida. Derek Chauvin registered to vote there.
But they stayed in Minnesota, living in Oakdale, where Kellie Chauvin got her real estate license in 2016. In her spare time, Kellie Chauvin continued with one passion — rescuing dogs, often caring for four at once — and found another, in beauty pageants.
Before one pageant, she described her husband as a “softy” who always opened doors for her.
But there were some awkward moments at the Mrs. Minnesota America contest in June 2018 when the husbands joined the show. A host asked Derek Chauvin, wearing an ill-fitting tuxedo and bow tie, what additional competition the women should perform. He suggested a rock-climbing wall — for the husbands.
“Well, you’re not competing, I’m talking about your wife here,” the host replied.
During a quiz segment, each contestant wrote down something about her husband, and the men had to guess which one described him. Derek Chauvin failed miserably, even as other husbands correctly recognized their wives’ responses. Initially, Derek Chauvin thought he was the one whose wife said he liked to tell stories. But he wasn’t.
A bit later, a host gave another clue: “Whoever you are, you do upside-down hanging crunches. You can do 100 at a time.”
No one stepped forward.
“Uh, Derek Chauvin?” the host said.
‘THAT IS PROTOCOL’
The Chauvins often seemed to live on separate tracks.
When Kellie Chauvin took trips to help dogs — including one she rescued from Florida and named Marley — she often brought a female friend for company.
On most weekends for 17 years, Derek Chauvin worked an off-duty police gig outside the El Nuevo Rodeo nightclub, earning $55 an hour. Maya Santamaria, who once owned the club, said the Third Precinct decided which officers were assigned.
Derek Chauvin often overreacted when he saw something that bothered him, like unruly behavior around the Lake Street club, including drunk patrons congregating on the street — especially on “urban nights,” when the clientele was largely Black, Santamaria said.
He often resorted to using pepper spray, she said. When she complained, she said, she usually got the same response.
“That is protocol,” Derek Chauvin told her.
Floyd, by coincidence, also did security at the club, but Santamaria said she does not recall seeing them together since Floyd worked inside.
Their one known encounter came on the evening of May 25, after a corner store employee reported that Floyd had tried to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. Two rookie officers, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, responded.
The two failed to get Floyd into their cruiser. Derek Chauvin and another officer, Tou Thao, arrived. Chauvin had been Kueng’s main training officer; Lane had relied on him for advice. (The three other officers, who were fired alongside Chauvin, have been charged with aiding and abetting in Floyd’s death.)
At Chauvin’s suggestion, the officers got Floyd, agitated and struggling, on the ground. Chauvin jammed his knee in the back of Floyd’s neck. The rookies held his back and legs.
Body camera footage shows what unfolded:
As Floyd said he could not breathe and asked for his mother, Chauvin uttered another tough-cop line. “You’re under arrest, guy,” he said. “That’s why you’re going to jail.”
Chauvin asked if Floyd was high; Lane said he assumed so. Toxicology results would later show that Floyd was on fentanyl.
“They’re going to kill me, man,” Floyd said a few moments later.
“Takes a heck of a lot of oxygen to say that,” Chauvin replied nonchalantly.
After the remark, Floyd said he could not breathe four times and “please” three times, and then nothing. Lane, who had called for an ambulance because Floyd’s mouth was bleeding, asked Chauvin whether he wanted Floyd on his side.
“No, leave him,” Chauvin said. He said an ambulance was coming.
In the middle of this — of a man dying, under his knee — Chauvin checked his rookies. “You guys all right, though?” Chauvin asked.
Lane asked again if they should roll Floyd on his side. Onlookers asked if he had a pulse. “You got one?” Lane asked.
“I can’t find one,” Kueng said.
“Uh-huh,” Chauvin replied.
Kueng tried again, and again said he could not find a pulse. Still, Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than two minutes. He ignored the crowd, the pleas for Floyd’s life, the jeers. He waited for an ambulance that showed up far too late. And only then did Chauvin stand up.
This time, not quite as straight.
Derek Chauvin biography: 13 things about Minneapolis cop who knelt on George Floyd’s neck
Floyd apparently matched the suspect’s descriptions so he was arrested by Chauvin and three other cops namely Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng. It was a deadly encounter witnessed by several bystanders and streamed on Facebook Live.
For 9 minutes and 29 seconds, Chauvin knelt on the neck of Floyd, who repeatedly tried to tell the cops that he could not breathe. About an hour and a half later, Floyd was pronounced dead at the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.
It was in that same hospital where Chauvin met his wife Kellie Chauvin, who is of Hmong descent. She was an employee in that hospital when he brought a suspect there for a health check before arrest.
On May 26, 2020, the Federal Bureau of Investigation launched an investigation. On the same day, the Minneapolis Police Department fired Derek, Thao, Lane and Kueng.
Chauvin was born in in Ramsey, Anoka County, Minnesota to Robert Michael Chauvin and Carolyn Marie Pawlenty, previously named Carolyn Marie Chauvin. Robert and Carolyn divorced on November 26, 1984.
Derek stands 5’9″ and weighs approximately 140 lbs. Here are 13 more facts about him:
- From 1995 to 1999, he attended Inver Hills Community College in Inver Grove Heights, Dakota County, Minnesota.
- As a member of the U.S. Army, he served a member of the military police in Rochester, Monroe County, New York, USA from September 1996 to February 1997 and in Hohenfels, Germany from September 1999 to May 2000. His military service ended in 2004.
- Before becoming a police officer, he worked as a custom protection officer for a security services company and as a cook for McDonald’s and another restaurant. The Minneapolis Police Department hired him as a part-time community service officer on January 8, 2001. He entered the Minneapolis Police Academy in October 2001.
- Working in the first, third and fourth precincts and the water works security detail, he received 18 misconduct complaints against him, all of which were closed with no disciplinary action except for one that generated two official reprimands. In 2003, he was orally reprimanded on multiple occasions for allegations of using a demeaning tone and derogatory language.
- In 2006, he was one of the six officers who fired a weapon that resulted in the death of Wayne Reyes, who was accused of stabbing two people. In the same year, he graduated from Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement.
- In 2007, he received two letters of reprimand, one of which was for needlessly removing a woman from her car, searching her and putting her in the back of a squad car for driving 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. He allegedly hit an African-American boy, then 14, with his flashlight and used his knee to hold the boy down for around 17 minutes on September 4, 2017. The boy, who was accused of attacking his mother, received stitches at a hospital.
- In 2008, he responded in an incident involving a man armed with a gun and was awarded a department medal of valor for it, according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. In the same year, he shot and wounded Ira Latrell Toles and received another medal of valor for it in 2009.
- In 2010, he married Kellie. They have no children together. On February 2, 2021, their divorce was approved. Amanda Mason-Sekula represented her while he represented himself in the divorce.
- In 2011, he was among the officers at the scene near the Little Earth community when Minneapolis officer Terry Nutter shot Leroy Martinez in the torso. In the same year, he and Kellie bought a townhouse in Windermere, Florida, USA for $210,900.
- In 2017, he and Kellie bought another house in Oakdale, Minnesota for $260,000.
- In 2018, he joined Kellie onstage when she represented Oakdale in United States of America’s Mrs. Minnesota beauty pageant, in which she won as the contest’s first winner of Hmong descent. Working as a real estate agent and club bouncer in his off hours, he once worked overlapping security shifts with Floyd at the same nightclub, the El Nuevo Rodeo club in Minneapolis. With a real estate license, he worked as an independent contractor for Realty Group between late 2018 and early 2019.
- On March 29, 2021, his trial opened with prosecutors showing in court a video of him kneeling on Floyd’s neck. The video is 9 minutes and 29 seconds long. He was 45 years old when he was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, which was announced on April 20, 2021.
- On June 25, 2021, his mother appeared in court with him and pleaded with Judge Peter Cahill for leniency. He received a sentence of 22 years and six months in prison with credit for time served for the second-degree unintentional murder of Floyd.
A flyer circulating on the internet accurately describes the career of ex-Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin.
MixtureAbout this ratingWhat’s True
Seven of the eight claims outlined in a flyer about Derek Chauvin are partially or completely true based on verifiable evidence.What’s False
However, the phrasing of some claims in the flyer is subjective, and some of those claims include outdated details or information that contradicts news reports and other evidence. In particular, the second claim, which alleges that the restraint technique Chauvin used on George Floyd before he died was not part of the Minneapolis Police Department’s (MPD) training, was demonstrably false. At the time of Floyd’s death in May 2020, the department’s policy manual permitted officers to use what it called a “non-deadly force option” by kneeling on a suspect’s neck in situations they deemed appropriate.https://buy.tinypass.com/checkout/template/cacheableShow?aid=ZLCqWg9Xpu&templateId=OTPUIBI5XWVF&templateVariantId=OTVUJ664JKAW1&offerId=fakeOfferId&experienceId=EXFIKBFH9N68&iframeId=offer_73eee2adcc41975f273c-0&displayMode=inline&pianoIdUrl=https%3A%2F%2Fid.tinypass.com%2Fid%2F&widget=template
Rumors are surging in the wake of George Floyd’s death and resulting protests against police violence and racial injustice in the United States. Stay informed. Read our special coverage, contribute to support our mission, and submit any tips or claims you see here.
George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, pinned him to the ground and kneeled on his neck while Floyd repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe.” A bystander recorded the confrontation in a video that swiftly spread across social media as a deadly example of what many viewers dubbed racism by American cops.
The footage ultimately sparked an international reckoning over racism, marked by weeks of protests that largely began peaceful during the day and then escalated to chaos at night, with many U.S. cities reporting property damage, fires, and violent clashes between law-enforcement officers and protesters.
At the center of the civil rights movement were four former police officers charged in Floyd’s death — particularly Chauvin, 44, whom authorities arrested and charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. A judge ruled he would stand trial on his own, separate from the other three defendants, beginning March 8, 2021, according to The Associated Press. (No, he did not commit suicide, like some rumors online claim.)
What follows is everything we know about Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), based on court records, news reports, and police documents — evidence that pieces together a policing record that includes complaints against him, as well as several shootings of civilians.
We should note at the outset that the office of Chauvin’s former attorney, Tom Kelly, did not respond to Snopes’ request for comment and his current attorney, Eric Nelson, declined to be interviewed.
Additionally, Sgt. John Elder, a spokesman for MPD, declined to answer questions about Chauvin’s career with that department (which ended with Chauvin’s termination the day after Floyd died), asserting that, “We don’t comment on former employees,” and “Anything we say” could affect the current investigation into Floyd’s death.
To structure our examination into Chauvin’s career with MPD, we measured the validity of each point in the below-displayed flyer titled “Who is Derek M. Chauvin?” that went viral shortly after Floyd’s death.
1. Chauvin Killed George Floyd on May 25, 2020?
That’s a question the jury trial will legally determine. Prosecutors have charged Chauvin with second-degree murder and manslaughter after they say he kept Floyd pinned to the ground and knelt on his neck for almost eight minutes, including for nearly three minutes after Floyd became non-responsive.
Prosecutors also charged the three officers who watched the fatal confrontation between Floyd and Chauvin — Tou Thao, J Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane — with aiding and abetting second-degree murder (maximum prison sentence is 40 years) while committing a felony, and with aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter (maximum prison sentence is 10 years).
As of this writing, they were scheduled to be tried together — separate from Chauvin’s case — beginning Aug. 23, The Associated Press reported.
According to the complaints, which will serve as the basis to prosecutors’ arguments to try to convince jurors to convict the former police officers, Lane and Kueng responded to a 911 call reporting that someone had used a counterfeit $20 bill at a South Minneapolis convenience store.
According to video evidence cited in the court documents, upon arriving at the scene the two officers approached Floyd, who was sitting in the driver’s seat of a vehicle also occupied by two other persons.
As Lane began speaking with Floyd, the officer pulled his gun out and instructed Floyd to show his hands. Floyd complied with the order, whereupon the officer holstered his gun. Lane then ordered Floyd out of the car and “put his hands on Floyd, and pulled him out of the car,” handcuffing him, the complaint stated.
Minutes later, while the officers tried walking Floyd to their squad car, “Floyd stiffened up and fell to the ground,” and told the officers he was claustrophobic, the court documents allege. Chauvin and Thao arrived at the scene at that point.
The officers tried again to get Floyd into a squad car but were unsuccessful in doing so, according to the complaints. While the officers tried to force Floyd into the vehicle, he began asserting that he could not breathe.
“Floyd did not voluntarily sit in the backseat and the officers physically struggled to try to get him into the vehicle,” read the complaint outlining the charges against Chauvin. It continued:
The defendant 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. …The defendant 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.” The defendant and the other two officers stayed in their positions.
Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office, which encompasses Minneapolis, ruled Floyd’s manner of death a homicide.
It is important to note here: In the county office’s preliminary autopsy report, medical investigators said Floyd’s underlying health conditions, such as coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease, contributed to his death in similar ways as Chauvin’s restraint. But an autopsy commissioned by Floyd’s family had different results; it determined he did, in fact, die of asphyxiation. (Read more about those findings here.)
All of that said, in reference to the first claim in the flyer, attorneys representing Chauvin are likely to argue in the upcoming trial that he did not murder Floyd but rather operated within the law as an officer. Prosecutors and viewers of the viral video have said otherwise.
You can read the full charges against Chauvin here; Thao here; Kueng here, and Lane here.
2. Was the Restraint Technique Used on Floyd Part of Police Department Training?
The second claim in the flyer (that the restraint technique used was not part of MPD training) was false.
At the time of Floyd’s death, MPD’s Policy & Procedure Manual (which governs everything from how officers should dress on the job to what tactics are OK to use during arrests) included the below-displayed section obtained by Snopes. In other words, department policy permitted officers to use what it considered a “non-deadly force option” by kneeling on a suspect’s neck if they had received lessons in how to do so without applying pressure to the suspect’s airway. Officers could use “light or moderate pressure” to get someone under “control” or “adequate pressure” to make someone unconscious in situations they deemed appropriate.
However, in the aftermath of Floyd’s death, MPD agreed to ban officers from using chokeholds and neck restraints at the request of state authorities. As a result of that change, the police manual now reads:
3. Is Chauvin’s Lawyer the Same Man Who Represented a Cop in the Death of Philando Castile?
The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (MPPOA), which provides legal services to police by drawing from about a dozen attorneys, is providing legal representation for Chauvin.
And initially, yes, the association had assigned Tom Kelly to Floyd’s case. Kelly was one of the defense attorneys who represented St. Anthony, Minnesota, police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who was acquitted on all charges in connection to the fatal shooting of Philando Castile, a Black man, during a traffic stop in 2017.
But on June 3, 2020, Eric Nelson of the Halberg Criminal Defense firm took over Chauvin’s case, Reuters reported. Kelly told that news outlet the association had originally assigned the case to him because he was the on-call attorney at the time of Chauvin’s arrest. But he gave up the case for medical-related reasons.
In short, Kelly, a lawyer who indeed argued Yanez’s case, also represented Chauvin — but only for about nine days. The flyer’s claim was outdated.
4. Was Chauvin Placed on Leave in the Shooting of a Native Alaskan?
By and large, this assertion is true. Below, we lay out everything we know about the shooting of Leroy Martinez in 2011, which the flyer claimed was “an inappropriate police shooting” involving Chauvin and resulted in MPD placing him on administrative leave.
According to news reports, on Aug. 8, 2011, Chauvin and other officers chased down Martinez, 23, in a public housing complex in South Minneapolis after they said they heard gunshots and saw Martinez running with a gun. (The Indian County-Today news outlet confirmed that Martinez is an Alaskan Native.)
One of the officers shot Martinez in the torso, and as he recovered in the hospital, Martinez faced second-degree assault charges in connection with a shooting that had taken place before police arrived on the scene. Here’s how The Star Tribune newspaper reported the incident: According to that newspaper’s coverage, a witness who said she watched the shooting from her balcony in the housing complex maintained to journalists that police weren’t telling the full story. The witness said Martinez had thrown down his gun and was holding his hands in the air when one of the officers (not Chauvin) shot him, after warning that he would open fire.
All officers involved, including Chauvin, were placed on three-day administrative leave, which is standard procedure in officer-involved shootings, and eventually exonerated of any wrongdoing.
Whether the flyer is correct in describing the shooting as “inappropriate” is a subjective issue. The police chief at the time said he believed the officers acted “appropriately and courageously,” suggesting they had acted within department policy under the circumstances, The New York Times reported.
5. Did Chauvin Shoot an Unarmed Black Man in 2008?
This claim in the flyer is largely true. Here’s what we know about that incident:
While responding to a call of domestic violence at a South Minneapolis apartment in May 2008, Chauvin opened fire on a 21-year-old Black man, Ira Latrell Toles. The Associated Press reported at the time:
For a period of time there was an open 911 line into the residence and the 911 operator could hear a woman yelling for someone to stop hitting her, police said. Officers were refused entry when they arrived at the residence but could hear the assault continuing so they forced their way in. Police say Toles tried to run from officers, and when they tried to subdue him he tried to take an officer’s gun. They say the officer shot him to prevent that from happening. The two officers on the scene are on paid administrative leave, which is standard in shootings. Police have not released their names.
Toles, who survived the shooting and later faced criminal charges, recalled the incident differently.
Following Floyd’s death, he told The Daily Beast that yes, the mother of his child had called police on him that night, and that he had locked himself in the bathroom with an unlit cigarette after officers broke down the apartment door. Then, Toles alleged, Chauvin busted in the bathroom door and started hitting the 21-year-old without warning.
Chauvin later told investigators that, because Toles supposedly failed to comply with officers’ commands, he attempted to hit the young man in the head with the butt of his handgun and then opened fire when he thought Toles reached for his gun, The Star Tribune reported. Toles’ ex-girlfriend reported that Chauvin fired his firearm “about two seconds” after he entered the bathroom after Toles.
In summary, the flyer’s point is accurate, with the caveat that only Toles’ account suggested that he was unarmed at the time of the confrontation.
6. Was Chauvin Among a Group of Cops Who Shot and Killed Wayne Reyes?
This claim is true. In 2006, Chauvin and five other officers opened fire on a truck in South Minneapolis while investigating a reported stabbing, killing 42-year-old Wayne Reyes.
According to MPD’s account of the incident, Reyes pulled out a shotgun when police pulled him over to ask him questions about the reported assault; the officers believed Reyes had stabbed his girlfriend and another friend in a domestic dispute, according to news reports.
In total, the six officers fired 42 rounds in four seconds, according to the The Washington Post. Reyes (who the Canadian national news outlet, APTN News, reported was a member of the Leech Lake Ojibwe Band in Minnesota) was struck multiple times and died. However, it was unclear if Chauvin fired any of the fatal shots.
In the end, a grand jury ruled the officers’ actions appropriate, and Chauvin was recommended for a Medal of Valor following the shooting, according to The Star Tribune.
In reference to the flyer accusing Chauvin and the other officers of striking Reyes with 16 bullets, exactly, no reports corroborated that number. Otherwise, however, the claim about Reyes circulating after Floyd’s death was accurate.
7. Did Chauvin and Another Cop Chase a Car and Cause Three Deaths?
This accusation is largely unproven based upon the available evidence.
Here’s what we can confirm: Roughly four years into Chauvin’s MPD career, in 2005, he and another officer used a squad car on duty to chase a car that ended up crashing into another vehicle, killing three people, according to news reports.
But we have not yet uncovered further details on why the officers were chasing the car, or whether the other drivers (and their conditions) were major factors in the collision.
So in reference to the flyer, while it was true Chauvin and another officer were involved in a deadly car chase, no trusted evidence showed the officers’ actions indeed caused the three fatalities.
8. Are There 12 Brutality Complaints at MPD Against Chauvin?
Although MPD has not fulfilled requests for records to determine why, or under what circumstances, conduct complaints were filed against Chauvin prior to Floyd’s death, this claim was somewhat true. Snopes obtained Chauvin’s Employee Complaint Profile Card, which provided few details other than a tally of 17 complaints against him throughout his MPD career.
The only allegation that resulted in disciplinary action (two letters of reprimand) was filed in 2007, when Chauvin allegedly pulled over a woman for going 10 mph over the speed limit, frisked her, and put her in his squad car, according to news reports. The woman’s baby and dog were reportedly inside the vehicle during the traffic stop.
Another complaint was filed by a 48-year-old man who said officers (one of whom was later identified as Chauvin) banged on his car window with a flashlight and attempted to force him to the pavement during a traffic stop in 2013, The Star Tribune reported. The man, a mental health worker, said he was driving home from working a double shift at Hennepin County Medical Center and believed officers had mistaken him for someone who had been using his name.
In other words, it was undetermined based on verifiable evidence whether all the complaints against Chauvin accused him of using excessive use of force, or whether they included allegations that he had violated other aspects of MPD policy. Anyone can file a complaint against a police officer for any reason.
Also unclear was whether, or to what extent, the complaints were connected to the incidents described above that resulted in civilian deaths or injuries.
Beyond the Flyer, What Else is Known About Chauvin?
After graduating high school in 1994, Chauvin worked restaurant jobs as a prep cook, joined the U.S. Army, and eventually attended St. Paul’s Metropolitan State University, The Star Tribune reported. There, his focus shifted to police work — he eventually earned a degree in law enforcement — and he joined MPD’s ranks in 2001, at age 25.
We also know that Chauvin and Floyd both worked at the same Minneapolis nightclub, El Nuevo Rodeo. Maya Santamaria, who owned the building that housed the club, confirmed with Snopes that both men worked at the business during periods that overlapped (Chauvin worked as an off-duty police officer), but it was unknown whether they ever ran into each other or were introduced.
MPD leaders commended Chauvin’s work at various points throughout his career, according to the news archives. For example, they awarded him a Medal of Commendation in 2008 after he apparently disarmed a man during one of his nightclub security shifts.
In 2010, Chauvin married his wife, Kellie Chauvin. The two had met at Hennepin County Medical Center, where she worked as a radiologic technician and he brought someone one night for a health check before an arrest, she told The Pioneer Press for a story about her preparation to compete in Mrs. Minnesota America.
Additionally, the couple owned and rented two homes in Woodbury, a suburb east of St. Paul, before they bought a home in Oakdale, Washington County, according to property records compiled by The Star Tribune. In 2011, they also bought a townhouse near Orlando, Florida, where voting records showed Derek Chauvin is registered to vote.
Just weeks after Floyd’s death, Kellie Chauvin filed for divorce and sought to change her last name. As of this writing, the court sealed access to records in the case, citing privacy and safety concerns.
Nonetheless, the couple’s financial situation emerged in international news headlines in July, when authorities accused them of failing to report income from various jobs.
Washington County prosecutors charged Derek and Kellie Chauvin with aiding and abetting tax evasion and tax fraud. According to the criminal complaint, they failed to report more than $460,000 in Minnesota income over five years and failed to pay almost $38,000 in taxes owed during that time frame, according news reports.
As part of my theory, I believe that Chauvin was financially compensated for the death of George Floyd.
What is the net worth of Derek Chauvin?
Derek Chauvin net worth is around five thousand dollars. Jun 27, 2021.
How much did Derek Chauvin’s wife get? The couple also planned to split all debt and money left in their bank account, which would leave Mrs Chauvin with about $704,000 while her ex-husband would receive about $420,000, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. Apr 20, 2021. My question is where did a police officer get this kind of money? We have two figures, the $5,000, which is the amount I would expect knowing what police get paid. The second set of figures lines up more with some sort of financial compensation.
George Floyd and Derek Chauvin knew each other and “bumped heads,” reveals former colleague
A former colleague of theirs breaks his silence and reveals Derek Chauvin and George Floyd not only knew each other, but did not get along.
On Tuesday (June 9), George Floyd was finally laid to rest in Houston, Texas two weeks after he died from asphyxia, which was caused by ex-officer Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis Police Department pinning him down to the ground by pushing his knee into Floyd’s neck during an arrest.
Since then, Chauvin and the other three officers who were also involved in the arrest have been charged. However, more shocking details about Chauvin and Floyd’s relationship prior to this incident are continuing to surface. Though shortly after Floyd’s death speculation circulated that both he and Chauvin worked as security at a nightclub at the same time many years ago, it wasn’t confirmed that they ever crossed paths — until now.
Man who claimed George Floyd and Derek Chauvin “bumped heads” changes story
A man who worked at the same club with George Floyd and Derek Chauvin – and previously told CBS News the two had “bumped heads” – changed his story Wednesday, saying he had mistaken Floyd for another unnamed African-American employee.
David Pinney told CBS News he worked at the same club where Chauvin and Floyd were employed to provide part-time security. Chauvin is the former police officer who is charged in Floyd’s death.
In an interview with CBS News, parts of which aired Tuesday, Pinney had described a tense relationship between Chauvin and a man who he said was Floyd, and said that the two knew each other “pretty well.”
On Wednesday, Pinney told CBS News in an email he had confused Floyd with someone else: “There has been a mix up between George and another fellow co-worker,” he wrote.
The club’s former owner, Maya Santamaria, had connected Pinney with CBS News. “She specifically said she was unable to give detail information about George because she did not have a close relationship with him as I did,” Pinney said in the email. He said that led to his mistake.
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“I apologize for not doing my due diligence and placing you in a very uncomfortable situation,” he wrote.
Pinney had also described Chauvin as “extremely aggressive within the club,” a characterization he stands by.
On June 6, in a 50-minute-long videotaped interview with CBS News, Pinney described, in detail, several interactions he recalled between Floyd and Chauvin.
“Is there any doubt in your mind that Derek Chauvin knew George Floyd?” CBS News asked Pinney. “No. He knew him,” Pinney said.
“How well did he know him?” CBS News asked. “I would say pretty well,” Pinney replied.
“I knew George on a work basis,” he said. “We were pretty close. When it came to our security positions, he was in charge and I worked directly below him as a security adviser.”
Pinney said he worked with Floyd for about five or six months in late 2015 and early 2016.
Pinney originally described how he worked with Floyd to break up fights: “He was good at talking with people and establishing himself. He never had to put his hands on anybody. Usually his presence would stop people from having any type of competition with one another.”
Pinney also said, “Our job, in a security position, was to hold the peace in the club and separate the guests if there was an issue. And honestly, we had very few issues when we worked together in the club.”
He initially described a close bond: “It’s a difference when you work side by side with somebody. Like, I see him like a brother….”
Pinney also described working with both men and said Floyd didn’t want to interact with Chauvin because of Chauvin’s aggressive behavior.
“…..he always showed aggression to, you know, George. So George, to keep it professional, George had me intervene and – interface with him instead of himself, just to be – just to get away from the conflict and keep it professional.”
Pinney also said: “I can relate to George, how he felt. And I think that’s what makes that personal bond between him and I, dealing with Derek.”
CBS News has confirmed that as part of the investigation, investigators are looking at whether the two men knew each other, and if so, what the relationship was.
Santamaria told CBS News that investigators have asked her questions about the two men and whether there had been any disputes.
Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder. The Floyd family says they believe what happened on May 25 was in part personal. Their lawyer has previously called for Chauvin to be charged with first-degree murder, “because we believe he knew who George Floyd was.”
Did Derek Chauvin Work With George Floyd? Their Relationship Explained
George Floyd and Derek Chauvin reportedly worked together at a venue in Minneapolis last year, according to a former nightclub owner.
Floyd died while in custody of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) on May 25 last year after being apprehended on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill.
His arrest was caught on camera by a bystander, whose video showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, while the other two officers pinned him down.
In the footage, which went viral and sparked nationwide protests against racism and police brutality, Floyd can be heard pleading with officers saying “I can’t breathe.”
It has now emerged Floyd and Chauvin were colleagues at one stage, with the former working as a bouncer and the latter working as off-duty security guard outside the venue.
“Chauvin was our off-duty police for almost the entirety of the 17 years that we were open,” Maya Santamaria, former owner of El Nuevo Rodeo in south Minneapolis told Minneapolis and St. Paul’s ABC-affiliate KSTP.
While Floyd and Chauvin may have worked together, Santamaria admitted she could not say for certain if the two knew each other as several off-duty officers served as security guards.
“They were working together at the same time, it’s just that Chauvin worked outside and the security guards were inside.”
Santamaria, who sold the venue only months ago, added that when she first saw the video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd she initially failed to recognize either of her employees.
“I didn’t recognize George as one of our security guys because he looked really different lying there like that.”
Chauvin has denied charges of second- and third-degree murder and is one of four officers who will stand trial in Minneapolis from Monday.
The 45-year-old was fired from the MPD and could face up to 40 years in prison if found guilty of second-degree murder. Eric Nelson, his defense attorney, has not confirmed whether his client will testify.
An autopsy carried out by Dr. Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, in June last year concluded Floyd’s death was a homicide.
According to the report, Floyd died of “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”
The findings were markedly different from the initial report, which had found “no physical findings” to “support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation”. The preliminary report also indicated Floyd had used drugs before his arrest and had underlying conditions which contributed to his death.
Earlier this month, the city of Minneapolis agreed to pay $27 million to Floyd’s family to settle a civil lawsuit.
“I hope that today will center the voices of the family and anything that they would like to share,” the city’s council president, Lisa Bender, said in a statement.
Ben Crump, the Floyd’s family attorney, said the sum was the largest pre-trial civil rights settlement ever in a wrongful death lawsuit.
“While we will never get our beloved George back, we will continue to work tirelessly to make this world a better, and safer, place for all,” Floyd’s sister, Bridgett Floyd, said.
George Floyd and Derek Chauvin Were Once Co-Workers, Ex-Club Owner Tells TV Station
George Floyd and Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death, worked together at a Minneapolis club as recently as last year, according to a report from local television station KSTP.
Maya Santamaria, former owner of El Nuevo Rodeo, said that both Floyd and Chauvin worked security at the club. She said that the two could have crossed paths, though Chauvin mostly worked outside as an off-duty officer, while Floyd primarily was inside as a bouncer. She wasn’t sure if they knew each other.
“Chauvin was our off-duty police for almost the entirety of the 17 years that we were open,” Santamaria told KSTP. “They were working together at the same time, it’s just that Chauvin worked outside and the security guards were inside.”
Santamaria also told the TV station that Chauvin “had a real short fuse,” adding that he often pulled out mace and pepper spray when she thought it was unwarranted.
Earlier Friday, Santamaria took to Facebook to lament the burning down of the building that houses the local Spanish-language radio station La Raza. Santamaria is listed as the CEO of the radio station, which appears to be in the same building as El Nuevo Rodeo.Article continues after sponsor message
The building that housed La Raza and El Nuevo Rodeo is a couple of blocks away from a Target store protesters looted earlier this week.
“Such sad news to wake up and know that all your business and work was destroyed by the vandalizers,” Santamaria wrote in Spanish in a Facebook post. “We didn’t manage to rescue anything. My heart is in mourning today.”
Derek Chauvin Murdered George Floyd ‘For A Reason’ Linked To Nightclub, Former Congressional Candidate Suggests
Amid the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is accused of murdering George Floyd, former Democratic congressional candidate Regina Marston speculated that there is a reason the accused allegedly took the deceased’s life.
“My bet is there was something bad going on at the nightclub they both worked at,” she tweeted on Tuesday.
As reported by CBS Local, the pair both worked at El Nuevo Rodeo club in Minneapolis as recently as 2019. However, the establishment’s former owner, Maya Santamaria, said she wasn’t sure if the pair knew each other.
One Man Claimed The Pair Knew Each Other ‘Very Well’ Before Retracting His Statement
Contrary to Santamaria’s claim, one man suggested that Chauvin and Floyd knew each other “very well.”
As reported by CBS News, David Pinney, who also worked at the same club, previously claimed that Floyd and Chauvin knew each other “very well” and bumped heads. But Pinney later walked back his claims and suggested he mixed up Floyd with another worker.
“There has been a mix up between George and another fellow co-worker.”
As noted by the publication, Santamaria connected Pinney with the network, and he claimed her comments about Floyd were the reason for his mistake.
“She specifically said she was unable to give detail information about George because she did not have a close relationship with him as I did,” he explained.
Marston Speculated That The Incident Is Linked To Drug Sales At The Club
GETTYIMAGES | MARIO TAMA
Marston speculated that drug sales at the nightclub were the cause of Floyd and Chauvin’s deadly interaction and also suggested that the Minneapolis Police Department could also be involved.
“Chauvin murdered Floyd for a reason. Will they connect the dots? Probably not. It involves too many policemen. Maybe the entire department,” she wrote.
Despite the speculation, there is no evidence that suggests Chauvin had reason to murder Floyd, or that the pair were involved in any kind of drug operation at the Nuevo Rodeo club.
Chauvin & Floyd’s Pasts Have Come Under Scrutiny
Both Chauvin and Floyd’s pasts have come under scrutiny since latter’s death. As reported by NPR, Santamaria claimed that Chauvin had a “real short fuse” and was prone to pulling out pepper spray and mace at times she believed were unnecessary.
Chauvin was also previously involved in the 2006 killing of Wayne Reyes along with five other officers
Per Associated Press, Floyd struggled with drug addiction and had fentanyl in his system when he died — a point Chauvin’s defense has underlined to suggest he died from a drug overdose.
Chauvin’s Trial Is Currently Underway
The speculation around Floyd’s death comes as Chauvin faces trial for his alleged crimes.
As The Inquisitr reported, a nine-year-old witness on Tuesday claimed that the paramedics had to push Chauvin off of Floyd.
Another witness, Darnella, said that Chauvin still had his knee on the victim’s neck when the medics arrived at the scene. Elsewhere, she said that the police officers at the scene refused to check Floyd’s pulse at the request of firefighter Genevieve Hansen.
Per Mediaite, Chauvin’s defense suggested on Tuesday that the bystanders were distracting the police officers and preventing them from doing their jobs effectively.
Why George Floyd Died
This is bracing. Here is the police body cam footage of the Minneapolis police officers’ encounter with George Floyd in the nearly eight minutes between the time they first engaged him, and put him on the ground and suppressed his neck:
Early, one of the officers has a gun on him, and tells him repeatedly to put his hands on the wheel. Floyd says, “I got shot the same way before.” Well then, says the cop, put your hands on the wheel when I tell you to.
The police tell him repeatedly to get out of the car, but he keeps saying, “Please don’t shoot me, please don’t shoot me.” Yet he refuses to obey them. At the 1:28 moment, Floyd says, “I just lost my mom, man.” (He was lying about that.)
At the 1:51 point, a female voice is heard saying, “Stop resisting!”
Floyd continues to resist arrest as they’re trying to cuff him. At about the 2:12 point, the officer says again, “Stop resisting!”
At 2:19, the police finally get the cuffs on Floyd, and put him back into the seat of his car.
In the seconds before a break at 3:57, one of the bystanders (a black woman) tells an officer that Floyd has mental problems. Then, at 3:57, we see Floyd cuffed and standing on the street. An officer says, “Are you on something right now?”
“No, nothing,” says Floyd.
This too was a lie. In fact, the autopsy revealed that Floyd had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system at the time of his death. The autopsy also found that Floyd, 46, had “severe” heart disease, and that he died of a heart attack. The autopsy ruled that the fentanyl (“fentanyl intoxication”) and the meth might have contributed to his fatal heart attack. The autopsy also called his death a “homicide.”
At 4:38, one of the officers has Floyd against the police SUV, and tells him, “Stop falling down. Stay on your feet and face the car door.” Floyd is not complying with their orders. “Please, I want to talk with you man,” he shrieks at the police.
At 5:26, Floyd tells the police officers that he is “claustrophobic” — this, to say that he does not want to get into the police SUV. Remember that the supposedly claustrophic Floyd had been pulled out from behind the wheel of his own car. This claustrophobic man is not so afraid of confined spaces that he can’t stand being in a car. A reasonable person, by this point, might conclude that the clearly agitated Floyd is just talking trash to keep the cops from arresting him. He has been talking almost non-stop since the police first approached him, trying to convince the police to let him go.
At 5:38, Floyd denies for a second time that he is on drugs.
What’s striking too at this point is how polite and non-confrontational the police have been. They ask him repeatedly to get into the SUV.
“I’m gonna go in!” says Floyd, at 6:18.
“No, you’re not!” one of the cops replies — meaning in context, you’re saying you’re going to do this thing, but you are in fact refusing to do it.
They order him four or five more times to get into the SUV. He keeps refusing. He claims that he is afraid, that he’s claustrophobic, that he won’t be able to breathe. Voices of bystanders tell him to do what the cops tell him to do, to quit trying to “win.” Floyd says he’s “not trying to win.”
And then several more times, they order him to get in the car. One officer goes around to the other side, to try to pull Floyd in. Floyd offers to get into the front seat. No, an officer says. Floyd keeps resisting. At 7:48, he’s still resisting and shrieking, and the frustrated voice of an officer says, “Take a seat!”
Around 8:12, they finally put Floyd on the ground. He is continuing to protest, “I can’t breathe!”
That’s the end of the above video. We know what happened next.
That bodycam footage dramatically changes what we thought we knew about this story.
George Floyd did not just resist arrest. He spent at least eight minutes gasping and shrieking and carrying on like a lunatic, all the while refusing frequent, entirely legitimate orders by police. I had been under the impression that they had brutalized him from the beginning, throwing Floyd to the ground and kneeing him in the neck. That’s not remotely what happened. What happened is that these police officers gave Floyd chance after chance to obey. He was high on fentanyl and meth, though he denied twice that he was on anything, but his behavior was completely bizarre. Was it because he was high? Maybe. It might also be because he had four previous criminal convictions, and had done a prison stint for assault and robbery. What brought the cops in Minneapolis out that afternoon was that he was attempting to pass counterfeit bills in a local store. Floyd must have known that given his criminal record, he was going to be in a world of trouble over the fake currency.
The knee-in-the-neck procedure was only deployed by a cop after Floyd’s repeated refusal to comply with police orders simply to get into the police car. One can certainly argue about whether or not the neck restraint is wise and proper, but one cannot argue with the fact that it was permitted under Minneapolis police procedure:
A neck restraint is listed as a “non-deadly force option” in the Minneapolis Police Department Policy & Procedure Manual, according to the police.
The Unconscious Neck Restraint shall only be applied in the following circumstances:
- On a subject who is exhibiting active aggression, or;
- For life saving purposes, or;
- 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.
- Neck restraints shall not be used against subjects who are passively resisting as defined by policy.
The new bodycam video shows that Floyd had been actively resisting arrest for at least eight minutes! If George Floyd at any point in that eight minutes had simply obeyed the police’s lawful, legitimate orders, he would be alive today. After watching that video, it is easy to see why Officer Derek Chauvin applied the neck restraint to him. And it is easy to understand why Chauvin believed Floyd was lying when he said, “I can’t breathe” — Floyd had been standing on the street yelling over and over that he couldn’t breathe as a way to convince the officers not to make him get into the back of the car.
Those cops have been overcharged for political reasons, and are going to walk free. Jason Whitlock, the black sports journalist, has watched the new footage, and says:
The behavior of the police officers seems appropriate and restrained given Floyd’s level of resistance and bizarre conduct. The footage reasonably explains how and why Floyd wound up on the ground with multiple officers restraining him.
The video does not justify officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. But it does offer context why Chauvin would be reluctant to believe Floyd’s “I can’t breathe” cries. Nearly every word out of Floyd’s mouth was a desperate lie.
Here are the takeaways from the footage:
- Floyd’s behavior escalated a routine arrest into a possible abuse of force.
- The George Floyd case is not a race crime. No rational person can watch that footage and conclude the police were motivated by Floyd’s black race.
- It’s going to be virtually impossible to convict former officers Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao of any crime.
- It will be equally difficult to convict Chauvin of murder.
When these police officers go free — as they will deserve to, based on what is seen on these cameras — riots are going to sweep the nation. As Whitlock says, sports stars, the media, and many others have promulgated a sacred narrative in which Floyd was the innocent victim of racist police officers. It is not true. I think a decent case could be made that Derek Chauvin used excessive force, even though the neck restraint was legal under Minneapolis police guidelines. But murder? Not remotely. You’re not going to get a conviction for that.
George Floyd is dead today almost entirely because of George Floyd. Watch that bodycam video above (it ends just as he is on the ground with Chauvin’s knee in his neck), and tell me how there is any other reasonable conclusion? All he had to do was obey the police, who gave him chance after chance after chance. They did not come down on him hard, with the neck restraint, because he was black. They came down on him because he hysterically resisted arrest, for at least eight minutes.
The media’s narrative is false. All the George Floyd riots, all the George Floyd protests, have been based on a lie. That lie, though, has become so fundamental to the left’s narrative that disbelieving it will be impossible for countless people.
Watch the video. It really is shocking to realize how badly we have been misled by the media, by politicians, by celebrities, and by activists.
UPDATE: I have changed the headline, which was needlessly inflammatory, and for that I apologize. I still stand by my point: those cops are going to walk, because of the events leading up to Floyd’s death.
Floyd is dead because Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for eight minutes. That is a fact. Chauvin should have been charged with something — abuse of force? — but I don’t see how it constitutes murder. I am willing to be corrected, especially by those who understand the law.
What shocked me about this video was how wildly uncooperative Floyd was prior to the neck restraint. I had believed prior to this that the police had thrown him to the ground and subdued him with the neck restraint. I did not realize all that preceded the neck restraint. I think it is a good thing that neck restraints are being abandoned by police. If Minneapolis had not had that policy, Floyd would probably be alive today.
And if Floyd had not resisted arrest for eight minutes, he would be alive today. He shouldn’t be dead, period, but his death was not the simple case I thought it was prior to seeing this video. Context matters.
UPDATE.2: Again, I want to apologize for the former headline. It was bad, and didn’t actually reflect what I believe. I could be completely wrong in my judgment in this post — and if so, I am willing to be convinced of that. I have written here in the past very critically of Chauvin, and I still cannot understand how a police officer can kneel on a man’s neck for that long and justify it. I do want to point out what Dukeboy, a commenter here who is a retired cop, said a while back about the neck restraint: that it’s bad policy, but if it was official Minneapolis PD policy, then it’s going to be very hard to get a homicide conviction against Chauvin.
My friend Alan Jacobs is appalled by this post of mine, and says that the new video cam image changes nothing. Doesn’t it, though? It provides much greater context for the killing of Floyd. Maybe it’s just me, and maybe the problem is mine, but I honestly thought that the Minneapolis cops roughed Floyd up from the very beginning. I had no idea that he had resisted arrest so strenuously. It does not justify his death — and that is the regret I had about the initial headline: that it gave that impression — but I understand that it reasonably might have happened not from depraved indifference to human life, as I initially thought, but because of that Minneapolis police policy and Floyd’s bizarre behavior as police tried and tried and tried to arrest him without incident.
What the new video changes, at least to my way of thinking, is my understanding of how this incident escalated. What should the police have done, given how he resisted, and how long he resisted? Obviously they shouldn’t have put him in a neck restraint (I hope all police departments have done away with that by now), but seriously, what should have happened? What could they have done differently with a suspect who repeatedly refuses to get into the squad car, after having refused multiple times police requests prior to that moment? What would a reasonable action have been for the police in that instance?
Eight minutes and forty-six seconds of kneeling on a man’s neck was wrong, and would have been wrong even if Floyd hadn’t have died. But I don’t believe it’s legally murder, not in this context, and I believe the messy truth of this case is far from what we have been presented.
I find this new bodycam footage to be bad news, actually, because nearly everybody is convinced that Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, but I do not believe a jury will be convinced of that, based on the evidence. Understand that “murder” has a specific legal meaning; not all killing is “murder,” and there are degrees of murder. If Chauvin walks because he has been overcharged by prosecutors, and if his police colleagues walk, I believe there will be widespread rioting. People will believe that there was a clear-cut case of injustice, when the new bodycam footage shows otherwise.
I could be wrong. Convince me to change my mind.
UPDATE.3:Libertarian Scott Shackford watched the same video and came to the opposite conclusion:
The officers’ encounter with Floyd is precisely why police reformers talk about the importance of de-escalation training. The stressfulness of this entire encounter is ratcheted up every step of the way by the officers, even though the crime for which Floyd was being arrested was not violent and his responses to the police were not violent. The violence in this encounter came entirely from one direction: the police.
It’s easy to say after the fact that the encounter could have and should have been handled differently given the fatal outcome. But now that the body camera footage has made its way into the public domain, it’s even more clear that none of Floyd’s responses to the officers merited their aggression. The Minneapolis Police Department was right to fire them all. Chauvin has since been charged with second-degree murder and the other three with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Even more clear. I respect Shackford’s judgment, though I don’t share it. It is interesting, though, that we could watch the same video and come to very different conclusions (though we both agree that Chauvin went too far).
UPDATE.4: I really hope all of you will watch the bodycam video before you comment one way or the other on what I have written here. You may end up thinking that Scott Shackford’s call is the correct one. But watch first.
I really hope that the media delve into this video, and give it a fair airing — not because I want them to reach a certain conclusion, but because the jury is ultimately going to see this and other bodycam videos, and figure it into their verdict. People should be aware that there is reason to believe that Chauvin et alia will walk, and not because the trial verdict is decided in advance.
I assumed too that the cops in Minneapolis had mistreated Floyd because he was black. I don’t see any evidence at all of that in the way they handled him for the eight minutes or so prior to his being put on the ground. They can still have used excessive force (Chauvin, I mean) without having been racist. I think any man, no matter what his color, who behaved as Floyd did while under arrest would have suffered the same fate with that group of officers.
UPDATE.5: A reader writes:
1) I thought the second video at the Daily Mail article (about 18 min long) was more revealing about the whole incident. Though that may have been because I had the audio up higher when I played it.
2) I’m pretty convinced that the ultimate cause of Floyd’s death was the fentanyl. The toxicology study at the autopsy has his level at 11 ng/mL, together with 5.6 ng/mL of nor fentanyl, which is what fentanyl metabolizes down to.
There is a New Hampshire public health study on the internet of 505 fentanyl overdose deaths there. The blood level ranged from 0.75 to 113 ng/mL, with a *mean* of 9.96 ng. So, Floyd had a dose somewhat higher than the average NH fentanyl overdose fatality.
But, moreover, given that the data range there is 0.75 all the way up to 113, that means that the *median* level is significantly below 9.96. Elsewhere, I’ve read that 7 ng is considered a “lethal dose.” He’s at 11, and earlier had had even more (hence the 5.6 ng nor fentanyl). It seems to me this alone would explain the breathing difficulties. (It would also explain the flopping around: his nervous system was so checked out it could get his muscles to stand.)
Anyway, just to add to this speculation, at one point in the audio Floyd says something about “I was hoopin’ earlier.” “Hooping” in the Urban Dictionary refers to the practice of transporting contraband in the rectum. There’s a loop or “hoop” on the capsule which is hooked for fishing out when you get to your destination. So, one possibility is that this was an accidental fentanyl overdose. Somehow in the retrieval process, some of the stuff got into his system, and since fentanyl is 100x stronger than heroin, that spelled his doom. He joins the 50,000+ other fentanyl overdose deaths in the U.S. each year. (Incidentally, he also had 100 ng/mL of morphine in his blood: heroin metabolizes down to morphine, so he also had a healthy dose of that in him earlier.)
Note well: In the original cell phone videos which caused the riots, what we see is a cruel cop callously and almost casually snuffing the life out of a defenseless man. But when we consider that he’s actually dying from an overdose, everything changes. The cops have figured out he’s on something really, really bad (PCP? they wonder at one point). He’s expressed difficulty breathing. So: THEY HAVE CALLED FOR AN AMBULANCE. The reason they look so casually indifferent is because they are, in fact, just killing time while they wait for the ambulance to get there. There’s nothing else they can do for him. Every now and then Chauvin does move around a bit, repositioning his knee: but, on this reading, he does so because he is taking care NOT to obstruct Floyd’s breathing while he maintains the restraint.
3) I suppose I have a third point. What we have with Floyd is something very much like what happened in Ferguson in 2015. There is a killing of a black man at the hands of the police, apparently. It becomes a cause celebre to advance the BLM movement. But there is a big big difference this time. In 2015, very quickly after the initial eruption, journalists brought to our attention that the underlying facts were in dispute and at least open to multiple interpretations. As additional information came into the public view, the majority of the public, within a week or two, concluded that, after all, it was a justified police shooting. That happened time and time again during BLM’s first run in 2015-16.
This time, in 2020, it’s different. There were NO mitigating facts, NO suggestions in the media of alternative interpretations. EVEN THOUGH THE TOXICOLOGY STUDY WAS POSTED ON THE INTERNET WITHIN DAYS. I saw that report and I was asking everyone I knew whether they had seen anything in the press explaining what 11 ng of fentanyl meant. Was it a lot or a little? Was it just a trace amount from someone who had used last week? No one in the press “characterized” a fact in plain view. Time and time again we heard that he had some drugs in his system. But NO ONE said: Oh, by the way, that was a lethal dose of fentanyl in him, and unless he got on Narcan immediately, he was done for. So the big “political” thing I take away from this episode is that the media ecosystem has changed significantly from 2015. Because everyone is now in lockstep to destroy Trump, really very elementary fact-finding isn’t happening. (For that matter, I’ve not read anything about the night club where both Floyd and Chauvin worked: Might that have been where the counterfeiting operation was located? It apparently burned down in the rioting. But nowhere have I seen any journalists interviewing people who knew Floyd or knew the night club, etc. It’s all a mystery. It seems the journalists wanted to keep the “context” completely out of the picture.)
Now, you might also say that the reaction this time was more explosive because there was video, whereas there wasn’t in the Ferguson case. And the original video looks very, very bad.
I have two observations about that:
a) In the 1992 Rodney King episode, I seem to recall the original video showing the cops just whaling on King in a horrible way. But then, a week later, additional video came out showing what happened before the original video. And it showed King getting Tasered once or twice to no effect and charging at officers and otherwise being extremely dangerous. So some suspicion about “what happened before” the cell phone video we had in the Floyd case should have been in reporters’ minds.
b) But, also, the authorities in Minneapolis have had this body cam video from the very beginning. They CHOSE to withhold it from public view. It seems whoever was responsible for that decision is a moral criminal, and they should be called out. Had we seen this video in the first days after the encounter, I don’t think cities would have burned all across America.
In that second bodycam video (linked in the reader’s letter), at the 5:00 mark, a police officer tells Floyd that the reason he’s cuffed and seated on the sidewalk is that he would not obey their orders, and that makes them concerned about what might be going on.At 5:43, a cop asks, “Are you on something right now? ‘Cause you acting real erratic.”Floyd: “Naw, I’m scared, man!”
Now, if you compare this to the first bodycam video (at the top of the page), you see that the police gave Floyd no reason to be scared, other than that they were going to question him. He acts very strange when they first approach his car, and he refuses to put his hands on the steering wheel. The cops clearly realize that something is really wrong with the guy. At around the 6:28 mark, Floyd flops onto the sidewalk to avoid being put in the squad car. He begs them not to put him in the car. One cop said, “You not listening to a thing we’re saying, so we’re not going to listen to what you’re saying.”
At 9:36, he’s in the car, and says, “I can’t breathe” for the first time. He is not restrained, except for the cuffs. Floyd is completely freaking out. At around the 11:00 mark, Floyd is on the ground with Chauvin’s knee on his neck, shouting, “I can’t breathe!” You know what happens next. It’s horrible. What I had not realized until watching these videos is how Floyd had been behaving up to the point he was subdued on the ground, and how he had been shouting, “I can’t breathe!” even though he was not subdued — that is, a while before he was pinned to the ground by Chauvin.
UPDATE.6: A reader writes:
One of the things that activists fighting police brutality have been asking for is police bodycams. I think the suspicion was that the videos from this would show widespread unlawful use of force by police. Instead more often than not, the footage shows the police response was appropriate. Whether this is because the presence of cameras inhibit the police hasn’t been conclusively decided. Instead it is clear that many persons who made unjustified claims of inappropriate use of force by police, have had to retract their claims.
What the George Floyd incident showed is that there is a tremendous desire on the part of certain people to believe a specific narrative about the police and that images when taken out of context can support that narrative.
The bodycam footage that you saw clearly support those who advocate for investigations to be completed before acting. Here because of the rioting mobs (on a nationwide basis) the D.A. wanted to indict as soon as possible.
The real question that you have to answer, is how do we get persons who were sufficiently outraged by the knee on that neck that they assumed the context was what you also thought, to wait and withhold judgment. That requires not just a better educated citizenry but also requires a responsible press, wise local elected leaders and a desire to understand rather than to quickly judge. Good luck with all that in these tempestuous times.
Well, I assumed like many people who saw the initial video that Floyd was the victim of a depraved and brutal police officer, and the depraved indifference of those cops standing around him. I grant that what may be determined in the trial is exactly that. These new videos, though, show a far more complex situation than I thought was the case. I still don’t understand how it justifies eight minutes and forty-six seconds of a knee on a man’s neck, but I see a lot more nuance than I did before. Will it be exculpatory in a court of law? I think so, but I don’t know. We’ll see.
Another reader writes:
The George Floyd post was so bad. Just please stop doing these posts.
He didn’t say anything more than that, so I wrote to ask him what was “so bad” about it, and what he meant by “these posts.” I’m not trolling him — I really want to know. I have acknowledged that the initial headline was bad, insensitive, and misleading; I took it down and apologized for it. As always with my posts, I write things that can be criticized, and I do change my mind when readers show me where I made a mistake in my perceptions or my logic. Again, if you think this is a bad post, reader, I genuinely invite you to explain why, and try to change my mind. I’m listening!
Do not think that I am saying here that George Floyd deserved to die. He did not. But that doesn’t mean the cop who appears to have killed him committed homicide. I think it is reasonable to ask — to ask! — to what extent the high dosage of fentanyl in Floyd’s system played in weakening his ability to breathe, and stressing his already damaged heart. A fentanyl overdose slows the breathing rate. Yet Floyd remains extremely agitated throughout this video. What’s going on?
UPDATE.7: Sorry for all these updates, but I believe that they are important to many of you. The reader who said this post is “so bad” clarified:
The issue with George Floyd is not the minutiae of the law. It’s the moral matter of the killing of a vulnerable person. Your post neglects that principle which I know that you respect in other circumstances especially when related to sexuality.
I appreciate the clarification, but I sincerely don’t understand it. Let’s think about it for a second.
It’s not “the minutiae of the law” we’re talking about here. It’s a really big deal, morally and legally, whether or not the police officer Chauvin is at fault in Floyd’s death. Legally, it has to do with whether or not he will go to jail for years, or go free. Morally, was this an unintentional killing, or was there fault? I don’t believe that Chauvin intended to kill Floyd, but Floyd died under his knee. Where is the moral fault here, and what is the nature of the fault? I’m not asking rhetorically; I really want to know, and it’s important to know.
The context of what preceded the knee on the neck matters, I think, in terms of determining legal and moral culpability. The cops in this case tried patiently, in multiple ways, to subdue Floyd, who was under arrest. He resisted arrest hysterically. We know now that he was high on drugs, and the police thought so too — that’s why they called the ambulance. The fatal error Chauvin made was not realizing that Floyd was dying under his knee. Floyd had been hollering since virtually the moment he was approached by the police, and was complaining that he couldn’t breathe even before he was on the ground.
Was it because he was high, and the fentanyl was suppressing his breathing? Was it because he was having a panic attack? Both? Was it because he was trying to fool the police?
What is reasonable for the police to have believed? What was a reasonable course of action, under the police procedure? These aren’t side issues. They are both morally and legally significant. A city burned because people believed that a cop murdered George Floyd. You’ll get no argument from me that Floyd ought to still be alive, and that no cop should kneel on a man’s neck for nearly nine minutes (or ever). But we are asked to determine if, in the specific case of Derek Chauvin and these other officers, they are to some degree guilty of criminal homicide.
Alan Jacobs, as I mentioned before, hates this post. He wrote, in part:
The newly released footage might — might — embarrass some of the people who have tried to paint Floyd as some kind of saint, papering over his history. But beyond I don’t see how the footage changes anything. I still think exactly what I thought before I saw that footage: Non-saints, indeed even habitual criminals, don’t deserve what was done to George Floyd. Behaving bizarrely, “shrieking and carrying on like a lunatic,” is not a capital offense. Some of us might even say that a person who is clearly not in his right senses deserves compassion. Instead George Floyd got death. Eight minutes of patient, calm, unrelenting asphyxiation.
He did get death, that is true. But intent matters immensely in murder cases. First-degree murder is murder that is premeditated. Chauvin was not charged with first-degree murder, because there was obviously no premeditation here. Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder, which under Minnesota law requires intentional killing, but without premeditation. Do we believe that Chauvin intended to kill Floyd? If prosecutors can’t prove that, then Chauvin walks.
It is a judgment call as to whether or not the way those police officers responded to George Floyd was reasonable under existing law and police procedure. All the facts surrounding the event are relevant to making that decision. If Alan and others take what preceded the asphyxiation into account, and still think it doesn’t matter, I respect that decision, but I am not convinced. They may be right! But I believe the newly released footage really does make a difference in demonstrating (or failing to demonstrate) intent to kill.
I don’t know whether the new footage will change the thinking of a jury, but it doesn’t change my thinking one iota. If George Floyd had tried to attack Derek Chauvin, then maybe; but what I see is a pathetic, desperate, sick, terrified man. The cops could have waited him out. They chose to kill him instead.
And as for Rod’s claim that “if Floyd had not resisted arrest for eight minutes, he would be alive today,” that is true in exactly the same way, and to exactly the same degree, that “If she hadn’t been wearing that short skirt she wouldn’t have been raped” is true.
I disagree. One popular narrative that emerged from this case is that George Floyd is emblematic of police callousness towards black people. The new videos give no evidence at all that Floyd was treated the way he was by those cops because of his race. Furthermore, if the public is under the impression that these cops, and cops in general, commonly treat black people (and others too) with so much depravity that they have no problem killing them with asphyxiation, the Floyd case does not justify that conclusion, in my view. The neck restraint hold was only used on Floyd after between eight and ten minutes of the police trying to subdue him by other, less brutal means. They had given up on trying to arrest him, and were holding him until an ambulance arrived. There is nothing wrong with wearing a short skirt. There is something very wrong with resisting arrest. It does not justify a criminal suspect’s death, but when one refuses for between eight and ten minutes to obey police officers, it escalates the chance that something very bad could happen.
Why is it important to observe that if Floyd had obeyed the police officers, he would be alive today? Because a lot of people are claiming that Floyd had no chance, because these officers had it out for him. That’s just not true. If people come to believe that merely being arrested means that the police will kill you, they may foolishly — and even fatally — decided that resisting arrest is a matter of life and death.
UPDATE.8: My friend Leah Libresco e-mails (and gives me permission to post this):I agree with Alan’s view of your George Floyd post, and I want to lay out why, since you’ve asked folks who disagree to explain why.The first issue is that your post seems to teeter between asking whether Chauvin is at fault legally or at fault morally. Given the state of our current laws (particularly qualified immunity) there are many cases where cops are in the wrong morally and in the clear legally. In your post, you linger on the legal question without asking whether the law is a good tutor here.
But my bigger objection is part of a pattern on your posts on race. You’ve had a number of posts on diversity and inclusion initiatives as soft totalitarianism. You’ve also had some posts on the legacy of racism in your hometown, and how long it takes for those wounds to heal (and that denying their existence is further salt in the wounds).
It doesn’t feel like those parts of your blog speak to each other. Racism is a real, persistent evil in our country. And it has its effects not just through animus but through inertia. Racist structures continue to do harm, even when people aren’t aware of their origins and don’t have harmful intent. My high school, for instance, has the school district boundaries drawn in a racist way many years ago, and they still have not been changed.
When you hold up examples primarily of the excesses of the social justice movement, but not the evils it is responding to, I think you let down your readers. We’re called as Christians to bind up wounds. If you don’t like how that’s being done, point your readers at people who you admire who are doing this well, so they can be part of good work.
I was glad to see that your new book is split between pointing at the problem and giving examples of solutions. I think your blog and your readers would be well served by rebalancing your writing to point more toward what you admire than what you abhor. And remember, people act for the sake of a perceived good. Many of the people you disagree with are grappling with real evils, and you will do more to tell the whole truth when you acknowledge that they are motivated by a desire for justice, not just power.
I appreciate the letter. Let me respond.
First, I should be clearer in drawing the distinction between moral guilt and legal guilt — though both are at issue in this case, as a public matter.
I think Chauvin is probably going to be in the clear, legally. Obviously I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me that it is going to be extremely difficult to prove that Chauvin intentionally killed Floyd. The bodycam footage reveals something I did not know before I saw it (maybe you did): that Floyd had behaved very strangely, and with intense agitation, from the time the police first confronted him until he ended up on the sidewalk with a cop’s knee on his neck. I did not realize that he had resisted arrest so insistently for so long. And I had not realized that he claimed that he couldn’t breathe at a time when no cop was confining him in any way, except for the cuffs.
Why does this matter? Because it seems at least plausible that Chauvin did not understand how seriously distressed Floyd was physically. He was clearly unusually agitated, but would you have guessed that he had a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl, a powerful central nervous system depressant, in his system? The police asked him twice if he was on something. He told them no, as you would expect a person high on an illegal drug to do. Chauvin also had no reason to think that a 46 year old muscled man had a severe heart condition.
All of this is part of building a case for reasonable doubt on the second-degree murder charge. It is important to understand as clearly as possible what Chauvin did from a legal point of view, and what that likely means for his conviction or acquittal. If people believe that this is an open-and-shut case of police murder, as very many people clearly do at this point, then if Chauvin is acquitted, there is going to be extreme outrage. I do not know to what extent the law can hold Chauvin responsible for what happened from the moment he put his knee on Floyd’s neck, and the moment when Floyd breathed his last. Do you? Are you sure about that? Why or why not?
If you were a cop and had been trained to use that neck restraint hold in situations like this, and you followed through with your training, how culpable could you be held if a suspect died while restrained in a prescribed way? As a commenter who is a former police officer said here earlier, that is a potential game-changer. Whether or not the neck restraint was wise policy is beside the point legally. The question becomes (it seems to me): at some point, should a reasonable police officer have realized that the man he held down in that neck restraint was dying, and he should have desisted? We have video evidence, and a jury will see it. What we saw on the new bodycam footage does not change what Chauvin did from the moment he put his knee on Floyd’s neck until Floyd died, but it does speak to the state of mind of Chauvin and the other officers after having struggled for eight to ten minutes with a hysterical and uncooperative suspect resisting arrest.
That doesn’t speak to the question of moral culpability. Things that are legal are not always moral. We now that. I could be wrong — and heaven knows I don’t question the good faith of Leah Libresco, Alan Jacobs, or other critics — but I get the feeling from Leah’s letter that she believes the question of Chauvin’s moral guilt is clear because racism is a real evil. Furthermore, she seems to believe that questioning whether Chauvin is morally guilty of racially-motivated murder is itself an act of … well, if not racism, then at least blindness to racism.
I do not at all deny that racism is a real and persistent evil. Who could? But the fact that racism is a real evil does not make Derek Chauvin guilty of racism in the Floyd case, or of murder. I try to be as fair as I can as I think through these issues, because I believe it’s important to think clearly and rationally — and that means standing apart from our emotions as much as we can, especially when our feelings are strong.
As longtime readers know about me, the greatest intellectual shame I carry is how thoroughly convinced I was that the US had to go to war in Iraq. I honestly believed that the only reason anybody opposed the war before it was launched was because they were too stupid to see what was obvious, or they were morally deficient (cowards, etc.). I was wrong, in fact, and without realizing what I was doing, I allowed my rage at 9/11 to condition my thinking, and to look down on those who opposed me as intellectual or moral defectives.
I have tried hard since then not to let myself fall into that trap. Do I fail? No doubt I do — and that’s why when I tell you I appreciate honest criticism, I mean it. But I have to say, on the issue of racism, I have seen a lot of the same kind of emotionally-driven rationalism in public debate. It is a moral good and a public virtue to want to fight racism, but when those wanting to fight racism believe that their good intentions excuse false accusations and smearing those who disagree, I believe it is important to say so. Same with fighting religious bigotry, or any other kind of bigotry. I write a fair bit about people I believe are badly treated because of their religious convictions. But not every person who claims to have been badly treated out of anti-religious bias really has been. Some people in this blog’s comments section, whenever I point out cases of anti-religious bigotry, say that yeah, maybe so, but Christians were so nasty to gays in the past that they can’t really be surprised that they’re treated this way.
No. That’s wrong. The fact of one kind of bigotry’s existence, historically and otherwise, does not excuse it as payback. Similarly, the hateful fact of racism in America, past and present, does not justify indulging in a different form of racial prejudice. Nobody is promoting programs in universities, government agencies, corporations and other institutions affirmatively encouraging us all to smear ethnic minorities as a group. But this is happening to whites. It’s wrong. I don’t credit people for wanting to use immoral and destructive means to deal with a vice. Communism wants to address the public vice of social inequality, but does so in a grossly immoral way. We don’t — or at least should not — excuse police brutality because at least the police are trying to fight crime, and their hearts are in the right place.
It matters whether or not Derek Chauvin and those other officers are actually guilty, morally and legally, of the things of which they have been accused. If they are guilty, they are guilty for what they did, not because of who they are (cops) and who their victim was (a black man). In our system, we are supposed to judge people as individuals, not as representatives of groups. God knows our history is filled with instances of people who did not receive justice because they were black, or female, or gay, or poor, or some other outsider disliked and disrespected by the majority. Is it really justice simply to rearrange our prejudices?
It is true that I react strongly against what I believe are unjust and even malicious efforts to combat racism by mainstreaming concepts like “white fragility” (DiAngelo) and “antiracism” (Kendi). Why? Because I genuinely believe they are racist, and they tell lies about the human condition, and human nature. I do not wake up every day and read stories in our leading media about why blacks, Latinos, gays, women, atheists, and progressives are bad people who need to be put in their place. I do wake up and see these stories often about people like me, and my family, and people I care about. It’s unfair — and the accumulated effect of this narrative, hammered over and over in the media and popular culture, is destructive not only to private interests, but the common good.
What I see happening in this country is the emergence of a new order in which people are judged not by their character or their deeds, but by their identities (racial, political, sexual, and so forth). And there is no sense of nuance, no sense that life is tragic, and that bad things can happen through human fallibility without there necessarily being a political meaning to the event. If George Floyd had been white, would people have cared nearly so much, even with the video? What hit me so hard about the bodycam footage today is how much it challenged what I thought I knew about the Floyd case, and how very, very far our media and our popular culture had seized on this tragedy to draw from it a politically useful narrative about American life.
It might be the case that Chauvin is guilty, either morally or legally, or both. But very few people have thought of this case as complicated. I know I didn’t. I mean, I don’t have the belief that the police as a whole are racist. Proportionally speaking, black men commit vastly more violent crimes than other racial groups. It stands to reason that the police would have more opportunities to interact with them in violent ways. And yet, I know from the testimony of black men, including friends, that they have been stopped by police for no reason. You can’t convince me that racism doesn’t exist at some level in the system. But you also cannot convince me that racism itself explains the overwhelming disproportion in the black male crime rate, including violent crime. Black, white, and everybody else, I think we should all try to find the truth, as best we can, instead of seeking for narratives that satisfy our need for meaning.
I didn’t see it in 2002, when the Bush Administration was making the case for war, but I needed to believe that Iraq had to be punished, because somebody had to be paid back for what Al Qaeda did to our country on 9/11. It’s crazy to think back on it, and to try to remember what it was like inside that bubble. The sense of righteousness we had, of being on the right side of history. Of keeping faith with the victims, especially the brave firefighters of the NYPD. I went to several firefighter funerals in the fall of 2001. I really did convince myself that if I didn’t support the war, I was breaking faith with those men. I imagine in the same way, a lot of good-hearted people believe that if they concede that specific instances of apparent racism are actually a lot more complicated than it seems at first, then they will be breaking faith with the victims of racism, and giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
Leah says that my posts on diversity programs as soft totalitarianism and my posts about the legacy of racism in my hometown “don’t speak to each other.” I don’t understand the criticism. What would it mean for them to “speak to each other”? Is the point that because racism was a real evil of the past, and continues in some forms to this day — something I acknowledge, and have acknowledged on a number of occasions here (most recently on this long June 13 post, “Black Lives Matter Comes Home”) — that therefore one should not complain about what one regards as illiberal and even racist attempts to rectify those injustices? If so, I cannot see how that is either fair or intellectually honest. If not, then what does it mean?
We live in a time and place in which it seems that normal human behavior is pathologized as “racism.” We are told that we are guilty of “microaggressions” when perhaps we just behaved like normal, flawed human beings. This can be personally catastrophic. I was once, in the office, accused of racism because I referred to a Pakistani mob that burned down an embassy as “savages.” Had my accuser been white, I would have fought that accusation hard. But my accuser was black, and I knew that he had the power to get me fired, because of the bias at that newspaper’s management. I did not challenge it, and withdrew my comment (which had been made at the newspaper’s blogsite). Nothing came of it, but I lived in real fear of that black co-worker, who had been a friend to that point. His accusation could have destroyed me professionally. The fact that in a past era, a white man’s accusation against him would probably have been decided for the white man, regardless of the facts, does not make it right. It is no doubt true that I take this stuff personally, because I had to live in fear of a false accusation in the workplace, and I know how much that fear poisoned me, and the office environment. I have to fight internally not to consider all cases in which bigotry is alleged in light of what happened to me, because that would be unfair. Sometimes people are falsely charged with bigotry. Sometimes, the charge is correct and deserved. My point is simply that I do not accept these allegations as true because it fits a narrative. I do not believe the lives and careers of individuals, and the facts of specific cases, should be sacrificed for the sake of what they call social justice.
UPDATE.9: From the mailbag:
Rod: Long time reader. Please do not use my name. I have a close family member in law enforcement who has followed the Floyd case closely. This family member has 11+ years experience, first as a street cop and now as a detective who deals a lot with gangs and drug dealers. Within days of the original incident, he read the toxicology report – he’s very familiar with them – and said Floyd did not die from the neck hold but from the drugs in his system. Comments on your article:
(1) “He would have been in a world of trouble for the counterfeit bill.”
– No he wouldn’t have been, but his behavior was typical of most drug addicts stopped by police. They will do or say anything not to go to jail – even for a night – because they don’t want to experience the detox of coming off hard drugs.
(2) If he’d listened to the cops, he would still be alive.
– Not necessarily. Given the high level of fentanyl in his system, Floyd was likely in the process of dying prior to being put on the ground. The added stress may have contributed to the heart attack, but I think he was already ramping himself up to the point where he may have died in the back of the police car anyway. This will be a major point for the defense in the trial.
I’m by no means an expert but I’ve been in Corrections for over 14 years.Hearing a police officer stating,” Stop resisting!” often means nothing. The phrase is often used as a “cya” to help justify an officer’s actions. Witnesses (or those viewing the body cam video) hear it and assume the prisoner is, in fact, resisting when that isn’t necessarily true. At least not to the degree that the officer is making it sound. Obviously, can’t prove that this is the case in this situation but…As to Chauvin’s state of mind? I don’t think this was racial. Seeing his demeanor, I think he would have behaved in the same way if Floyd were white. Just a jaded cop who doesn’t see the people he deals with as people.
A third reader:
here’s one big error in Alan Jacobs’ note to you that you posted in an Update. Jacobs says (and so do you) that Floyd died of asphyxiation. But the autopsy report clearly says that he did NOT die of asphyxiation. There’s apparently something that happens to the eyes in those cases (a doctor friend tells me), and Floyd’s body didn’t have that. Nor was there any damage to the trachea or bruising to the neck. There was a broken rib, but that happened post-mortem during the examination. No, the coroner finds the cause of death to be cardiac arrest. Floyd’s heart stopped, for whatever reason.
Again, the coroner’s report was publicly posted a couple days after the death of Floyd, and it clearly says he didn’t die of asphyxiation. That here we are, months later, and Allan Jacobs (and you) still think he did shows just how thoroughly the media has failed to report the facts.
Here is a link to the Floyd autopsy report.
The reader is right. The cause of death is listed as “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restrain, and neck compression.” In other words, his heart and lungs stopped working. The official autopsy “revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation.”
UPDATE.10: A reader writes this morning:
I’m sure you are inundated with comments, but I didn’t see any making this point. Part of what the prosecution will have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, is that the officers were intending to commit a felony or attempting to inflict bodily harm upon the person. The new body cam videos (particularly the longer one) really muddy these waters.
Part of what was so shocking about the original video was the way that George Floyd cried out for help, and the officers (particularly Chauvin) didn’t react. He yells, says he can’t breathe, calls for his mother, asks for help, says he’s going to die, and the officers don’t do anything. They keep pinning him. My original reaction was the same as the bystanders who filmed it – “are the officers insane?? Why don’t they let him up? He’s begging for help??” This is one reason it seems so cruel – and murderous. It’s the fact that he’s in clear distress, and begging for help, and the officers continue to pin him.
But when viewing the longer video, their behavior no longer appears to be cruel. All of the things George Floyd does in the original video while being pinned – calls for help, says he’s going to die, says he can’t breathe – he does all of those things, repeatedly, before he’s on the ground. He does it standing, and he does it in the police car. He is screaming in clear distress and pain long before he goes to the ground. You hear the officers reassuring him that he’ll be ok in the police car – and that they’ll roll the windows down for him. He continues to plead with them and yell for help.
By the time he goes to the ground, it is evident that something else is going on with him. He is in the throes of some sort of event – a panic attack or a heart attack or something else, that is independent of the police. Once he is pinned, you hear a police officer say that an ambulance is on the way. You hear officer Tou Thao tell the onlookers to stay off drugs (a calloused statement, certainly, but it shows his state of mind that he believed Floyd was in the throes of a drug-related crisis). It seems clear that the officers believed Floyd was having some kind of crisis, and were trying to restrain him until the ambulance arrived. He died before it got there.
Does this mean Chauvin didn’t kill him? No, by no means. It means the scene is complicated. Floyd may have died because of some combination of drugs, heart attack, and pressure from Chauvin’s knee. But it’s clear that he was in distress – maybe mortal distress, well before he was pinned to the ground. It’s also clear that the officers were not callously holding him down, despite his cries for help. They were holding him down because he was in crisis, and they were trying to subdue him until help arrived. Is that what killed him? Maybe. But it’s not nearly as clear (and as cruel) as we all believed after just seeing the first video.
That’s a succinct way of making the point I’ve been struggling to make: that the new video really does change the narrative.
Like this reader, I assumed the cops were being depraved towards Floyd — this, based on what we saw before (the video of him with Chauvin’s knee on his neck). The new video gives context to it all. As the reader says, they had been listening to Floyd talking crap for nine or so minutes; they had ceased to believe him, or even to hear him. Remember at one point, when Floyd is refusing to get into the squad car, he asks an officer to listen to him. The cop says, “You aren’t listening to us, so we aren’t listening to you. ”
There is a difference — and a meaningful difference — between a justification for something, and an explanation for it. Was Chauvin justified in holding George Floyd down with his knee for eight minutes and forty-six seconds? No, I can’t see that he was. And no matter what, George Floyd did not deserve to die. But in light of the new video, I can understand how he and the other cops made that fatal mistake. Whatever it is, it’s not murder or accessory to murder. And this matters, both morally and legally.
UPDATE.11: It is really interesting that I’m getting a fair number of letters this morning from people saying that they agree with me, but that if they said so publicly, they would lose their jobs. Here’s a letter from one of them:
Please don’t use my real name – there are issues where taking a stand is worth risking a job, but this isn’t one of them.
I’ve been a practicing attorney for 12 years, mostly doing civil litigation but with a little bit of criminal defense work. The big point you and many others, left and right, have missed about the new bodycam footage is that it’s likely to get Chauvin and the other officers acquitted–not because it shows Floyd resisting, but because combined with the autopsy results, it’s likely to prevent the government from proving causation beyond a reasonable doubt. You wrote: “Floyd is dead because Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for eight minutes. That is a fact.” But it’s not. A competent defense attorney will likely be able to show that there is at least reasonable doubt as to that question.
This is Criminal Law 101. To get a conviction, the government has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt each element of the charged crime. For any degree of murder or manslaughter, one element of the charged crime is that the defendant’s unlawful actions (generally intentional actions of violence for a murder charge, negligent actions for a manslaughter charge) caused the victim’s death. Both aspects of causation have to apply. If I legally set off a firework in my backyard, and a neighbor has PTSD and dies from a heart attack caused by a resulting panic attack, I haven’t committed manslaughter–the act I took that caused the death was legal and not negligent. Similarly, if I shoot up my neighbor’s house, but the neighbor isn’t home, and just happened to die of a heart attack on the other side of town, I may have committed attempted murder, but I haven’t committed murder.
How does this play out in the George Floyd case? The key fact from the new bodycam footage isn’t that he was resisting arrest, but that he already stated that he couldn’t breathe and he was going to die before Derek Chauvin even entered the picture. The autopsy showed, as other commenters have pointed out, that Floyd had a lethal dose of fentanyl in his body together with other drugs, and that his windpipe did not suffer any trauma. It should be fairly easy for the officer’s defense attorneys to find a credible expert to explain that the bodycam footage, combined with the autopsy results, shows that Floyd died from a stress-and-drug-induced heart attack, not from asphyxiation. And the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard applies to this issue as well, so if there’s a reasonable question in the jury’s mind as to causation, they should acquit.
Now, it’s arguable that Floyd wouldn’t have died if he hadn’t been arrested at all so he hadn’t been put under the stress that led to his panic attack, but that’s where the unlawful act part of the discussion comes in. There’s no question from the bodycam footage that the police acted lawfully at least up until the point where Chauvin puts his knee on Floyd’s neck. If Floyd was already in the process of dying at that point–or at least if the jury believes there is a reasonable question as to whether Floyd could have survived had Chauvin not put his knee on Floyd’s neck–then there’s no conviction for either murder or manslaughter. Now, if you look at that bodycam footage, and an expert credibly explains that the autopsy results together with Floyd’s actions on the video show that Floyd’s death was not caused by Chauvin’s knee, do you think you could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death?
That doesn’t necessarily make Chauvin’s actions right, either in a legal or moral sense, but we should be prepared for the fact that he and the other officers will likely be acquitted. And journalists especially should not be stating as fact that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death, based on the evidence available today .
So noted. I withdraw it.
UPDATE.12: A reader writes:
I’m not surprised most people haven’t changed their minds about the George Floyd incident. What troubles me most is that nobody’s approaching this issue with any greater nuance than they did at the beginning. One would think rational, reasonable people would look at an issue differently when presented with the facts for the first time, but it seems like people are choosing to double down instead (perhaps because And I’d love to say it’s on both sides, but it’s really not.A common refrain from those who think Floyd was murdered goes something like this: “The video shows he was clearly mentally ill and officers need to be trained on how to properly handle these types of people.” There’s a massive hole in this statement – it takes years of schooling and real-world experience for a psychiatrist to properly diagnose mental illness. Yet, somehow, the critics of police seem to believe officers must be able to make this diagnosis on the spot without possessing anything close to the education and training of a licensed, experience psychiatrist.
This matters quite a bit, because credentialing is the basis for the credibility we bestow upon and the trust we place in the professionals of our society. The idea that merely recognizing the signs of mental illness alone is enough for police to handle the supposedly mentally ill goes against every standard that we hold other professions to. You simply cannot expect cops, whose first duty is to establish order, to make potential life-and-death decisions on limited exposure to something ultimately outside their scope. It’s the same reason why Emergency Medical Technicians can treat illness and injury, but they cannot diagnose, which means they cannot make decisions on the basis of something they’re not credentialed nor professionally qualified to make a judgment about. When it comes to conditions they recognize (like mental illness) but aren’t qualified to handle, cops do what any other responsible citizen would do – defer to the professionals who are qualified. As you pointed out, that’s exactly what these officers did, they called an ambulance to deal with the possibility Floyd was dealing with a medical issue.
Which leads to my second point – even if George Floyd was truly mentally ill, how can anybody, psychiatrist or otherwise, help somebody who cannot or refuses to be restrained? As someone who worked as a first responder, we’re certainly trained to deal with people who are combative, mentally ill, non-compliant, etc. However, unless somebody was about to jump out of the back of an ambulance, if somebody became overly combative and resistant, we were instructed universally to not restrain them and call for police. There are many reasons for this, but the biggest reason is that cops are trained and legally permitted to use force to restrain and subdue people. Emergency Medical Services, doctors, psychiatrists, and social workers aren’t and, at least on paper, only have about the same rights as a citizen with regards to self-defense. I know of no EMS worker, medical professional, nor social worker, who would try to treat someone like George Floyd if he was behaving like that. If you can’t treat someone safely, you can’t treat them at all. This isn’t the battlefield. Third, someone I spoke with pointed out that people tend to get anxious when approached by police and cops need to understand that. That’s all and well, except it’s clear by now that Floyd was under the influence of something, which meant that his anxiety wasn’t that of someone in an otherwise reasonable state of mind. But, more importantly, being anxious nor under the influence doesn’t justify resisting arrest. A few commentators, like The Daily Show‘s Trevor Noah, peddle this argument that cops should take a “hands-off,” “diplomatic” approach when it comes to people under the influence or in mental distress. This argument possesses zero logic, of course – someone who’s either under the influence or in mental distress, by definition, cannot be reasoned with and the more time an officer takes to resolve the situation means more time for something to go wrong. Furthermore, it makes no sense to say, “Cops make me anxious!” and then say, “Cops should try to calm me down first!” How can somebody/something that makes you panic also be the thing that calms you down? The only argument here seems to be that cops shouldn’t do anything and I feel like many people would honestly prefer that. This is a set-up for police to fail and hardly constitutes reasoned attempt at reform.
Fourth police officers, often deal with all sorts of crazy. But not everyone’s mentally ill. Mental illness is a clinical condition and it’s not the same as just being an irrational, unreasonable person. We all have our moments where we lose our minds to one degree or another. If these critics of police saw the types of people that they deal with, they’d be calling them all mentally ill. Going back to my first and third points, the term “mental illness” is a medically-defined term and shouldn’t be bandied about. We shouldn’t set a precedent where the unqualified begin diagnosing people and where criminals can exploit mental illness as way to get out of arrest or a justification for resisting. In closing, the video of the arrest doesn’t change my belief that a case for murder could still be formulated against Derek Chauvin. The fact he laid his knee for over eight minutes, even after Floyd went unconscious, is highly problematic and speaks to whether police have any sort of liability for the well-being of those in their custody. The independent autopsy conducted by Michael Baden indicates asphyxiation was involved, meaning that Chauvin did contribute to the death of Floyd. The problem, of course, is that political activist-masquerading-as-prosecutor Keith Ellison upgraded the charges from 3rd degree to 2nd degree murder and the manner in which he did so, according to Andrew McCarthy, suggests that the initial arrest of Floyd was felonious and, therefore, unjustifiable. Keep in mind, Ellison was the reason why the bodycam footage was never released. Anyone want to venture a guess as to why? While my mind hasn’t changed overall, the case I can make for murder has become somewhat muted. I have no problem conceding that I, too, got caught up in the maelstrom and outrage the initial video (which is still difficult to watch) caused, as did millions of other Americans. Many of those who posted black squares on social media shortly after Floyd’s death suddenly seem to have nothing to say about either his death or the protests, leading me to believe, charitably, even they’re not sure what to think anymore. Which leads me to conclude that scientist-philosopher Sam Harris was 100% correct when he described the protests and rioting as a “moral panic.” The fact that nobody seems to want to even look at this factually and evenhandedly and take doing so as an existential threat to the well-being of Black people only further proves that this is all indeed a dangerous and prolonged moral panic.
About the independent Baden autopsy, Gavrilo David has written:
An official autopsy declared cause of death “sudden respiratory arrest following physical struggling restraint due to cocaine-induced excited delirium.” The legal team hired Dr. Michael Baden, who testified that Lewis died from “asphyxia caused by neck compression.” Baden is the same medical examiner who was hired by the George Floyd family, and made a similar finding. Baden is also the same medical examiner who was hired for Eric Garner, and declared death by “compression of the neck”. Baden is also the same medical examiner who was hired by the Brown family to examine Michael Brown, and Baden found that Brown died while surrendering, an assertion totally disproven by a DoJ investigation spearheaded by AG Eric Holder under Obama. Suffice it to say, Michael Baden has a very specific interest, and a very tenuous track record. The Court will be aware of this when weighing the autopsies.
Why was George Floyd’s death the breaking point?
Throughout America’s long history of racial violence, certain names have stood out as markers of the struggles of a particular period in time. Emmett Till’s lynching in 1955 drew attention to the brutality of the pre-civil rights era in the South. The beating of Rodney King and acquittal of the officers involved sparked the Los Angeles riots in 1992. The police killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown in 2014 brought the Black Lives Matter movement into the national consciousness.
They were, of course, not the only black people to be lynched, beaten or killed in those eras. But a combination of circumstances, timing and the context of the moment turned them into enduring figures. George Floyd’s name will almost certainly join that list given the extraordinary nationwide reaction to the way he was killed by a Minneapolis police officer.
Floyd’s death was part of a string of recent controversial killings. Ahmaud Arbery was gunned down by a white father and son while jogging through a suburban Georgia neighborhood. Breonna Taylor was shot eight times by police who busted through her apartment door late at night in Louisville, Ky. Tony McDade, a black transgender man, was shot and killed by police in Tallahassee, Fla.
Each of these incidents drew some level of national response, as have other killings in the past few years. But Floyd’s death is what ultimately sparked a movement that will likely be remembered as one of the pivotal moments of the decade.
Why there’s debate
Perhaps the simplest answer to what made Floyd’s case unique is the circumstance of his death. The vast majority of the roughly 1,000 people killed each year by police are shot. Floyd died after having an officer’s knee pressed into his neck for nearly nine minutes. Shootings often unfold so quickly that they can leave room for uncertainty over what took place and whether lethal force was justified. Multiple videos taken of Floyd’s death, including graphic footage filmed by bystanders, provide a detailed look at what happened.
Major events don’t occur in a vacuum and are often the culmination of an escalating trend. Floyd’s death may very well have been the tipping point of anger that had been building over the incidents involving Arbery, Taylor, Garner and so many others. This may be especially true for Minneapolis, which has had several controversial police shootings.
The incident also can’t be separated from the larger context of the health and economic crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which have affected black Americans at a disproportionate level. Discontent over months of lockdown measures, combined with President Trump’s incendiary tweets in response to early protests, may have been the tinder that caused the anger in Minneapolis to spread across the U.S.
It’s unclear when the demonstrations in cities across the country might come to an end, but ongoing court cases are likely to keep the issue of police violence in the news. The officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck has been charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. Three other officers who were on the scene face charges of aiding and abetting in the killing.
Three men involved in Arbery’s killing have also been charged with murder. There are currently no charges filed in connection with McDade’s and Taylor’s deaths.
Floyd’s death was the spark for a country already on the brink
“So many things make America combustible right now: mass unemployment, a pandemic that’s laid bare murderous health and economic inequalities, teenagers with little to do, police violence, right-wingers itching for a second civil war and a president eager to pour gasoline on every fire.” — Michelle Goldberg, New York Times
The video showed the senselessness of Floyd’s death
“History has long shown that a single death can spark a revolution. In the case of George Floyd, however … it was more than just his death. It was the way he died, in front of our eyes, on video everywhere, pleading for his life, that had angry people spilling into the streets of cities across this country.” — Mitch Albom, Detroit Free Press
The weight of systemic racism became too much to bear
“The realities of illness, unemployment, polluted air and water, unequal access to education, and mass incarceration — compounded with the fear of being killed by one of your fellow Americans or by a mysterious and still unchecked disease — has life feeling particularly fragile and the world particularly dire. Many are fed up.” — Sean Collins, Vox
The political stakes of the upcoming election created a sense of urgency
“To be honest, some of us are tired of it. Indeed, to listen to some African Americans these days — to hear their anger, their deep exhaustion, their cynicism, their emotional disinvestment in this country — is to sense America is running out of time to be what America is supposed to be.” — Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald
Activists have successfully shifted public opinion on police violence in recent years
“In 2014, people were building and understanding, we were still convincing people of all races that this was an issue. Now it’s like, okay people are ready, they know the right and wrong, but they don’t know how to fix it.” — Civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson to Time
The president has fueled outrage with his response to the protests
“President Trump has seized on the cascading violence in Minneapolis to do what he does best: inflame, divide and, most of all, distract — even as so many Americans reel from the ravages of disease and unemployment.” — Editorial, Washington Post
The arc of history is always marked by single events that become major turning points
“There are moments when the crushing weight of history comes crashing down on one person in a single moment. In that moment, such a person becomes a symbol of something much larger. George Floyd is now one of those people.” — Chauncey DeVega, Salon
Police violence carries an extra weight in Minneapolis
“In the past five years, the Twin Cities area has seen three other controversial police shootings. … Like the COVID cases that emerged in Seattle at the beginning of the year, Minneapolis is a study in the importance of foresight and planning, and an example of what happens when neither of those things occurs.” — Jelani Cobb, New Yorker
Why The Killing of George Floyd Sparked an American Uprising
The killing of George Floyd was shocking. But to be surprised by it is a privilege African Americans do not have.
A black person is killed by a police officer in America at the rate of more than one every other day. Floyd’s death followed those of Breonna Taylor, an emergency medical technician shot at least eight times inside her Louisville, Ky., home by plain-clothes police executing a no-knock warrant, and Ahmaud Arbery, killed in a confrontation with three white men as he jogged through their neighborhood in Brunswick, Ga. Even Floyd’s anguished gasps were familiar, the same words Eric Garner uttered on a Staten Island street corner in 2014: “I can’t breathe.”
Yet the timing and cruelty of Floyd’s death, captured in a horrific video that shows the white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin casually kneeling on the victim’s neck, has spurred a national uprising. Since Floyd died on May 25, demonstrations have erupted in scores of cities across the country as veteran activists and newfound allies alike rally to the cause of racial justice. The vast majority of the protests have been peaceful, with simple demands handwritten on torn pieces of cardboard. Enough is enough. Stop killing us. Justice for George Floyd. Those pleas have resonated around the world, producing expressions of solidarity from Europe to New Zealand.
The protests have also triggered civic unrest in America at a scale not seen since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. Protesters burned a police precinct in Minneapolis, torched cop cars in Los Angeles and Atlanta, and dodged plumes of tear gas from Tulsa, Okla., to Madison, Wis. By June 2, the National Guard had been activated in at least 28 states, and dozens of cities had imposed curfews to quell looting, arson and spasms of violence. Militarized police surged cruisers into crowds, fired rubber bullets at reporters and beat citizens peacefully exercising First Amendment rights.
For 2½ months, America has been paralyzed by a plague, its streets eerily empty. Now pent-up energy and anxiety and rage have spilled out. COVID-19 laid bare the nation’s broader racial inequities. About 13% of the U.S. population are African Americans. But according to CDC data, 22% of those with COVID-19, and 23% of those who have died from it, are black. Some 44% of African Americans say they have lost a job or have suffered household wage loss, and 73% say they lack an emergency fund to cover expenses, according to the Pew Research Center. “It’s either COVID is killing us, cops are killing us or the economy is killing us,” says Priscilla Borkor, a 31-year-old social worker who joined demonstrations in Brooklyn on May 29.
If the video was the match and the coronavirus was the kindling, Donald Trump provided the kerosene. Since the start of his term, the President has turned the Oval Office into an instrument of racial, ethnic and cultural division. A man who both-sided a white-supremacist march, went to war with NFL players protesting police brutality, called African nations “sh-thole countries” and told American Congresswomen of color to “go back” to where they came from was never going to appeal for harmony now. As the Floyd protests spread, Trump called demonstrators “thugs,” threatened them with “vicious dogs” and borrowed a phrase popularized by the Miami police chief Walter Headley in 1967: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Given the tone from the top and the grassroots anger, it’s a surprise this confrontation didn’t come sooner. The movement for racial justice was arguably the biggest story in America before Trump came along. Black Lives Matter began as a protest cry and bloomed into a political force: activists won convictions and shaped federal policy, seeding their message across college campuses and popular culture, in legislation and presidential platforms.
It wasn’t enough, but it was progress, and to many activists, Trump looks like white America’s response. “Trump was elected in part because Black Lives Matter was winning,” says Jessica Byrd of the Movement for Black Lives. “Trump was our punishment.” If so, he was an effective one. The President pokes sore spots in the body politic so incessantly that no single cause can sustain the nation’s attention. Protest is a performance, and the audience Black Lives Matter found during the tail end of the Obama Administration has been subsumed into the broader anti-Trump “resistance,” which pinballs between outrages: the Muslim ban, children in cages, impeachment. In a way, Black Lives Matter has been a victim of its own accomplishments: it articulated a language of subjugation that could be applied to causes such as immigration or gender or class. Systemic injustice became about everything, rather than the original thing, which was police killing black people.A portrait of George Floyd hangs on a street light pole as police officers stand guard at the Third Police Precinct during a face off with a group of protesters in Minn., Minnesota, May 27, 2020. Stephen Maturen—Getty Images
That hasn’t stopped. From 2015 to 2019, according to statistics compiled by the Washington Post, police shot and killed 962 to 1,004 Americans each year. Black Americans are nearly three times as likely as white people to be killed by police, according to the database Mapping Police Violence. The killings are continuing apace this year. Except now it seems to many as if the nation has moved on. “For us to get the attention that we need, we’ve gotta set things on fire,” says James Talton, a 32-year-old New York fitness instructor. “Because it seems like nobody’s paying attention.”
Nationwide riots, a virus that has killed more than 100,000 Americans, a President threatening to unleash the military on citizens–how much more can the country bear? Every day in this awful, exhausting year feels like rock bottom, and then we tunnel further into some hideous crawl space. More than 40 million jobs have vanished in 10 weeks. One in four Americans is out of work. And the reckoning continues.
It feels both terrible and fitting that the struggle poised to define the final months before a bitterly divisive election is a conflict that dates to America’s founding, a force so powerful it can push even a once-in-a-century pandemic aside. Those who have fought for racial justice for years–for decades–are resolute. “I believe that we have been working these past four years to get back in the ring with Trump,” says Byrd. “And I truly believe that we will win.”
George Floyd died at dusk on Memorial Day, outside the Cup Foods grocery store at East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in South Minneapolis. Floyd had bought a pack of cigarettes with what the clerk suspected was a counterfeit $20 bill. Three squad cars converged to confront him as he sat in the driver’s seat of a blue Mercedes SUV.
Derek Chauvin’s was the last to arrive. Since joining the Minneapolis police force in 2001, Chauvin has been the subject of at least 17 conduct complaints, almost all of which were closed without discipline, according to city records. He was involved in at least three cases in which a police officer shot a civilian. Another of the officers involved in Floyd’s arrest, Tou Thao, was the subject of at least six complaints, five of which resulted in no discipline (one is still under investigation). In 2017, Thao was sued in federal court for excessive use of force over allegations he beat up a suspect during an arrest. The city settled for $25,000, according to a legal filing. (Attorneys for Chauvin and Thao did not respond to requests for comment.)
Chauvin and Thao are just the start. A review of federal and city records reveal a broader picture of impunity within the Minneapolis police department. A 2015 report by the U.S. Justice Department found that only 21% of conduct complaints against Minneapolis police were ever investigated. Only 13 out of nearly 1,200 complaints processed from October 2012 to September 2015 resulted in discipline, according to local news reports. In most of those cases, the police officer in question was sent for “coaching.”
What disciplinary structures do exist are weak. The department’s office of police conduct review can only make a recommendation to the chief, whose own decisions can be reversed. “I have seen so many instances where the chief imposed discipline and an officer was fired, only to have it overturned or reduced,” says Teresa Nelson, legal director of the ACLU in Minnesota.
For two decades, federal officials repeatedly recommended reforms to increase accountability, curb use-of-force violations and build up community trust, according to more than half a dozen government reports. But Minneapolis lagged behind most other metro police departments in implementing them. Experts say the department stands out for the permissive language of its guidance, which notes that the unconscious neck restraint can be used if the subject is “exhibiting active aggression” or “active resistance.”Law enforcement officers amassed along Lake Street near Hiawatha Ave. as fires burned after a night of unrest and protests in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn. on May 29. David Joles—Star Tribune/AP
The results have been evident on the streets. Since 2015, Minneapolis police have rendered people unconscious with neck restraints like the one Chauvin applied to Floyd at least 44 times, according to an NBC News analysis; in three-fifths of those cases, the subject was black. Black residents were about nine times more likely than whites to be arrested for low-level offenses, according to a recent ACLU study. “People in this community have been very concerned about the Minneapolis police department for a long, long time,” says Hans Lee, a pastor at Calvary Lutheran Church. “It was a tinderbox.”
Police brutality has also made Minneapolis a locus of racial-justice activism. After the 2014 killings of Garner on Staten Island and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., protesters occupied the Mall of America and shut down freeways. In November 2015, after Jamar Clark, an unarmed black man, was shot and killed in North Minneapolis, protesters established an encampment outside a nearby precinct for 18 days. The following year, after Philando Castile was shot in a Minneapolis suburb by police during a confrontation livestreamed in part by his girlfriend, activists thronged the governor’s mansion for weeks.
Like the rest of America, Minneapolis activists have faced new challenges under Trump. The 45th President has exacerbated the tensions between police and communities across the country, unwinding some of the key criminal-justice reform measures that President Obama had championed. Trump’s first Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, reinstated a program that allowed the Pentagon to send state and local police forces surplus military equipment like armored vehicles, grenade launchers, bayonets and battering rams. Sessions restricted the Obama Administration’s use of consent decrees, which are court-ordered agreements to overhaul local police departments accused of abuses and civil rights violations. He also scaled back a voluntary program Obama created to help reform police departments.
Shortly after 5 P.M. on June 1, a line of nine military trucks carrying National Guard troops in helmets and tan camouflage uniforms slowly rolled onto the White House grounds and down a narrow alley near the West Wing. The trucks’ canvas tops passed just below the windows of the offices of the President’s chief of staff, Vice President and National Security Adviser, and turned along a fence line typically filled with tourists snapping selfies before the building’s iconic North Portico.
The rare display of military might outside the seat of American power was only the beginning. “I am your President of law and order,” Trump declared in the Rose Garden, just before curfew descended on Washington on the seventh night of national unrest. Trump threatened to deploy “thousands and thousands” of “heavily armed” military personnel to quash the protests. As he spoke, officers fired rubber bullets and sprayed chemicals to disperse demonstrators outside the White House gates. Shortly after, twin-engine UH-60 Black Hawk and UH-72 Lakota helicopters swept just above the tree line over the capital’s streets, buzzing a crowd of protesters with a downwash of air, debris and fuel exhaust in an apparent “show of force,” a maneuver used to cow insurgents in combat zones.
Trump’s aides believe the confrontations will play to the President’s political advantage in the run-up to the November elections. The unrest “really makes you want tough, Republican leadership,” a White House official says. “People do not want their streets to be lit on fire.” Campaign advisers see in the chaos a reprise of 1968, when Richard Nixon successfully courted white voters with coded racism against African Americans after years of sporadic urban rioting.
Not all Republicans are convinced. “Trump’s re-election chances are going down in flames,” says Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor and Trump supporter. “It’s hard to see how these riots don’t boost Joe Biden’s claim to be the Alka-Seltzer America needs to soothe its stomach right now.” Stuart Stevens, a Trump critic who served as chief strategist to 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, notes that Trump won in 2016 with 46% of the vote because nonwhite turnout declined for the first time in 20 years. “You can call them protests, but you could also call them nonwhite voter-turnout rallies,” Stevens says of the racial-justice demonstrations. “It’s hard to imagine anything that’s going to be more motivating.”
Even before Floyd’s death, race relations in America were regressing. Trump has emboldened a burgeoning white-supremacist movement. Hate-crime violence reached a 16-year high in 2018. Roughly two-thirds of Americans told Pew Research Center last year that expressions of racism have grown more common during his term. “There is literally a brewing civil war that is happening,” says Alicia Garza, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter.
But moments of grace have emerged from the miasma of pain and despair. In Camden, N.J., police locked arms with activists and marched along with them. In Flint, Mich., the Genesee County sheriff removed his riot gear, laid down his weapons and embraced protesters. From Fayetteville, Ark., to Omaha, police took a knee in solidarity.
Two hours before Trump left the White House for a photo op at a burned church, before the sting of noxious chemicals wafted across Lafayette Square and a line of officers on horseback charged peaceful protesters, Anya Colon stood in sight of the White House columns, holding a Black Lives Matter poster. Her grandmother had marched in Selma, Ala., in 1965 to push local authorities to allow black people to vote. Now Colon, 38, had driven seven hours from Rome, N.Y., spurred by a sense of duty. “Trump catalyzed a lot of racism,” she says. “We have to do some things that make change. This marching has been going on for decades. I had to be here. Something from inside my gut drove me and pulled me here.” She had come with her cousin Iliana Arthur, 41. Arthur also held a sign. It read: We matter.
The Death of George Floyd, in Context
Two incidents separated by twelve hours and twelve hundred miles have taken on the appearance of the control and the variable in a grotesque experiment about race in America. On Monday morning, in New York City’s Central Park, a white woman named Amy Cooper called 911 and told the dispatcher that an African-American man was threatening her. The man she was talking about, Christian Cooper, who is no relation, filmed the call on his phone. They were in the Ramble, a part of the park favored by bird-watchers, including Christian Cooper, and he had simply requested that she leash her dog—something that is required in the area. In the video, before making the call, Ms. Cooper warns Mr. Cooper that she is “going to tell them there’s an African-American man threatening my life.” Her needless inclusion of the race of the man she fears serves only to summon the ancient impulse to protect white womanhood from the threats posed by black men. For anyone with a long enough memory or a recent enough viewing of the series “When They See Us,” the locale of this altercation becomes part of the story: we know what happened to five young black and brown men who were falsely accused of attacking a white woman in Central Park.
On Monday evening, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a forty-six-year-old black man named George Floyd died in a way that highlighted the implications that calls such as the one Amy Cooper placed can have; George Floyd is who Christian Cooper might have been. (The police made no arrests and filed no summons in Central Park. Amy Cooper has apologized for her actions; she was also fired from her job.) Police responding to a call from a shopkeeper, about someone trying to pass a potentially counterfeit bill, arrested Floyd. Surveillance video shows a compliant man being led away in handcuffs. But cellphone video later shows a white police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for seven minutes, despite protests from onlookers that his life is in jeopardy. In an echo of the police killing of Eric Garner, in 2014, Floyd repeatedly says, “I can’t breathe,” and then, “I’m about to die.” When the officer eventually removes his knee, Floyd’s body is limp and unresponsive. A person nearby can be heard saying, “They just killed him.” Floyd was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. A police statement said that Floyd appeared to be in “medical distress,” but made no mention of his being pinned to the ground with the weight of a police officer compressing his airway.
The video of Floyd’s death is horrific but not surprising; terrible but not unusual, depicting a kind of incident that is periodically reënacted in the United States. It’s both necessary and, at this point, pedestrian to observe that policing in this country is mediated by race. On Tuesday, in Minneapolis, hundreds of protesters, many wearing face masks to guard against covid-19, braved the pandemic to protest at the spot where Floyd died. Outside a nearby precinct house, police cars were pelted with rocks, and officers responded by firing tear gas. But, within twenty-four hours of the video coming to light, the Minneapolis Police Department fired the officer who had knelt on Floyd and three others who had been at the scene. Mayor Jacob Frey tweeted that the firings were “the right call,” but here, too, context matters.
In November, 2015, police responding to calls of a dispute between a man and a woman in north Minneapolis fatally shot a twenty-four-year-old African-American man named Jamar Clark. Police and paramedics on the scene claimed that Clark had resisted arrest and had attempted to grab an officer’s gun; bystanders claimed that he was handcuffed and on the ground when the shot was fired. Clark’s death was followed by more than two weeks of demonstrations outside the Fourth Police Precinct in Minneapolis, led by Black Lives Matter; an attempt to disrupt holiday shopping at the Mall of America, in protest; and cascading contempt from black residents that, two years later, factored into Mayor Betsy Hodges losing her reëlection bid. In light of that history, Frey has been unequivocal about police culpability in Floyd’s death. “Being black in America should not be a death sentence,” he said on Tuesday.
The larger question, however, is whether the officers involved will face any legal consequences. The Twin Cities area has been an outsized part of the dialogue about the police use of force. The year after Clark’s death, Philando Castile was fatally shot in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, by a police officer who was alarmed because Castile had a gun in his car, even though he had identified himself as a licensed gun owner. (Castile’s girlfriend recorded the aftermath of the shooting on her phone.) In 2017, Justine Damond was fatally shot by a police officer who was responding to her own call about a possible assault taking place behind her Minneapolis home. No charges were brought against officers in Clark’s death. Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who killed Castile, was fired from the department, but was acquitted of second-degree-manslaughter charges. Mohamed Noor, the officer who shot Damond, was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, and was sentenced to twelve and a half years in prison. The Damond case was atypical, both in that it involved the fatal shooting of a white woman by a black officer of Somali descent, and that Damond was an Australian citizen, which generated international pressure for a conviction in the case. No charges were brought against Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, on Staten Island, whose arrest was also recorded on video by a bystander, and has been widely referenced since Floyd’s death. (He was fired from the department in 2019.) By odd coincidence,“American Trial,” a film that features a mock trial of Pantaleo for murder, was just released.
The investigation into Floyd’s death also exists in the context of an ongoing investigation into the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a twenty-five-year-old African-American who was shot in southeast Georgia when two men attempted to enact a citizen’s arrest while a third recorded a video of the incident. There is yet another investigation of fatal police force in Louisville, Kentucky, where Breonna Taylor, a twenty-six-year-old African-American E.M.T., was shot to death in her apartment by officers who were conducting a drug raid at what her family said was the wrong address.
There is more to be said about the burgeoning genre of videos capturing the deaths of black Americans, and the complex combination of revulsion and compulsion that accompanies their viewing. They are the macabre documentary of current events, but the question remains about whether they do more to humanize or to objectify the unwilling figures at the center of their narratives. Death is too intimate a phenomenon to not be distorted by a mass audience. Yesterday, very few of us knew who George Floyd was, what he cared about, how he lived his life. Today, we know him no better save for the grim way in which that life met its end.
George Floyd death: Why US protests are so powerful this time
Thousands of Americans are taking to the streets to protest about racism – many for the first time in their lives. Why has this particular tragedy struck such a chord?
George Floyd is not the first African American whose death in police custody sparked protests.
There were also rallies and calls for change after Tamir Rice, Michael Brown and Eric Garner were killed by police.
But this time seems different, with the response more sustained and widespread. There have been demonstrations across the US – in all 50 states and DC – including in cities and rural communities that are predominantly white.
Local governments, sports and businesses appear readier to take a stand this time – most notably with the Minneapolis city council pledging to dismantle the police department.
And the Black Lives Matter protests this time seem more racially diverse – with larger numbers of white protesters, and protesters from other ethnicities, standing with black activists.
A number of different factors combined to create “the perfect storm for rebellion” over George Floyd’s death, Frank Leon Roberts, an activist who teaches a course on the Black Lives Matter movement at New York University, told the BBC.
Floyd’s death was particularly ‘gruesome and obvious’
A police officer, Derek Chauvin, kept his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes – even as Mr Floyd repeatedly said “I can’t breathe” and eventually became unresponsive. The incident was clearly recorded on video.
“In many previous instances of police violence, there’s a possibility of an ambiguous narrative – there’s a partial view of what happened, or the police officer says they made a split-second decision because they feared for their life,” Mr Roberts said.
“In this case, it was a completely unambiguous act of injustice – where people could see this man [Floyd] was completely unarmed and incapacitated.”
Many who joined the recent protests were first-time protesters, who said seeing George Floyd’s death made them feel that they simply couldn’t stay at home anymore.
“There are hundreds of deaths that aren’t caught on video, but I think the gruesomeness and obvious hatred of the video woke people up,” Sarina LeCroy, a protester from Maryland, told the BBC.
Similarly, Wengfay Ho said she had always supported the Black Lives Matter movement, but George Floyd’s death was a particular “catalyst” that prompted her to take to the streets for the first time.
It “prompted a lot more emotion, and the call for change is so much more urgent right now”.
It comes during a pandemic, and high unemployment
“History changes when you have an unexpected convergence of forces,” argued Mr Roberts.
Mr Floyd’s death came in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic that has led to Americans being ordered to stay in their homes, and sparked the highest level of unemployment since the Great Depression in the 1930s.
“You have a situation where the entire country is on lockdown, and more people are inside watching TV… more people are being forced to pay attention – they’re less able to look away, less distracted.”https://emp.bbc.com/emp/SMPj/2.43.6/iframe.htmlmedia caption”Fifty plus years later we’re still dealing with the same thing”
The pandemic has already changed the way we live and work, and led to many Americans at home “asking themselves what parts of normal are no longer acceptable”, he added.
And on a practical level, the US’s 13% unemployment level means that more people than usual can protest and campaign without juggling work commitments.
‘It was the last straw’
Mr Floyd’s death came shortly after the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.
Mr Arbery, 25, was shot on 23 February while jogging in Georgia, after residents said he resembled a burglary suspect. Breonna Taylor, 26, was a health worker who was shot eight times when police entered her flat in Kentucky.
Both their names have featured on placards at the latest Black Lives Matters protests, with demonstrators being urged to chant Ms Taylor’s name.
Mr Roberts described Mr Floyd’s death as “the last straw for many communities”, adding that the fact this happened during the summer, when people want to go outdoors, is also significant.
The fact that this is an election year also means that politicians are more likely to pay attention and respond, he said.
These protests appear more racially diverse
While there is no hard data on the ethnicity of protesters, many of the demonstrations appear to have a high proportion of supporters who are not African American themselves.
For example, in Washington DC, tens of thousands took to the streets on Saturday – and about half the crowd appeared to be non-black. Many protesters brought placards that specifically highlighted their desire to be allies to the movement.
Part of this could be down to a shift in opinion.
A poll for ABC suggested that 74% of Americans felt that the killing of Mr Floyd was part of a broader problem in the treatment of African Americans by police.
This was a sharp rise from a similar poll in 2014, following deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner – where 43% of Americans felt that those incidents reflected a broader problem, ABC reported.
While the Black Lives Matter movement has “always been multi-racial… white folks in the US don’t really have a vocabulary for talking about race”, Mr Roberts said.
“It’s uncomfortable, and they think any conversation about racism is an attack on their very existence, or feel they don’t have licence to speak out in case they offend someone.”
However, he said he now sees more white allies speaking up, and “feeling more comfortable with being uncomfortable”.
In addition to huge rallies in major cities, there have also been protests in small towns, including in Anna, described locally as one of “the most racist places” in Illinois and Vidor, in Texas, which was once infamous as a stronghold of the Ku Klux Klan white supremacist group.
The fact that the circumstances around Mr Floyd’s death seemed particularly clear-cut may have also made it easier for people to unite.
In one opinion piece, titled “My tiny, white town just held a protest. We’re not alone“, journalist Judy Mueller said she was “gobsmacked” to see about 40 people at a vigil in Norwood, Colorado.
The vigil organisers there said “support for police and Black Lives Matter are not exclusive”, while a local town board trustee, Republican Candy Meehan, said “I don’t think this is a political matter… wrong is wrong.”
Black activists have welcomed the broadened support.
Eric Wood, a DC resident, said he joined demonstrations after Trayvon Martin’s death in 2012, and Breonna Taylor’s death earlier this year, but the latest wave of protests were “probably the biggest yet”.
“African Americans and minorities have been protesting this [racism] for years. Our voices clearly do not hold as much power as if we’ve got some of our white counterparts to help us.”
Meanwhile, Mr Roberts argued: “History has been clear that the people who need to change before the dam breaks are people who have been beneficiaries of the existing systems.”
Did police actions have an impact?
The vast majority of protests across the US were peaceful – and in several cases local police officers also showed their support.
However, there were some high-profile confrontations and clashes between protesters and police.
Last week, authorities forcibly removed peaceful protesters from a square outside of the White House. Shortly afterwards, President Donald Trump crossed the street to have his photo taken in front of a church.
Dozens of journalists covering the protests have also reported being targeted by security forces using tear gas, rubber bullets, and pepper spray.
Some demonstrators took to the streets after they felt police used excessive force.
Ben Longwell and Justine Summers said they were medical workers who decided to join the protests in DC – despite the difficulty of maintaining social distancing – as a result of police actions.
“This is the first time in my life I’ve been afraid of the police,” Mr Longwell said.
Meanwhile, Ms Summers said she had not planned to take part – but “when I heard about how violent the police were getting… it seemed like a thing that I needed to do”.
One poll conducted for CNN suggested that 84% of Americans felt peaceful protests in response to police violence against African Americans was justified, while 27% said violent protests were also justified – although support for violent protests was split sharply along political lines.
“The reality is we don’t want anyone hurt. But we also have to realise that as a political and media strategy, for better of worse, rioting is often a way for activists to ensure that cameras stay on the issue,” said Mr Roberts.
Where could these protests lead?
Many demonstrators have been calling for specific changes – including making it mandatory for police officers to wear body cameras, reducing funding for police forces, or encouraging more people to vote.
Mr Roberts said it was too early to tell whether the current protests would lead to lasting change – “remember the civil rights movement [of the 1950s and 1960s] went on for over a decade.”
However, he was also hopeful, saying: “We live in a country where it only takes one Rosa Parks-like moment to change things.”
Rosa Parks was arrested after she refused to give up her seat for a white man in 1955 – sparking boycotts, and a mass movement which eventually led to ground breaking civil rights legislation in 1964.
Many protesters in DC over the weekend also felt that they were on the cusp of a historic moment.
“We are at a point where things could really change,” said Laura Hopman, adding that she brought her two nine-year-old sons with her because “I want them to be a part of this – to make it a turning point in their lives and many other peoples’ lives.”
Dylan Pegram, 10, was also with there his dad, on his first-ever march.
“I found it kinda stressful, but at the same time it’s kinda good, because we need change,” he said.
US protests timeline
George Floyd dies after police arrest
25 May 2020
George Floyd dies after being arrested by police outside a shop in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Footage shows a white officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck for several minutes while he is pinned to the floor. Mr Floyd is heard repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe”. He is pronounced dead later in hospital.
Four officers involved in the arrest of George Floyd are fired. Protests begin as the video of the arrest is shared widely on social media. Hundreds of demonstrators take to the streets of Minneapolis and vandalise police cars and the police station with graffiti.
Protests spread to other cities including Memphis and Los Angeles. In some places, like Portland, Oregon, protesters lie in the road, chanting “I can’t breathe”. Demonstrators again gather around the police station in Minneapolis where the officers involved in George Floyd’s arrest were based and set fire to it. The building is evacuated and police retreat.
President Trump blames the violence on a lack of leadership in Minneapolis and threatens to send in the National Guard in a tweet. He follows it up in a second tweet with a warning “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. The second tweet is hidden by Twitter for “glorifying violence”.
CNN reporter arrested
A CNN reporter, Omar Jimenez, is arrested while covering the Minneapolis protest. Mr Jimenez was reporting live when police officers handcuffed him. A few minutes later several of his colleagues are also arrested. They are all later released once they are confirmed to be members of the media.
Derek Chauvin charged with murder
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, 44, is charged with murder and manslaughter. The charges carry a combined maximum 35-year sentence.
Sixth night of protests
Violence spreads across the US on the sixth night of protests. A total of at least five people are reported killed in protests from Indianapolis to Chicago. More than 75 cities have seen protests. At least 4,400 people have been arrested. Curfews are imposed across the US to try to stem the unrest.
Trump threatens military response
President Trump threatens to send in the military to quell growing civil unrest. He says if cities and states fail to control the protests and “defend their residents” he will deploy the army and “quickly solve the problem for them”. Mr Trump poses in front of a damaged church shortly after police used tear gas to disperse peaceful protesters nearby.
Eighth night of protests
Tens of thousands of protesters again take to the streets. One of the biggest protests is in George Floyd’s hometown of Houston, Texas. Many defy curfews in several cities, but the demonstrations are largely peaceful.
Memorial service for George Floyd
A memorial service for George Floyd is held in Minneapolis. Those gathered in tribute stand in silence for eight minutes, 46 seconds, the amount of time Mr Floyd is alleged to have been on the ground under arrest. Hundreds attended the service, which heard a eulogy from civil rights activist Rev Al Sharpton.
As the US saw another weekend of protests, with tens of thousands marching in Washington DC, anti-racism demonstrations were held around the world.
In Australia, there were major protests in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane that focused on the treatment of indigenous Australians. There were also demonstrations in France, Germany, Spain and the UK. In Bristol, protesters tore down the statue of a 17th century slave trader and threw it into the harbour.
Funeral service for George Floyd
A funeral service for George Floyd is held in Houston, Mr Floyd’s home town. Just over two weeks after his death in Minneapolis and worldwide anti-racism protests, about 500 guests invited by the Floyd family are in attendance at the Fountain of Praise Church. Many more gather outside to show their support.
A Closer Look at the Legacy of George Floyd’s Death
It is right to condemn excessive police force. To turn Floyd into a hero of a racialized morality play is inane.
May 25, 2021 marks one year since the death of George Floyd in police custody — I can never get used to invoking the term “anniversary” in connection with such dark events. There is, as one has come to expect, no shortage of vaporous talk about Floyd’s “legacy.” We should not, however, conflate the man with the event.
Floyd should not have died as he did. For their complicity in his demise, four former Minneapolis police are being held accountable, beginning with Derek Chauvin, who was convicted last month. Still, a stubborn fact remains: Floyd bore significant responsibility for the tragedy that unfolded.
There was probable cause that he committed a crime. He was not profiled or otherwise singled out for harassment by police officers acting on suspicions rooted in “systemic racism.” To the contrary, a local food-store merchant complained to police that Floyd had passed a counterfeit $20 bill. That complaint was based on a report by the young black cashier who handled the transaction and whom Floyd willfully put in an unfair position — either speak up or be personally liable for the store’s loss. Before calling the police, store employees, including the cashier, twice implored Floyd (who was parked outside) to come inside and settle the problem that he had caused. He refused. And although Floyd had serious health issues — e.g., an enlarged heart, hypertension, narrowings in major passages near his aorta, and a recent bout with COVID — he continued to abuse illegal narcotics and was at the time ingesting a potentially deadly combination of fentanyl and methamphetamine.
Floyd was a tragic figure, but not an admirable one. What happened last Memorial Day was not his first run-in with the law — far from it. In the decade beginning in 1997, when he was 23, he was arrested at least nine times. Several of these resulted in criminal convictions, generally for small-time narcotics and theft offenses. The resulting prison stints were usually short. But not all of them.
Floyd’s most serious arrest and conviction was for a violent armed robbery in 2007. He was then 33 years old, a muscular former athlete about six-and-a-half feet tall. According to the complaint filed in the case, he was the biggest of a group of men who forced their way into the home of a woman, against whose stomach Floyd held a gun. Floyd is further said to have searched the apartment while one of his accomplices, who was armed, hit the woman in the head and on her side when she screamed for help. The men asked whether there were drugs and money in the apartment; upon being told there were not, they made off with jewelry and a cellphone. Floyd was eventually arrested and charged with aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon. He pleaded guilty in 2009 and was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, serving about four years before being paroled in 2013.
Obviously, that did not end his criminal career. A year before passing the counterfeit bill that led to his fateful police detention, Floyd was arrested but apparently not charged under circumstances in which illegal drugs were found in a car he was in. (Floyd was given medical treatment and released because first responders were concerned about his high blood pressure.)
Of course, Floyd’s extensive and occasionally violent criminal history does not excuse the police use of excessive force in detaining him on May 25, 2020. Personally, having watched the trial closely, I would not have voted to convict Chauvin of murder; I’d have voted to convict him of manslaughter. No, the murder verdict was not irrational, but I disagree with the conclusion that prosecutors proved beyond a reasonable doubt the intent element of second-degree unintentional murder — namely, that any of the police, who called for an ambulance to get Floyd medical assistance, intended to criminally assault him. Even less did the state establish depraved indifference to human life — the mental element of third-degree unintentional homicide and a criminal-law concept I believe is inapplicable to the facts of the Floyd situation.
Floyd violently resisted a lawful arrest, and police are permitted to use superior force to detain a suspect. Other video evidence showed that the police restraint used was not as horrific as the state’s preferred video suggested. Indeed, the state’s most compelling medical expert, pulmonologist Martin Tobin, dismantled the popular narrative that Chauvin choked Floyd to death; the pressure placed on Floyd’s chest, not his neck, was the main contributory factor.
Impressive as Dr. Tobin was in describing how the resulting lung compression caused Floyd to succumb due to low oxygen, I’m unconvinced by his speculation that even a healthy person would have perished from the police restraint. More persuasive was the abundant expert testimony that Floyd’s severe medical problems and dangerous drug ingestion contributed to his death.
As I have noted many times, that does not get the police off the hook. Against their training, they held Floyd down in a prone position for over nine minutes, when he was no longer resisting and gradually became unresponsive and pulseless. This excessive force was a substantial contributory factor in Floyd’s death. That is sufficient to satisfy the causation element in a homicide case. But the evidence of Floyd’s health issues supports the inference that Chauvin and the other police did not believe the restraint they were using on Floyd was life-threatening. To be sure, their concern that he might suddenly recover and start fighting them was unreasonable under the circumstances. Yet, their purpose was to hold him in place until the medical team they’d called arrived, not to injure him seriously (in the sense of criminal assault).
Reasonable minds can differ about whether the police restraint tactics were so unreasonable that the jury was indeed correct to have inferred that Chauvin and his colleagues intended to cause serious injury. Clearly, such a conclusion would be bolstered by the egregious derelictions of duty: The police did not roll Floyd into a side-recovery position to promote breathing, thus flouting their training, which stresses that detainees must not be kept prone for an unduly long time; and the cops failed to provide first aid when Floyd was unresponsive, thus flouting their training to begin CPR when the situation allows for it. (Here, the situation allowed for it: Far from interfering, the crowd of bystanders was encouraging police to assist Floyd, and one, a trained fire department EMT, even offered to do it herself.)
Nevertheless, reasonable minds cannot differ about the fact that Floyd bore significant culpability for the outcome. It should not be controversial to say this, so it is a measure of our lunatic times that doing so is grounds for ostracism (if not worse). Floyd’s criminal misconduct caused the police to be called to the scene. If he had complied with the store’s reasonable requests to settle the counterfeiting problem, there would have been no complaint triggering a police response. If Floyd had simply, peaceably complied with the directions of the cops, there would have been no prone restraint on the street. The restraint was applied because he resisted arrest with so much force that four trained police officers were unable, despite considerable effort, to detain him in the back seat of the squad car. And his drug abuse, particularly in light of his health problems, made him uniquely vulnerable to the stress of an arrest and forcible detention.
It is right to condemn excessive police force. To turn George Floyd into a hero of a racialized morality play is inane.
The racial element is especially noxious. It is nothing but political narrative — now abetted by the happenstance that the first of the four ex-cops to be tried for the death of a black man happens to be white. It is not enough to say that there was no evidence in the case suggesting that Chauvin is a racist or that Floyd’s race — as opposed to his criminal behavior — triggered any of Chauvin’s actions. The blunt fact, the fact the media assiduously resist reporting, is that a young black police officer, Alex Kueng, was one of the first two on the scene. Kueng was already in a physical altercation with Floyd, provoked by Floyd’s forcible resistance, at the time Chauvin arrived. Floyd’s tragedy had nothing to do with racism — not the real kind (again, there is no evidence of racial prejudice) and not even the faux “systemic” kind (again, the cops did not pick Floyd out; they responded to a complaint after Floyd passed phony money to a black cashier).
I fear the real legacy we mark this day is that our constitutional commitment to due process of law has given way to mob justice. Derek Chauvin did not receive a fair trial — which is a different issue from whether he was guilty of murder or manslaughter.
The city of Minneapolis, which was principally responsible for ensuring a fair trial, went out of its way to inflame the jury pool against him. The trial judge failed to take adequate steps to shield the jury from prejudicial publicity. That publicity was stoked by mind-bogglingly inflammatory comments by the notoriously irresponsible California Democrat Maxine Waters (when the jury was about to deliberate) and the notoriously injudicious President Biden (while the jury was deliberating). The Left is subjecting Chauvin’s defense witnesses to a shameful intimidation campaign that is clearly designed to pressure the sentencing judge (and undermine the right of the other three ex-cops to present a defense when they are tried). As Scott Johnson has been reporting at Powerline (see here and here), a federal judge in Minnesota is investigating whether Biden Justice Department officials (or officials in the office of state attorney general Keith Ellison, with whom the DOJ is collaborating) stoked prejudicial publicity by leaking information to the media about the grand-jury investigation of Chauvin and the other ex-cops for federal civil-rights violations. (It is a violation of federal law to disseminate grand-jury information.) There are strong indications that, during voir dire, a juror misled the court by concealing that he had participated in a Washington, D.C., demonstration against police brutality — wearing a Black Lives Matter hat and a T-shirt inscribed with “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” (the name given the demonstration) as he listened to Floyd family members and other speakers. And with all this as background, it bears observing that in a complex three-week trial, freighted with so much expert medical and use-of-force testimony that the trial judge gave the lawyers a long weekend to prepare their full day of summations, the jury convicted Chauvin on all counts at breakneck speed — just a few hours, during which they did not ask to review a single exhibit, hear a word of testimony read back, or seek clarification on any point of law.
The main legacy of George Floyd’s death is societal division exacerbated by surging violent crime. (See these insightful columns by our Robert VerBruggen and the Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald.) The Bolshevik Left exploited George Floyd’s death to riot, to assault and kill police, to destroy police department and other government property, to destroy communities and businesses, and to agitate for the defunding of police and evisceration of laws promoting the arrest and detention of violent criminals. Naturally, violent crime has spiked in big cities across the country. As always, moreover, the principal victims of this dystopia are black communities, which need effective policing because their young male members tend to commit crime at disproportionately high rates — and the vast majority of crime is local.
One year later, it would be more apt to speak of a catastrophe than a legacy.
I am about to wrap up my discussion of Derek Chauvin and George Floyd. But before I do so, I want to investigate just a little further the funds that Chauvin has.
Judge approves Derek Chauvin divorce under secret terms
Court documents redacted, but settlement likely granted more to Kellie Chauvin.
A Washington County judge approved the divorce of Derek and Kellie Chauvin this week under secret terms due to the heavy redaction of court documents.
Washington County District Judge Juanita Freeman issued her order Tuesday under seal; a redacted version was made public Thursday.
Freeman ordered redactions in the case because of harassment and financial fraud allegations Kellie and Derek Chauvin faced. Most divorces and their settlements are public record unless a judge approves the parties’ request to seal the documents.
The proceeding came under scrutiny after Kellie Chauvin filed for divorce two days after Derek Chauvin was charged with killing George Floyd on May 25, sparking speculation that it was a move to protect assets from civil litigation.
Two months later, attorneys for Floyd’s family filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis, Chauvin and three of his former colleagues who assisted in Floyd’s arrest: J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao.
That same month, the Washington County Attorney’s Office charged Derek and Kellie Chauvin with nine felony counts each for allegedly failing to claim $464,433 in joint income dating back to 2014. They are scheduled to be tried in that case June 30.
Last October, Freeman rejected the first proposed divorce settlement drafted by Kellie and Derek Chauvin, citing possible fraud and noting that giving “substantially all” of one’s assets to the other spouse can be an indication of such activity.
The proposal was heavily redacted under parameters Freeman set out last year to protect sensitive information in the divorce documents.
Kellie Chauvin’s attorney, Amanda Mason-Sekula did not return a message seeking comment; she has not publicly addressed the matter. Derek Chauvin does not have an attorney in the case, and could not be reached for comment. He is out on bond in the Floyd case.
“Judge Freeman is placed in a difficult position,” said divorce attorney Jack De Walt, who is not involved in the case but has reviewed the latest documents and previous filings. “On the one hand, you have a case that clearly has larger implications on both a state and national level. … On the other hand, you have two parties seeking a divorce, and the [judge] must have felt that the revised proposal … adequately addressed her previous concerns.”
The judge’s ruling this week was accompanied by a “stipulated findings of fact” document outlining the division of assets she approved. It was heavily redacted, making it impossible to determine the terms of the settlement.
However, the document shares the same date as a second proposed settlement filed by Kellie and Derek Chauvin in December that had been briefly made public. That proposal would have awarded Kellie Chauvin about two-thirds of their marital and nonmarital assets, including their homes in Oakdale and Florida. It would have awarded her all of their marital assets — money and assets each earned during their marriage that state law encourages be divided in a “fair and equitable” manner.
Divorce attorney Marc Beyer, who is not involved but has reviewed documents in the case, said Freeman likely approved the December proposal. Court records show that Kellie and Derek Chauvin did not file another settlement plan.
“Either the court approves of the settlement or it doesn’t,” Beyer said. “If it doesn’t, the matter would be set on for a contested hearing or further proceedings of some kind.”
Veteran divorce attorneys have said an equal 50-50 split of marital assets is not required by law, and that judges have wide discretion.
“This Agreement was executed free from any duress, coercion, collusion or undue influence,” said the document with Freeman’s ruling.
State laws and policies promote settlements, which eliminate the need for court hearings and a trial, thereby saving the court time and money.
According to the December proposal: Kellie Chauvin’s share of marital assets was $658,461; Derek Chauvin’s share was an $8,862 debt.
Nonmarital assets, money and property earned before marriage, are commonly awarded to the earner. Derek Chauvin’s nonmarital award was $429,630; Kellie Chauvin’s share was $45,256.
Kellie Chauvin would receive $754,911 from Derek Chauvin’s pension and three of his other accounts. He would receive $452,524 in nonmarital assets from the same accounts.
Derek and Kellie Chauvin married in 2010 and have no children together. They previously noted that they were not seeking spousal maintenance.
After all assets and debts are factored in, Kellie Chauvin would receive $703,717; Derek Chauvin would receive $420,768.
“On its face, you could say that it’s surprising in that most people would advocate for a more equal division of the marital estate,” Beyer said of the proposed settlement. “[Derek Chauvin] certainly could have gotten more of the assets had he pursued it, but I don’t know what’s motivating [him] right now.”
Beyer said the judge could have been persuaded to award Kellie Chauvin more marital assets because of the amount of Derek Chauvin’s nonmarital award and the impact his criminal case had on her.
The fact that Kellie Chauvin is not seeking spousal maintenance from Derek Chauvin could also factor into how marital assets were divided, De Walt said.
“It is hard to know what other conclusions to draw without seeing more the actual terms of the decree,” De Walt said.
The December proposal said Kellie Chauvin lost her job as a Realtor last May and has been unable to work because of safety concerns. People protested outside their Oakdale and Florida homes and vandalized the properties. Kellie and Derek Chauvin were also stalked and were the victims of financial fraud, according to court documents.
The proposal said Kellie Chauvin received $12,996 in net profits from the sale of their Oakdale home, and was expected to incur unknown costs from vandalism to their Florida townhouse and other buildings in their association.
It also noted that she planned to legally change her name.
“The name change request is being made due to Petitioner’s safety being put in jeopardy,” court documents said.
After doing extensive research on the matter, and utilizing over 20 references, I have been able top make some conclusions. While I would like to think that there was a conspiracy with the death of George Floyd, I was unable to prove this. There will always be nagging doubts in my mind, though. The money Chauvin has was from his pension, which I do not think he should be entitled to. I think it should go to the Floyd family. However, Minneapolis gave them quite a large settlement, so I guess that is ok. As you may recall, my original premise was that Chauvin was hired to kill a black person in a highly public manner. I knew he had bad blood with Floyd, and I was able to prove this in my article. But I did not find any money being given to Chauvin for his murder. So was Floyd chosen or was he simply in the wrong place at the wrong time? We may never know. So was I able to prove that this was a conspiracy? No I was not able to do so. But that should not deter the reader if they lean that way. After all, we still don’t know the whole story behind the assassination of JFK, over 50m years ago. What is however evident, is that the Democrats were definitely opportunistic. They took full advantage of all the bad publicity surrounding the death of Floyd. However, they did not get the bill passed through Congress that they wanted, they did get a lot of traction with the defund the police movement. If there goal was to cause mayhem and destruction on an unheard of scale in the U.S., they were certainly successful. I will continue to follow any new information that surfaces on the Chauvin/Floyd story. I will provide updates when any new information becomes available.
chicagotribune.com, “A long look at the complicated life of George Floyd,” By LUIS ANDRES HENAO, NOMAAN MERCHANT, JUAN LOZANO AND ADAM GELLER; snopes.com, “Background Check: Investigating George Floyd’s Criminal Record: The question of past arrests often surfaces among people who want to rationalize police officers’ actions when Black men are killed in custody.” By Jessica Lee; conandaily.com, “Derek Chauvin biography: 13 things about Minneapolis cop who knelt on George Floyd’s neck,” BY ERICA DIAZ MENDOZA LAO; snopes.com, “Does This Flyer Accurately Represent Derek Chauvin’s Police Actions? The trial of the former police officer charged in George Floyd’s death was scheduled to begin in March.” By Jessica Lee; twincities.com, “The quiet life of Derek Chauvin before the public death of George Floyd, ” By SERGE F. KOVALESKI and KIM BARKER; revolt.tv, “George Floyd and Derek Chauvin knew each other and “bumped heads,” reveals former colleague: A former colleague of theirs breaks his silence and reveals Derek Chauvin and George Floyd not only knew each other, but did not get along.” By Isha Thorpe; cbsnews.com, “Man who claimed George Floyd and Derek Chauvin “bumped heads” changes story,” By Jeff Pegues; newsweek.com, “Did Derek Chauvin Work With George Floyd? Their Relationship Explained,” BY DAN CANCIAN;
npr.org, “George Floyd and Derek Chauvin Were Once Co-Workers, Ex-Club Owner Tells TV Station,” By Austin Horn; inquisitr.com, “Derek Chauvin Murdered George Floyd ‘For A Reason’ Linked To Nightclub, Former Congressional Candidate Suggests,” theamericanconservative.com, “Why George Floyd Died,” By Rod Dreher; usatoday.com, “Fact check: Fentanyl present in George Floyd’s system but not enough to cause his death, experts say,” By Miriam Fauzia; news.yahoo.com, “Why was George Floyd’s death the breaking point?” By Mike Bebernes; time.com, “Why The Killing of George Floyd Sparked an American Uprising,” By Alex Altman; newyorker.com, “The Death of George Floyd, in Context,” By Jelani Cobb; nytimes.com, “George Floyd Protests: A Timeline At least six people have been killed in violence connected to the protests that started after Mr. Floyd died in police custody.” By Derrick Bryson Taylor ; nypost.com, “Here’s everything we know about the death of George Floyd,” By Jorge Fitz-Gibbon;
bbc.com, “George Floyd: 10 things that have changed since his death;” nbcnews.com, “Derek Chauvin sentenced to 22.5 years for the murder of George Floyd: Prosecutors had asked that Chauvin receive 30 years in prison. His lawyer had sought probation.” By Janelle Griffith; npr.org, “10 Questions About Empathy In America, A Year After George Floyd’s Death,” By Bill Chappell; bbc.com, “George Floyd death: Why US protests are so powerful this time,” By Helier Cheung; foxnews.com, “Victor Davis Hanson accuses Democrats of using George Floyd’s death to ‘indict all of America’: ‘They see this as useful for a larger agenda that does not have public support’,” By Angelica Stabile; knoxnews.com, “Are we being honest about who is to blame for systemic racism?” By George Korda; americanthinker.com, “Are We Witnessing The Death Of America’s Democratic Republic?,” By Barry Shaw; nationalreview.com, “A Closer Look at the Legacy of George Floyd’s Death,” By ANDREW C. MCCARTHY;
slate.com, “The Supreme Court Bears Responsibility for George Floyd’s Death,” BY DAVID H. GANS; sgtreport.com, “Organized riots the next step in Democrat’s coup against America,” by Joseph Ragonese; thetrumpet.com, “Who’s Funding America’s Race Riots?,” By Andrew Miller; startribune.com, “Judge approves Derek Chauvin divorce under secret terms: Court documents redacted, but settlement likely granted more to Kellie Chauvin.” By Chao Xiong;
Victor Davis Hanson accuses Democrats of using George Floyd’s death to ‘indict all of America’
‘They see this as useful for a larger agenda that does not have public support’
The Democrats seem to have intentions of using the George Floyd tragedy for political gain, Hoover Institute senior fellow Victor Davis Hanson told “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Wednesday.
“They see this as useful for a larger agenda that does not have public support,” he said. “So whether it’s open borders or reparations or redistribution or the end of the Second or First Amendment… It doesn’t really matter. They want to use this crisis to indict all of America.”
As a parallel, Hanson explained this wider majority of Americans consistently ask what can be done to fix the issues at hand. But for the left, it’s “never going to be enough.”
According to Hanson, this deeply-driven movement has little to do with class warfare since it’s driven by a majority of coastal White and Black elites like the Obama’s or Oprah Winfrey.
“They know this existential problem,” he said. “Why 7,000 African Americans are killing themselves in inner cities and they’re poorly run and the schools are bad. And yet, they do not want to put their kids in the public schools. They do not want to get on the ground in a concrete fashion and say to people, ‘Let’s preserve the African nuclear family…’ No, it’s virtue signaling in the abstract.”
“We’ve got to all talk bluntly about the Black family which is the key to restoring Black success and most of the elites know that in the Black community.”
Are we being honest about who is to blame for systemic racism?
The Knoxville News Sentinel published a front-page photo on Wednesday with a caption about protests against “systemic police brutality against people of color.”
Systemic racism is being discussed a great deal in the wake of George Floyd’s death under the knee of now-former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
The video of Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, as Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe, has ignited protests peaceful and violent, with the tragedy also being used by some as a way to destroy, steal – and worse. In one case, looters in St. Louis shot and killed David Dorn, a highly respected black retired police captain, as he was trying to protect a pawn shop.
It’s likely – just as it’s likely the sun rises in the east – that when a good many people say “systemic racism,” they’re not including the politicians they like and the political party they favor.
One way to tell? Their attitude toward who has been running the systems.
On social media the other day, in discussions of George Floyd’s death, I saw an increasing number of references from Democrats and Democratic friends about the problem of systemic racism. I wrote the following post, citing only a few municipal examples:
“Below are pertinent questions, given the way the Democratic Party defines itself as being the party of tolerance and inclusion, and many Democrats’ characterizations of Republicans or conservatives as racists or racially insensitive.
“Minneapolis, Minn. has been under Democratic control since 1978. Chicago has been under Democratic control for 89 years; its present mayor is a black woman. Philadelphia has had Democratic mayors for 68 years; three of its last five mayors have been black men. Six of the last seven Atlanta, Ga., mayoral administrations were led by black Democratic mayors, and the present mayor is a black woman.
“A city runs its police department and other services; therefore, if there is so much ‘systemic racism’ in these organizations, why hasn’t it been corrected over so many years under Democratic leaders?
“Why aren’t these cities garden spots of racial tolerance, understanding, and virtue?”
There have been no answers.
In the wake of the 2015 riots in Baltimore after the death in police custody of a black man named Freddie Gray, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo interviewed black Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby, a Democrat.
Mosby’s answer, particularly to Cuomo’s last question below, is instructive, in that it’s clear he wasn’t expecting it:
MOSBY: This is much more than Freddie Gray. Freddie Gray was the culmination of, again, decades – the young guys out here showing their frustration and venting, being angry and doing it in an unproductive way, they are carrying their father’s burden. They’re carrying their grandfather’s burden. Again this is generations old of failed policies and broken promises.
CUOMO: You are a Democrat, right?
CUOMO: Is this on you guys? The mayor is a Democrat, you’re a Democrat, 50 years of Democratic rule here, and is this an idea that you haven’t gotten it done as a party, as a structure here, and is that the focus on the blame?
MOSBY: Leadership is not based off of party lines, and at the end of the day, have individuals failed in this city, in this state, in this country? Yes. Have there been failed policies? Yes. Have things adversely affected places like Baltimore? Yes, whether you’re talking about Reaganomics, whether you’re talking about the contraband where they talk about stop and frisk procedures or mass incarceration. All of these things directly play into recidivism and play into the things that plague these communities. So it’s all about leadership and not necessarily about parties.
That’s a lengthy, rambling way around the barn to say he wasn’t going to give a specific answer to a direct question, because it’s about the party to which he belongs. However, if you go to the City of Baltimore’s website and click on the government directory, under “P” you’ll find the Baltimore Police Department, because it’s the city of Baltimore’s responsibility.
Cuomo’s question was pertinent. It went unanswered.
Why do we not want a knee on George Floyd’s neck? Not only because it’s wrong, but because we don’t want one on ours. If we want our rights respected, we must respect – and protect – the rights of others.
Unfortunately, in too many cases when people say they want an open and honest discussion about race in America, what they mean is they want an open and honest discussion only about what they say is wrong with people who aren’t them.
When people talk about the need to deal with systemic racism, if they’re not willing to talk about the systems run – often for generations by the political party or politicians they support – they aren’t interested in an open and honest conversation; instead, they want only to use the issue as a club against people who aren’t them.
If that’s the case, we’re condemned to never get off this tragedy of a merry-go-round.
Are We Witnessing The Death Of America’s Democratic Republic?
Although this journal is called the American Thinker it can be useful to hear the observations of a non-American thinker on what appear to be bewildering and growing problems in America.
Public safety is perhaps the pre-eminent responsibility of government. If a government cannot protect its citizens against criminal members of its society, or even against the unlawful behavior of government itself, that nation no longer deserves to call itself a functioning democracy.
Has the United States reached that point?
The Constitution, which is the primary document of the United States government, begins, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare….”
These provisions are the basic tenets of the need to maintain civil order and public safety in a nation in harmony with itself. It means providing law and order, protection, and safety for each lawful individual citizen.
The Founders wrote the Constitution that way because it was known that there will be people, or even tyrants, who do not respect their fellow citizens and who are willing to take the law into their own hands. This is especially true if the government fails to provide mechanisms to police against crime and punish it when it occurs.
The outcome of defunding or dismantling law enforcement must, inevitably, lead to a sharp increase in lawlessness and violence. In those parts of America that have aggressively defunded or dismantled their law enforcement, areas that are almost exclusively Democrat-governed states and cities, the social fabric has indeed broken down.
Public safety is too important to be used as a political tool; or as a political excuse to change society with one political party imposing biased policies over its citizens; or as a weapon for the ruling political party to enforce oppressive policies over a population. This is true even if that breakdown in safety is delivered under the guise of benefiting some or all of the population.
If the government’s general misrule, deliberate acts, or incompetence, puts citizens at risk and puts beyond their reach the freedoms and liberty necessary for them to thrive, the inevitable outcome will be that some segment of society becomes lawless. Democrats try to deflect by pointing to “root causes.” Currently, they say that police and guns are the “root causes” of violence. Yet those states with active police forces and readily available access to legal guns are not the states in which street violence is rampant.
Democrat mayors have allowed the mob to occupy sections of their cities in what the media call autonomous zones. We have seen mayors order their police to stand down and vacate areas leaving lawful citizens abandoned, held hostage at the mercy of lawless gangs.
Chicago mayor, Lori Lightfoot, is perhaps the most incompetent mayor in the country, although she gets vigorous competition from New York’s De Blasio, Los Angeles’s Garcetti, Seattle’s Durkan, or Portland’s Wheeler. Rather than examining her own conduct, Lightfoot has blamed everything and everyone for her utter failure to counter the horrendous rise in murders in her city.
Following a brutal weekend of murders and shootings in June 2021, Lightfoot called for the court system to act. This is the same system she used COVID to justify closing. That closure meant dangerous criminals were not brought to court to face charges and, as the prisons were deemed COVID traps, were not even kept locked up pending trial. Lightfoot also demonized law enforcement, even calling police racist.
Of course, the problem extends beyond mayors who are incompetent ideologues. Democrats in Chicago and other Democrat-run cities also make the vacuous argument that social workers and psychologists should replace the police. This ignores the obvious point that violent crimes happen in an instant. Who do you call as criminals are breaking down your door to rob or rape you, or as a violent crime or terror attack is occurring? In my country, it is certainly not a social worker or a shrink.
The real root cause of violent crime in America is that local and national governments are unable to manage their communities correctly. The root cause is talentless people and deliberate policies.
In America, in Democrat states and cities, progressive prosecutors actively protect and encourage violent criminals when they refuse to prosecute offenders, forcing a catch and release policy. People arrested for brutal violence and destruction against both private and federal property are being freed from jail without bail, and often proceed to commit the same or worse crimes. These liberal prosecutors act more like defenders of criminals than defenders of public safety. In such an environment, lawful citizens find no protection from the law.
These are examples of an outlaw public policy that fails the basic tenet of proving public safety for lawful citizens. It is an abject, or deliberate, breakdown of society – and the architects seem to be doing it deliberately.
It’s deliberate when TV pundits say, “Show me where it says that protests are supposed to be polite and peaceful,” as they Chris Cuomo did (and others echoed) as BLM and Antifa tore cities apart in 2020 – only to reverse themselves on January 6 when protesters entered Congress, the People’s Building, to protest. The media instantly called them “armed insurrectionists.”
You know there is a double game at play when the only fatality was an unarmed female shot in the neck whom an official assailant, whose identity the authorities are protecting and who faces no charges for murder. Imagine if the authorities had done this with the officer responsible for the death of George Floyd. The blatant hypocrisy points to something very troubling.
And, going back to events on January 6 and after, since when is it just in a constitutional, free society to perform dawn raids on hundreds of political opponents and keep them locked in solitary confinement without trial for six months and counting?
The law books should be reopened and the criminal code reread. It tells that you cannot injure or kill someone without the case being brought to a public court for impartial justice. It tells the authorities that they cannot grab people from their homes and keep them in jail for prolonged periods without justifying their arrest. Public accountability is an integral part of public safety and security.
The true test of a free nation is this: Can a nation survive that encourages lawlessness? Can a constitutional democratic republic survive if the forces of law act malevolently against political opponents but not against those who murder political opponents?
It shouldn’t only be Ashli Babbitt’s family or the hundreds of people incarcerated for six months without trial or charge who ask these questions. Instead, every American should ask them.
The Supreme Court Bears Responsibility for George Floyd’s Death
The murder of George Floyd one year ago by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin once again exposed the gaping chasm between our Constitution’s promises and the reality of policing in America. While the criminal conviction of Derek Chauvin by a Minneapolis jury provides some accountability for Floyd’s murder, our current system has done little to stanch the flood of police violence that took Floyd’s life—and the lives of so many others—because the Supreme Court has repeatedly gutted one of our most important federal civil rights laws.
Congress must begin the work of repairing our system of constitutional accountability by undoing the court’s decimation of one key law. Known as Section 1983, the law allows individuals to go to court to redress violations of constitutional rights by state and local governments and their agents. The Supreme Court, though, over the years has eviscerated it by inventing doctrines found nowhere in the text or history of the law.
In order to enforce the 14th Amendment, Section 1983 provides that “[e]very person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State” subjects any person “to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured” in a court of law. Enacted in 1871 against the backdrop of horrific state and Ku Klux Klan violence aimed at undoing Reconstruction’s promises of racial justice, Section 1983 gave those victimized by official abuse of power a critically important tool to hold governments and their agents accountable in a court of law. The law aimed to stop state actors and others from killing, brutalizing, and terrorizing Black people with impunity.
To this end, the text of Section 1983 does not recognize any immunities from accountability.
Congress made a conscious choice not to provide any official immunities because it sought to hold state officials accountable for violating constitutional rights, not to permit such officials to flout the law with impunity.
What is less well-known is that Congress explicitly rejected the idea that persons should be exempt from responsibility simply because they held a position of power. Congress modeled Section 1983’s design of constitutional accountability on the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which contained criminal penalties against state officials that violated the law’s prohibitions on racial discrimination. In debates over this precursor to Section 1983, the law’s supporters insisted that official immunities are akin to the idea that “the King can do no wrong” and wrongfully “places officials above the law.” Section 1983 incorporated an identical remedial framework. Section 1983, like the 1866 Act, did not provide any immunities because Congress refused to place officials “above the law.”
The Supreme Court has repeatedly insisted that the court’s role in statutory interpretation is to enforce the plain meaning of the words chosen by Congress. But it has repeatedly ignored the text, context, and history of Section 1983, doing violence to the language chosen by Congress. By gutting Section 1983 through judicial fiat, the Supreme Court has let state and local governments and their agents violate our most cherished constitutional rights with impunity and left those victimized by abuse of power without any remedy.
In its cases interpreting—or rather rewriting—Section 1983, the Supreme Court has made the words “clearly established” and “policy” paramount. Let’s start with “clearly established.” Under the judicially created doctrine of qualified immunity, a suit against a government officer must be dismissed unless the state or local officer violated clearly established constitutional rights. In practice, unless the plaintiff can point to a prior precedent with essentially identical facts, courts insist that the law is not clearly established. That means that much of the time, constitutional violations go unremedied and justice is denied to those victimized by abuse of power. Moreover, because a court can dismiss a case without ruling on whether the official violated the plaintiff’s constitutional rights, the contours of constitutional rights may remain frozen in place, preventing rights from ever becoming clearly established and bolting the courthouse doors firmly shut to those aggrieved by official abuse of power.
The word “policy” is equally important to the story of how the Supreme Court has gutted Section 1983. Employers in the private sector are liable for the legal wrongs committed by their employees and agents, but the Supreme Court has refused to apply this longstanding principle of accountability to municipalities. Instead, local governments, with few exceptions, cannot be held liable for constitutional violations committed by their officers and agents within the scope of their duties. As a result, one of the most powerful tools for systemic reform—holding the government itself liable—is off the table.
In the 1978 case of Monell v. Department of Social Services, the Supreme Court held in essence that a city can only be held liable if a municipal “policy” caused the constitutional deprivation. (A municipal custom will count as well, but the court has basically ignored that category entirely.) The “policy” requirement for local governmental liability, like qualified immunity’s “clearly established” law requirement, is a dead end for accountability. The last time the Supreme Court held that a municipal “policy” caused a constitutional violation was in 1986, more than three decades ago.
Read the text of Section 1983. You will not find “clearly established” or “policy” in the language enacted into law by Congress. The Supreme Court simply made these words up to allow the government and its agents to evade accountability. As Justice John Paul Stevens put it in denouncing the policy requirement for governmental liability, it is “judicial legislation of the most blatant kind.”
By creating a nearly insurmountable barrier to suing the officer who violated someone’s constitutional rights and the government that made the officer’s abuse of power possible, the Supreme Court’s judicially-created doctrines operate synergistically to allow constitutional rights to be violated with impunity. Together they form a system of government unaccountability. As a result, the cycle of racialized policing and racial violence that took George Floyd’s life continues unchecked. And policing is just one small slice of the abuses Section 1983 concerns. By gutting Section 1983 in a myriad of ways, the court has sanctioned deprivations of free speech, allowed prosecutors to destroy innocent lives, and let abuse of power in prison flourish. Rather than giving full effect to a law designed to enforce the 14th Amendment, the Supreme Court has gutted it to protect governments and their agents and legitimize violations of constitutional rights.
Congress can change this. One year after the killing of George Floyd, Congress has the opportunity and the responsibility to begin repairing our system of constitutional accountability and to ensure that our most cherished constitutional guarantees do not exist merely on paper. The only way to fix the long line of immunity doctrines devised by the court is to end them and ensure that those victimized by the government can seek justice in the courts.
Derek Chauvin sentenced to 22.5 years for the murder of George Floyd
Prosecutors had asked that Chauvin receive 30 years in prison. His lawyer had sought probation.
MINNEAPOLIS — Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murder in the death of George Floyd, was sentenced Friday to 22 and a half years in prison, closing a chapter on a case that sparked global outrage and protests.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill said the sentence was not based on public opinion, “emotion or sympathy.” He said he was not trying to “send any messages.”
“This is based on your abuse of a position of trust and authority and also the particular cruelty shown to George Floyd,” he told Chauvin.
The judge said he also wanted to “acknowledge the deep and tremendous pain that all the families are feeling, especially the Floyd family.”
Prosecutors had asked that Chauvin receive 30 years in prison. His lawyer had sought probation.
Hours before the hearing began, Cahill denied a request from Chauvin’s attorney for a new trial. He also denied a request to hold a hearing on juror misconduct.
Chauvin was convicted in April of second- and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter.
He spoke briefly before the sentence was announced.
“At this time due to some additional legal matters at hand, I’m not able to give a full, formal statement,” Chauvin said. “I do want to give my condolences to the Floyd family. There’s going to be some other information in the future that would be of interest and I hope things will give you some, some peace of mind.”
The sentencing hearing began with statements from four of Floyd’s family members: his daughter, Gianna Floyd; his brothers Terrence and Philonise Floyd; and his nephew Brandon Williams.
Gianna, who appeared by video, said she asks about her father “all the time” and misses that he is not around to help her brush her teeth at night.
“I want to play with him, have fun, go on a plane ride,” the 7-year-old said.
Philonise Floyd said that he has begged every day for justice to be served.
“George’s life mattered,” he said. “I am asking that you please find it suitable to give Officer Chauvin the maximum sentence possible. My family and I have been given a life sentence.”
Chauvin’s mother, Carolyn Pawlenty, also spoke during the hearing. She called her son “a good man.”
“Derek is a quiet, thoughtful, honorable and selfless man,” she said. Pawlenty said her son’s identity has “been reduced to that of a racist.”
Even though I have not spoken publicly, I have always supported him 100 percent and always will,” she said.
Under Minnesota statutes, Chauvin could be sentenced only on the most serious charge: unintentional second-degree murder, which has a maximum sentence of 40 years.
Cahill could have sentenced him to as little as 10 years and eight months or as much as 15 years in prison and remained within sentencing guidelines. The presumptive sentence for a person like Chauvin, who had no criminal history, is 12½ years for second-degree murder.
Floyd, a Black man, was handcuffed, in a prone position on the street May 25, 2020, as Chauvin, who is white, knelt on his neck for 9½ minutes while Floyd said he couldn’t breathe and went limp. Floyd’s gruesome death — captured in a harrowing bystander video that was posted to Facebook and widely viewed — ignited a reckoning on racial disparities in America and fueled calls for police reform.
In arguing for a 30-year sentence, prosecutors said there were five aggravating factors in Floyd’s death. In his ruling last month, Cahill wrote that the prosecution had proven four of those factors: Chauvin abused his position of trust and authority; treated Floyd with particular cruelty; committed his crime in the presence of children “who witnessed the last moments” of Floyd’s life; and with the active participation of at least three other people. (Cahill said prosecutors did not prove that Floyd was particularly vulnerable.)
In a sentencing memo released after the hearing, Cahill said his decision to depart from sentencing guidelines and give Chauvin a longer sentence was based on only two of those factors.
He wrote that Chauvin killed Floyd in a “manner that was particularly cruel and an abuse of his authority.”
“It was particularly cruel to kill George Floyd slowly by preventing his ability to breathe when Mr. Floyd had already made it clear he was having trouble breathing,” Cahill wrote, citing his earlier ruling.
Chauvin “manifested his indifference to Mr. Floyd’s pleas for his life and his medical distress” by not providing aid, declining suggestions from two other officers to do so and preventing bystanders from helping, he wrote.
“Part of the mission of the Minneapolis Police Department is to give citizens ‘voice and respect,'” the judge wrote. “Here, Mr. Chauvin, rather than pursuing the MPD mission, treated Mr. Floyd without respect and denied him the dignity owed to all human beings and which he certainly would have extended to a friend or neighbor.”
In addition to the prison time, Cahill said Chauvin was barred from possessing firearms, must provide a DNA sample and register as a predatory offender. The ex-officer was granted credit for 199 days already served.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office prosecuted the case, welcomed the decision.
“Like the conviction of Derek Chauvin two months ago, today’s sentencing is not justice, but it is another moment of real accountability on the road to justice,” Ellison said in prepared remarks delivered shortly after the hearing.
“My hope for Derek Chauvin is that he uses his long sentence to reflect on his choices and his life. My hope is that he will be able to find it within himself to acknowledge the impact of his choices on George Floyd, his family, his fellow police officers, and the world,” Ellison said. “My hope is that he takes the time to learn about the man whose life he took and about the movement that rose up to call for justice in the wake of George Floyd’s death.”
Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, did not respond to a request for comment.
Chauvin’s conviction was a rare occurrence: It is unusual for police officers to be prosecuted for killing someone on the job. Philip Stinson, a criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, has found through his research that Chauvin is one of only 11 nonfederal law enforcement officers — such as police officers, deputy sheriffs and state troopers — who have been convicted of murder for on-duty killings since 2005.
Chauvin and the three other former police officers involved in Floyd’s arrest — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — were fired the day after Floyd’s death. They are also awaiting trial in federal court on charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights.
Cahill delayed the trial of Kueng, Lane and Thao, who are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter and whose trial was originally scheduled to begin in August, to March 2022, saying last month that he wanted to put some distance between their trial and Chauvin’s trial. Cahill also said he wanted them to be tried on the federal charges first.
Here’s everything we know about the death of George Floyd
It was a routine police call for a run-of-the-mill crime — someone passing a bogus $20 bill at a deli.
But the ensuing death of unarmed black man George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis cops, and the resulting riots, have once again forced a divided nation into a bitter self-reckoning.
The cops involved were axed and President Trump himself has pledged an expedient investigation by federal law enforcement — but that has done little to quell searing outrage that’s lit up social media, left buildings at ground zero in Minneapolis torched and necessitated the Minnesota National Guard.
It all started when restaurant bouncer and aspiring commercial driver Floyd, 46, tried to buy groceries.
Floyd — a Houston native who had previous scrapes with the law and moved to the Twin Cities to start fresh about six years ago — went to the Cup Foods on Chicago Avenue South around 8 p.m. for the food run.
That’s around the time cops got a call from a store clerk that there was a “forgery in progress” — someone was trying to pay for groceries with a counterfeit $20 bill, a non-violent offense.Horrific video revealed Minneapolis officer, Derek Chauvin, with knee on neck of George Floyd, in fatal encounter.
Surveillance footage from a nearby restaurant shows police arriving shortly after 8 p.m. and approaching a black minivan where Floyd is sitting with two other people.
Two officers walk up to the vehicle, its passenger door already open, and one shines a flashlight inside.
The second officer approaches Floyd and tells him to get out of the vehicle, prompting a brief struggle before Floyd exits the vehicle. Meanwhile, the passenger and a woman sitting in the back seat are seen getting out of the minivan.
Moments later, Floyd is seen, hands cuffed behind his back, being led to the side of a building by the two cops.
Floyd appears to be speaking to the officers but does not appear to resist.
A second police vehicle arrives as Floyd is escorted across the street to a waiting patrol car.
One surveillance video from across the street shows him stumbling and falling as the two officers lead him to the waiting squad car, according to footage obtained by KMSP-TV.
Bodycam video taken by a responding Minneapolis Park Police officer shows two other officers interviewing witnesses near the scene.
The video is heavily redacted and largely muted, but it appears the two individuals being questioned were the man and the woman who were in the van with Floyd.
What happens next is still uncertain — but the next time Floyd is seen on video is a viral clip shot by bystander Darnella Frazier, which shows Floyd already pinned down by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, a white cop seen pressing his knee into the back of Floyd’s neck while he lies face-down in handcuffs.
Chauvin had been the subject of 10 prior conduct complaints over his 19 years on the force but had never faced disciplinary action.
In the span of nearly four minutes, Floyd can be heard telling police at least a dozen times that he can’t breathe and asking Chauvin to take his knee off his neck — as bystanders, including the grocery clerk who initially called 911, plead with the officers to let Floyd get up.
“Please, I can’t breathe,” he said.
“Get up, get in the car,” one of the cops is heard saying while Floyd remains pinned down by Chauvin.
“I will, I can’t move,” Floyd responds.
He then stops moving altogether.
Police called EMTs around 8:30 p.m. and they arrived in six minutes to find an unconscious and unresponsive Floyd, according to Hennepin County Healthcare EMS Chief Marty Scheerer.
Paramedics and police eventually flipped Floyd over while he was still cuffed, placed him on a gurney and into an ambulance, where a responder released his hands.
Their decision to “load and go,” rather than triage Floyd on the spot, was likely based on their race against time, Scheerer said, adding that responders were likely unaware of how severe the situation had become.
Despite medical officials reportedly spending an hour trying to revive Floyd, he was pronounced dead at a local hospital at 9:25 p.m.
Police initially claimed that he “suffered a medical episode while struggling with officers,” but Frazier’s video soon put the lie to that claim.
“They killed him right in front of Cup Foods over south on 38th and Chicago,” the 17-year-old later said on Facebook. “No type of sympathy.”
Minneapolis cops involved in black man’s death fired: mayor
The following day, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, visibly enraged by footage of the incident, announced at a press conference with Police Chief Maderia Arradondo that all four officers involved had been fired.
“Four responding MPD officers involved in the death of George Floyd have been terminated,” Frey said on Twitter. “This is the right call.”
In a separate tweet Tuesday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz called the incident “sickening.”
“The lack of humanity in this disturbing video is sickening,” Walz wrote. “We will get answers and seek justice.”
Frey lashed out again Wednesday, calling on Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman to arrest Chauvin, something a spokesman said Freeman’s office is “discussing.”
Meanwhile, the FBI announced that it would investigate the incident in a joint probe with state authorities. And Trump on Wednesday pledged that the feds would conduct an “expedited” investigation.
Minn. mayor says George Floyd would still be alive ‘if he were white’
“At my request, the FBI and the Department of Justice are already well into an investigation,” he tweeted.
On Thursday, Frey followed up by arguing that Floyd “would be alive today if he were white.”
Angry protesters nonetheless took to the streets of Minneapolis, targeting local stores and a police precinct in the city.
Outrage over the case spilled over into the sports world, with NBA stars LeBron James and Steph Curry taking to social media to express anger over Floyd’s death.
James posted side-by-side images on Instagram of Chauvin pinning Floyd and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem before a San Francisco 49ers game — his high-profile protest of police brutality against black Americans.Minneapolis lootinghttps://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.474.0_en.html#goog_289582585Play Video
“This…. Is Why,” the post said in explaining Kap’s protest.
Former NBA star Stephen Jackson, a friend of Lloyd’s thanks to their striking physical similarities, said he was devastated by his death.
“I jumped up, screamed, scared my daughter — almost broke my hand punching stuff because I was so mad,” the 42-year-old former Net told NBC’s “Today.” “It just destroyed me, and I haven’t been the same since I seen it.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also chimed in during his daily coronavirus press conference Thursday, calling Floyd’s death “frightening.”
“If I was a prosecutor, I would look at that case from the first moment,” said Cuomo, a former state attorney general and Manhattan prosecutor. “There is a criminal case there.”
Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, provided more personal commentary on the case on CNN Thursday when asked about the continuing protests.
“I want everybody to be peaceful right now, but people are torn and hurt because they’re tired of seeing black men die, constantly, over and over again,” he said.
“And I understand, and I see why a lot of people doing a lot of different things around the world. I don’t want them to lash out like this,” he added. “But I can’t stop people right now, because they have pain. They have the same pain I feel.”
“I want everything to be peaceful, but I can’t make everybody be peaceful.”
George Floyd Protests: A Timeline
At least six people have been killed in violence connected to the protests that started after Mr. Floyd died in police custody.
By Derrick Bryson TaylorMarch 28, 2021
After the death of George Floyd on May 25, protests and unrest have rocked Minneapolis and other cities.
In cities across the United States, tens of thousands of people have swarmed the streets to express their outrage and sorrow during the day. That has descended into nights of unrest, with reports of shootings, looting and vandalism in some cities.
Since the death of Mr. Floyd, protests have erupted in at least 140 cities across the United States, and the National Guard has been activated in at least 21 states.
The police chief in Louisville, Ky., was fired after a restaurant owner was killed when police officers and National Guard troops shot toward protesters. And in Austin, Texas, the police chief said that a black protester who had been shot in the head by officers was in critical condition.
In St. Louis and Las Vegas, officers were shot and wounded, and in New York City and Buffalo, N.Y., they were injured after being struck by cars.
Here’s a timeline of the protests across the nation so far.
George Floyd dies in police custody.
George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man, died in Minneapolis on Monday after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer. Bystanders captured video of the officer behind a police car using his knee to pin Mr. Floyd by his neck. Mr. Floyd is heard repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe,” in the video.
The next day, the video was widely shared on social media and ultimately became a driving force for protests in Minneapolis.
Protests in Minneapolis begin, and the police use tear gas to break them up.
By Tuesday, the Minneapolis police chief, Medaria Arradondo, had fired all four men involved in the arrest of Mr. Floyd. He also called for an F.B.I. investigation after the video showed that the official police account of the arrest had borne little resemblance to what actually occurred.
That night, hundreds of protesters flooded into the Minneapolis streets. Some demonstrators vandalized police vehicles with graffiti and targeted the precinct house where the four officers had been assigned, said John Elder, a police spokesman.
Protests also occurred in the city in the subsequent days. Officers used tear gas and fired rubber bullets into crowds. Some businesses, including restaurants and an auto-parts store, were set on fire.
Protests erupt in cities across the U.S., including Memphis and Los Angeles.
Demonstrators began organizing in other cities. In Memphis, a protest over the deaths of Mr. Floyd, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., and Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Ga., led the police to temporarily shut down a portion of a street.
In Los Angeles, hundreds of protesters converged in the city’s downtown area to march around the Civic Center. A group of demonstrators broke off from the march and blocked the Route 101 freeway.
In St. Louis, a man was killed after protesters blocked Interstate 44, set fires and tried to loot a FedEx truck. In Chicago, six people were shot and one was killed that night.
The National Guard is mobilized in Minnesota.
Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota activated the National Guard. The order came as the city asked for help after vandalism and fires broke out during demonstrations and as the Justice Department said a federal investigation into Mr. Floyd’s death was a top priority.
Mr. Walz later said that he had activated thousands of additional National Guard troops to send to Minneapolis but had declined the Army’s offer to deploy military police units.
“Let’s be very clear,” Mr. Walz said. “The situation in Minneapolis, is no longer, in any way, about the murder of George Floyd. It is about attacking civil society, instilling fear and disrupting our great cities.”
Former officer is arrested and charged in Mr. Floyd’s death.
The former Minneapolis police officer who pinned Mr. Floyd’s neck to the ground with his knee was arrested and was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
The former officer, Derek Chauvin, 44, faces charges that carry a combined maximum 35-year sentence.
President Trump’s ‘looting’ and ‘shooting’ message raises tensions.
President Trump delivered an ultimatum to Minneapolis protesters on May 29 and suggested that the military could use armed force to suppress riots. On Twitter, Mr. Trump called the protesters “thugs” and said, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
He also criticized the city’s Democratic mayor.
“I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City,” Mr. Trump said. “A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right.”
Protests in Atlanta and New York bring destruction.
Hundreds of demonstrators poured into the streets near Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park, leaving behind smashed windows. Some climbed atop a large red CNN sign outside the media company’s headquarters and spray-painted messages on it.
That night, protesters also clashed with the police across Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan, leaving officers and demonstrators injured. Some people threw bottles and debris at officers, who responded with pepper spray and arrests.
In Washington, a crowd gathered outside the White House, prompting the Secret Service to temporarily lock down the building. In Detroit, a 19-year-old man was killed when someone opened fire into a crowd of demonstrators, the police said. Mr. Trump moved to the underground bunker used in the past during terrorist attacks.
The authorities were investigating the fatal shooting of a federal officer, a contract security guard for the Department of Homeland Security, outside a federal courthouse in Oakland, Calif.
In Detroit, a 21-year-old man was fatally shot as he sat in a car when protesters took to the streets. And in Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear instructed the State Police to investigate the death of a man who was shot and killed after gunfire broke out around midnight.
Minneapolis Mayor says peaceful protests have turned to ‘domestic terrorism.’
After four nights of chaos in Minneapolis, Mr. Frey called on people to stay home. “What started as largely peaceful protests for George Floyd have turned to outright looting and domestic terrorism in our region,” he said on Twitter.
He said people who broke the 8 p.m. curfew would be helping those who use crowds to prey on Minneapolis.
“We are now confronting white supremacists, members of organized crime, out-of-state instigators, and possibly even foreign actors to destroy and destabilize our city and our region,” he said.
In Indianapolis, a person was killed and three others injured after shots were fired at demonstrators.
Protests fill city streets again, and mayors order curfews.
During the day, hundreds of thousands of people joined largely peaceful demonstrations throughout the country, but cities reported hundreds of arrests as protesters clashed with the police and some areas were looted. The National Guard was deployed in more than two dozen states to assist overwhelmed police departments, and dozens of mayors extended curfews.
In Philadelphia, a huge peaceful demonstration outside the city’s art museum contrasted with the scene in West Philadelphia, where the police used pepper spray to repel looters. In Atlanta, two officers were fired for “excessive use of force” against two college students. In Minneapolis, about 200 protesters were arrested, and a man who drove a tanker truck toward a crowd was taken into police custody.
George Floyd’s brother visits the site where he died.
Terrence Floyd was the first member of Mr. Floyd’s family to visit the place where his brother died in Minneapolis.
He told the crowd that gathered around him that he was troubled by what he had seen in recent days.
“If I’m not over here wilding out, if I’m not over here blowing up stuff, if I’m not over here messing up my community, then what are y’all doing? What are y’all doing?” he said. “Do this peacefully, please.”
Two autopsies rule Mr. Floyd’s death a homicide.
The results from two autopsies completed on Mr. Floyd ruled that his death was a homicide. But the autopsies, one done by a government agency and the other by doctors working for Mr. Floyd’s family, differed over the specific causes of death and whether there were contributing factors beyond Mr. Chauvin’s kneeling on his neck.
According to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office, Mr. Floyd died of “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.” The office also said that Mr. Floyd suffered from heart disease, was high on fentanyl and had recently used methamphetamines.
The other autopsy, conducted by doctors hired by the Floyd family, said Mr. Floyd died not only because the officer pressed his knee on his neck, but also because the other officers helped hold him down. That autopsy also concluded that Mr. Floyd “had no underlying medical problem that caused or contributed to his death.”
Trump threatens to deploy the military.
In remarks about the unrest in several cities across the United States, Mr. Trump threatened to deploy the military to states where governors and mayors could not bring violence and the looting under control.
“If a city or a state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents,” Mr. Trump said, “then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”
Protesters gather where Mr. Floyd died.
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Wearing “We Can’t Breathe” T-shirts and pumping their hands in the air, protesters gathered in Minneapolis on June 2 at the site of Mr. Floyd’s death. A group of black faith leaders and clergy members also marched to the site.
New charges are filed in Mr. Floyd’s death.
Keith Ellison, Minnesota’s attorney general, announced new charges against the three Minneapolis police officers who failed to intervene when Mr. Floyd died.
The three officers — Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao — were charged with aiding and abetting the killing.
An upgraded charge of second-degree murder was added against Mr. Chauvin, the former officer who pressed his knee to Mr. Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. The count could carry a longer prison sentence than the third-degree murder charge he initially faced.
Buffalo officers are suspended after shoving a protester.
Two Buffalo police officers were suspended without pay after a video showed them shoving a 75-year-old protester, who was hospitalized with a head injury.
Recorded by the local radio station WBFO, the video showed the man, later identified as Martin Gugino, as he approached a group of officers during a protest about Mr. Floyd’s death.
An officer yelled “push him back” three times. One officer pushed his arm into Mr. Gugino’s chest. Another extended his baton toward him with both hands. Mr. Gugino then fell backward. The video showed him motionless on the ground and bleeding.
Two Buffalo police officers are charged with assault.
Two Buffalo police officers were charged with felony assault on June 6 after a video showed officers shoving a 75-year-old protester outside City Hall two days earlier.
The officers, identified as Aaron Torgalski, 39, and Robert McCabe, 32, pleaded not guilty and were released on their own recognizance. The video showed the police officers appearing to shove Mr. Gugino, who then staggered backward and landed hard on the sidewalk. Blood was seen immediately pooling behind his head. Months later, a grand jury voted not to indict them.
George Floyd: 10 things that have changed since his death
There have been protests around the world over the way police treat black people and highlighting racism and inequality in societies.
His family say they don’t want his death to be in vain.
Radio 1 Newsbeat has been looking at 10 things that have already changed since George Floyd died.
1. Global tributes and protests
People are protesting with one message – Black Lives Matter.
They have marched in the past when other black people have been killed by police, but this time it’s different.
There have been demonstrations in all 50 US states, including in places like Anna, a small village in Illinois – described locally as one of “the most racist places”.
Cities in 50 countries have also held demonstrations.
There’s a portrait of George Floyd on the side of a bombed-out building in Syria’s Idlib province.
2. Statues being taken down
In the UK and the US statues and monuments of people with links to slavery are being toppled by demonstrators.
In Bristol, the statue of a 17th Century slave trader Edward Colston was dumped in the harbour. It has since been fished out and will be put in a museum.
In the US statues of Christopher Columbus have been defaced or taken down.
Some argue removing statues is erasing history – others say they belong in museums rather than seeming to celebrate individuals.
3. Companies standing in solidarity with BLM
Lots of the world’s biggest brands have been quick to pledge their support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
But some companies like L’Oreal Paris have faced criticism.
When it posted support, the transgender model Munroe Bergdorf responded, saying the brand “threw me to the wolves”.
She was sacked by L’Oreal in 2017 for posting about “the racial violence of white people”.
I have spoken with @loreal, please swipe for full statement.
Thank you everyone for having my back with this matter over the past three years, it hasn’t been easy.
Looking forward to new beginnings and a new positive relationship with the L’Oreal team.
Munroe x pic.twitter.com/DxltLF8Z7j— Black Lives Matter ✊🏾 (@MunroeBergdorf) June 9, 2020
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter
At the time the company said her comments “are at odds” with their values but the new boss Delphine Viguier has apologised for the way the situation was handled.
4. Police officers charged
Derek Chauvin has been charged with murder and manslaughter over George Floyd’s death – three other former officers face charges of aiding and abetting murder.
Other high-profile cases where black men died in police custody haven’t led to officers being convicted.
According to the Attorney General in Minnesota – Keith Ellison, “it’s not going to be easy to get a conviction”, in the George Floyd case.
Only one officer in Minnesota has been convicted of killing a civilian while serving in the role.
5. Police departments are making changes
Minneapolis city council forced the police department to ban chokeholds and neck restraints.
Unannounced police raids, known as “no-knock warrants” have been scrapped in Louisville – where Breonna Taylor died.
She was at home in bed when police officers entered her apartment. She died after being shot eight times.
Defunding the police is another change protestors want – they argue too much cash is given to the police and it should be reduced.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would divert money from the city’s police department to social services.
6. Donating to charities and bailing out protestors
The George Floyd’s memorial fund smashed its $1.5m (£1.19m) goal and became the most donated GoFundMe page on the website.
Millions of donations were also made to other causes related to racism.
Take the Minnesota Freedom Fund, for example. a small project created to help low income people cover the cost of bail – which can cost thousands.
Jameela Jamil, Harry Styles and Chrissey Teigan were amongst the celebrities donating to bail out protestors.
7. “You’re a racist”
More people are speaking out about the everyday racism and discrimination they have faced.
Radio 1’s Clara Amfo was praised for speaking openly about the impact George Floyd’s death had on her and her mental health.
She said what happened had reinforced a feeling among black people “that people want our culture, but they do not want us”.
“In other words, you want my talent, but you don’t want me,” Clara added.
Leona Lewis posted on her Instagram talking about a past experience where the singer says she and her dad were racially targeted in a shop.
She says she was told she was told she was “not allowed” to touch stuff in the store.
When the woman in the shop tried to apologise, Leona confronted her. “I said, ‘you’re a racist’.”
8. Black out Tuesday
On Tuesday 2 June a series of black tiles were posted across social media as part of a protest called Blackout Tuesday.
Its intention was to ‘black out’ usual activity and take the time to learn about the Black Lives Matter movement.
It started off within the music industry with support from record labels and radio stations.
It was later criticised as the posts filled the BlackLivesMatter hashtag- hiding posts with important information and updates about the on-going protests.
9. Street names changed
Black Lives Matter Plaza is now the name of the street in Washington DC leading up the White House.
The mayor there changed the name because she wasn’t happy with the way President Trump reacted to the protests.
The Mayor of New York says a street in each borough will be renamed “Black Lives Matter.”
10. Programmes taken off streaming platforms
TV shows that contain “racially insensitive” or inappropriate characters are being removed from streaming services – although many argue we shouldn’t judge comedy from previous eras by today’s standards.
Little Britain and Come Fly with Me were pulled from iPlayer and Netflix because their use of Black face.
The Mighty Boosh and The League Of Gentlemen were also removed from Netflix.
Keith Lemon recently posted an apology for playing black characters in Bo ‘Selecta and showed his support for Black Lives Matter.
10 Questions About Empathy In America, A Year After George Floyd’s Death
“I can’t breathe.” “I’m scared.” For many people, hearing someone say those words would prompt a scramble to help. But not all. It depends on who’s listening.
A year ago Tuesday, the world watched as George Floyd’s life was taken from him in an agonizing 9 1/2-minute video — a murder a police officer was convicted of committing. This month, we saw long-suppressed footage of troopers stunning and punching Ronald Greene as he apologized for leading them on a high-speed chase. He too died.
Millions of us watched those videos. But we didn’t all see the same things, and part of the reason is empathy. On a basic level, how we hear the words of Floyd — and more recently, the words of Greene — depends on our level of empathy.
Testifying about the day Floyd died in Minneapolis, many witnesses wept, still feeling despair at not being able to help him.
“When I cried, the whole world cried,” witness Charles McMillian said recently, describing the powerful testimony he gave in court.
But not everyone had the same response. To get a sense of why — and to learn whether America’s relationship with empathy is changing — we spoke to two people who have spent decades studying empathy and bias: Elizabeth Segal, a professor at Arizona State University’s School of Social Work, and Jody David Armour, a criminal justice and law professor at the University of Southern California.
How do you define empathy?
Elizabeth Segal: Empathy is a lot more complicated than we would like to think.
I consider the word “empathy” a broad umbrella that includes “interpersonal empathy” and “social empathy.”
Generally, [interpersonal empathy is] the understanding of others from their perspective. In other words, it’s both sharing feelings and understanding what those feelings mean to others … one-on-one or in a very small group.
Social empathy fits more with what’s going on in terms of coming to grips with racism in America and the death of George Floyd. It’s trying to understand what experiences mean to other groups who are different from you and experiences you may never have. That’s social empathy — and it’s much harder.
Let’s get the big question out of the way: Do you see a lack of empathy as one reason racism continues to thrive in the U.S.?
Segal: It’s the lack of social empathy. You have a lot of people who don’t have any experience or insight into people of other races, and that fills a void that often can be filled with stereotypes and displaced anger: “I’m not getting ahead because of them.” It’s the other-ness of people. We have intrinsic tools for empathy, but we have to learn how to be empathic.
Jody David Armour: Absolutely, yes. But we have to carefully define terms, what we mean by racism, because a lot of my work recently and even early in my career was on unconscious bias. You know, something people now like to refer to as implicit bias.
I initially was looking at how at the descriptive level, people unconsciously make harsher judgments about Blacks. But more recently, I came across studies involving brain imaging, that essentially show you your brain — and then here’s your brain on race. It’s a phenomenon called “in-group empathy bias.”
The study was based on the phenomenon that occurs when a person sees someone of the same race drinking water — the observer will simulate what he or she sees, in their mind. They don’t pantomime it, but their brain’s mirror neurons allow them to simulate what they see.
Protesters stand outside the Government Center in Minneapolis in May 2020 to support CAIR-Minnesota in calling for the arrest of police in Floyd’s death.Elizabeth Flores/Minneapolis Star Tribune via Getty Images
They found a tendency for that to fail when it comes to race. So that if you’re someone, say, white and you’re looking at somebody Black who is drinking a cup of water, your mirror neurons are less likely to fire. So, the basic building blocks of empathy and sympathy aren’t there.
One thing we’ve seen is that more people of different backgrounds are now saying “Black Lives Matter,” the rallying call against violence targeting people of color. Do you also hear it as a call for empathy?
Armour: No question, absolutely. At the heart of the Black Lives Matter mantra is an [implicit] ellipsis that people have chosen willfully to misinterpret. And that ellipsis is: Black Lives Matter, also.
The most natural reading is “Black Lives Matter, too“: Why don’t Black lives get the same kind of consideration, the same kind of care and concern as non-Black lives? That was the real thrust.
You can be willfully obtuse about what [BLM] means and say, “Oh, you’re saying only Black lives matter? No, all lives matter.” There’s a whole group of Blue Lives Matter people — the same people who were criticizing Black Lives Matter. What it meant was, they got it all along.
Considering the past year, do you believe more Americans are now finding empathy within, especially for people of other ethnicities?
Segal: It seems to be the case. To be honest, I’m more optimistic with younger people. Empathy is actually a combination of different brain activities and changing brain behavior.
Family and friends react during a news conference last month following the verdict in Chauvin’s trial in Minneapolis. The former Minneapolis police officer was found guilty on all three charges he faced in Floyd’s May 2020 death.Nathan Howard/Getty Images
That’s what we struggle with — is to change images or ideas that are fixed in our brain from a young age. And that’s why I have great faith in young people, because more and more of them seem to be actively trying. They’re also living in a more diverse world, just through social media. I mean, they have more input than young people 50 years ago.
That exposure normalizes all these differences and helps to combat the stereotypes that then block empathy.
When people learn about a confrontation between someone and the police, the defining narrative has often been a police statement that’s very condensed, and only from the officer’s point of view. But video provides this other window and sort of brings a chance for empathy. It’s also where some people seem to diverge.
Segal: That nine minutes and 29-second video [of Floyd and the police], the power of that video … there’ll be different reactions. But watching that is a form of experiencing something. And it was a horrific thing to watch, that a dry police report wouldn’t give you.
That’s the part that takes training, too, is what do you see in there? Who are you identifying with? If George Floyd looks like your father, your brother, your best friend, yourself — you’re going to have a stronger reaction than if he looks different than you.
There’s lots of research that empathy is triggered more deeply, more quickly, that empathic neuro actions in the brain are triggered deeper for people who look like us versus people who don’t. That may be something deeply embedded in human beings from a survival perspective early, part of tribal living.
What about people who are in a position of power? Do you see people’s capacity for empathy being affected by how much power or authority they have?
Segal: Yes, power actually blocks it. This is a generalization, but power can block empathy. And there’s both good and bad reasons for that.
Starting with the good reasons: When somebody is in a leadership position, if they are picking up and processing everyone’s feelings and experiences — those who work for them or who are represented by them — they would be immobilized. So that’s the part where power and leadership says, “I can’t attend to every need, I have to look more globally.”
The bad part of it is that people in power don’t tune in to people’s needs and experiences. And the more powerful you become, the more closed off you are to people’s lived, day-to-day experiences.
The other thing about power, which is very interesting from an empathy perspective: When you are less powerful, you have to read the people who are in power and the people who are around you, your peers. So you’re bicultural, essentially.
I mean, you talk to any racial minority, sexual minority, any minority, they speak multiple languages — I mean “languages,” as in culturally. We hear about it a lot, that African American parents have to have “the talk” with their sons about what happens if you get pulled over by police. That’s a survival mechanism they have to learn. That’s being multicultural.
I understand why there’s the call for bringing in social workers or people who behave differently with members of the community than the police, who are in charge of law and order. What I think’s happening underneath is that they’re saying, “You have to see us as human beings.”
You have to see people as a person with mental illness, or a person who’s just been evicted and doesn’t have any resources — as opposed to a law-and-order-only perspective: “You’ve been evicted, you’re breaking the law; you’re screaming on the street, you’re disturbing the peace.”
Can our laws do more to encourage or even require empathy? Should they do that?
Armour: This is one of the things that the grassroots activists brilliantly drove home to us over the course of last summer. They say it’s transformation, not reform, that we need transformative change.
Reform would be approaches that try to train police to be more empathetic, like implicit bias training. It tries to integrate them more into communities so they are, you know, in some ways on a more intimate basis with a lot of the people they’re policing.
But the folks say those aren’t the reforms that are going to get us free. Those aren’t the reforms that are going to make the real difference, as long as you have a way of approaching safety that requires using the police to surveil communities and engage in stop and frisk — or stop and frisk on wheels.
Have you seen America change in the past year?
Segal: I tend to be an optimist in general, but I’ve seen great progress. I mean, it’s sometimes two steps forward, one step back.
We have horrible unempathetic, horribly unsocially empathic behaviors in this country — slavery jumps out, of course. So we’re not at all perfect. But we have undone some horrific laws in this country or ways of behaving, and we’re moving in that path. So I’m cautiously optimistic. But it takes work. It’s not something you can rest on at all. Every generation keeps pushing it forward.
Armour: Heck yes, and it’s been very interesting. In some ways I see reason for pessimism, but in other ways I see reason for great, great optimism and celebration, frankly.
How can we all get better at showing empathy?
Segal: There’s the golden rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And I actually am not a believer of that — I think it’s because I’ve had some really bad neighbors.
But the silver rule is: “Do not do unto others that which you do not want done to you.” Meaning, “I don’t have to love you. I don’t have to like you, but I want to be treated well. So I’m going to treat you well.”
The George Floyd video is so powerful. We need to ask, “What if that were your father? What if that was you? What if that were you who was facedown on the ground with your hands cuffed?”
That’s where empathy can be powerful. I don’t want to be killed lying on the street suffocating. Would you?
Considering the past year, do you believe more Americans are now finding empathy within, especially for people of other ethnicities?
Armour: Yes, yes, yes. I would have been more pessimistic before this past summer. I saw an outpouring of empathy and sympathy for the excruciating death of George Floyd. And I think one of the things we saw is that building empathy can itself be a political process, humanizing people who are “otherized.”
We know that Black folk historically have been, and are still, otherized in America. And if you otherize an individual, it’s harder to have empathy and sympathy for them.
That’s part of what the otherization does: It robs them of claims to your sympathy and empathy. When you humanize them, when you recognize their humanity, you’re able to establish a real firm basis for empathy and sympathy.
And that’s what has been going on with, you know, Black Lives Matter for a long time — the effort to humanize the victims of police brutality. A lot of times, the victims of police brutality were otherized as somehow criminals who deserved what they got.
They all deserve our empathy and sympathy, care and concern. You shouldn’t forfeit your humanity even if you have done something wrong in some way, or your right to be treated with human dignity.
Organized riots the next step in Democrat’s coup against America
WASHINGTON: The organized chaos destroying American cities is the next step in the resistance, the coup, against President Donald Trump. Following almost three months of draconian lockdown orders all across America, due to a Chinese flu pandemic, our nation is now rocked with rioting across the land.
Is this a nasty coincidence, or is it part of an organized globalist plot to transform America?
Some might say that the series of events is capricious, but let’s examine them more closely.
It doesn’t start with the China flu, it begins with the findings of the Mueller special prosecutor investigation. The exposure of the Democrat’s coup against President Trump. As we all know, Mueller found that President Trump and his associates were not colluding with Russia to steal the 2016 election. That coup failed.
Dumbfounded Democrats quickly hatched and executed a plot to impeach President Trump through a concocted scheme involving Ukraine and diplomacy. This is like all the plots against President Trump are. Where we see Democrats going on the offensive to overthrow an elected president.
And then everything changes. Attorney General William Barr’s investigation into the coup attempt against President Trump starts to unravel the plots as well as the plotters. Relief comes to Democrats in the way of the China flu pandemic.
Locked-down Americans stop paying attention to politics and the unraveling plot.
The deep state and Democrat socialist have short reprieve to hash out another plot.
As they flounder around, the light on the coup plotters is again shown, this time through the declassification of documents by acting DNI chief Richard Grenell. The documents shame Democrats and send shivers of fear pulsing through coup plotters, all the way up to Obama.
Simultaneously, the China flu pandemic is coming to an end, in spite of the best efforts of some stalwart Democrat governors.
Everyone knows that the tide is turning against Democrats.
And then, a black man dies while being arrested by white police in Minneapolis. This is not the first death of a black person at the hands of white police. In close succession there was the man in Georgia shot by local white residents as he tried to steal from construction sites, followed by a female EMT in Louisville, Kentucky, during a predawn search warrant.
In both cases, the left did everything they could to stir up trouble, but it didn’t happen. Then, after the China flu break, where Democrats were plotting at their worst, another black man dies while being arrested by white police. Only now, their nefarious plans are in place.
Spontaneous riots occur.
But wait, are those riots spontaneous?
Exactly how do spontaneous riots occur across the country, from Oakland, California, to New York City, from Atlanta, Georgia, to Portland, Oregon, and places in between? Places like Louisville, Kentucky, where one resident there reported that shots could be heard in her neighborhood a few miles south of the downtown area.
This resident reported that local citizens marched peacefully to protest the slaying of the female EMT, Breonna Taylor, during a predawn no-knock warrant of her residence by police. According to the witness, there wasn’t even a trash can turned over during this march.
After they left a hoard of others arrived and began causing mayhem.
From the French Revolution to Antifa in America : A thug is a thug is a thug
This new batch were not locals. They were dressed in masks and hoods much like the uniform worn by Antifa thugs. This report correlates with reports from other cities, like Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota.
Minnesota Gov. Walz estimates that about 80% of those being destructive are from outside the state, while St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter stated,
“Every single person we arrested last night, I’m told, was from out of state.”
NBC News tweeted: Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington says they’ve begun contact tracing arrestees.
“Who are they associated with? What platforms are they advocating for? … Is this organized crime? … We are in the process right now of building that information network.”
Harrington hit the nail on the head because it is organized crime.
Allow me to speculate, this is more mischief from George Soros through his America networks. It is fully funded by him and his Democrat globalist partners. It is reminiscent of the birth of Black Lives Matter, Antifa and the earlier occupy movement.
George Soros: The dangers of power and greed revealed
All have caused chaos, mayhem, and murder. All of their funding can be traced directly back to Soros. What is happening right now in cities across the country have nothing to do with a black man’s death, and everything to do with replacing President Trump in November.
This is the deep state striking back, more violently, viciously, and malevolently than seen in many years. This is their next step to gain power at any cost. If it fails, as it surely will, watch out for what follows.
Who’s Funding America’s Race Riots?
Radical activists are organized in two distinct movements: one in government and the other in the streets.
During the 15 weeks since George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, more than 4,700 protests have been organized in 2,500 cities and towns across the United States. Pew Research Center estimates that 15 million adults participated in these demonstrations, making them part of the largest protest movement in U.S. history. Many of these demonstrations escalated into large-scale riots costing hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage. Insurance experts estimate the costs of the damage in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area could exceed $500 million, making the Twin Cities protest the second-costliest civil disturbance in U.S. history, after the 1992 Los Angeles uprising.
At least 19 people have been killed in George Floyd protests, and over 1,400 have been arrested.
A protest movement on this mass scale does not just happen. Demonstrators have to be told where the protests are being held, what time they need to show up, and where they can pick up their placards. A large protest involving more than 100,000 can cost a planner over $1 million to host and organize. So, who is paying for the George Floyd protests?
President Donald Trump confirmed in an extensive on-camera interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham on August 31 that “some very stupid rich people” were financing riots in America. Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told Fox News’s Tucker Carlson that an official investigation is underway into the funding of rioting nationwide. Wolf was specifically referring to allegations that organizations and individuals were paying for professional rioters to move from protest to protest across the country. We do not yet know for sure who is paying these professional rioters, but we do know who is paying for some of the demonstrations where these professional rioters go to stir up trouble.
The nonprofit organization Black Visions Collective received $19 million in online donations this summer, while its partner organization Reclaim the Block collected $11 million. These two groups have been fighting to abolish the Minneapolis Police Department for years, and have been involved in organizing protests in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area. Oluchi Omeoga, a founder of Black Visions Collective, even declared looting a form of reparations, saying looters were “taking from corporations and giving it back to people who actually need the resources.”
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has done fundraising work for Black Visions Collective with fellow congresswomen Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley. Amid the Twin Cities protest, Ocasio-Cortez went on Twitter to announce that “The Squad” was raising $50,000 for Black Visions Collective and Reclaim the Block. Even Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris has promoted the Minneapolis Freedom Fund, which redirected donations to the Black Visions Collective and bailed out prisoners charged with violent felonies from Twin Cities’ jails.
Even if you cannot prove that groups like Black Visions Collective are deliberately stirring up riots, why would a politician fundraise for an organization that declares looting a justifiable form of reparations?
Bestselling authors David Horowitz and Richard Poe answer a similar question in The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Sixties Radicals Seized Control of the Democratic Party, writing:
In a 1957 tract, Czech Communist Party theoretician Jan Kozak explained how a small number of Communists managed to gain power in Czechoslovakia through parliamentary maneuvers. The trick was to exert pressure for radical change from two directions simultaneously—from the upper levels of government and from provocateurs in the streets. Kozak called this tactic “pressure from above and below.” One way to exert “pressure from below,” as Kozak explained, was to fill the streets with rioters, strikers and protesters, thus creating the illusion of a widespread clamor for change from the grassroots. Radicals in the government would then exert “pressure from above,” enacting new laws on the pretext of appeasing the protesters in the street—even though the protesters (or at least their leaders) were themselves part of the plot. The majority of the people would have no idea what was going on. Squeezed from “above” and “below,” most would sink into apathy and despair, believing they were hopelessly outnumbered by the radicals— even though they were not. Thus could a radical minority impose its will on a moderate majority, even under a democratic parliamentary system.
Many politicians in America today want to overthrow America’s constitutional system of government and replace it with a socialist system. Yet the silent majority of American citizens do not want to tear down the system. To convince the silent majority that the nation needs to be fundamentally transformed, the radicals need to create “the illusion of a widespread clamor for change from the grassroots.” This is why politicians like Barack Obama, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are encouraging 15 million people to protest the murder of George Floyd, even though Floyd’s killer was fired, arrested and charged with murder almost immediately after Floyd’s death.
They are creating a problem for the government to step in and fix.
Four years ago, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote “The Real Agenda Behind Black Lives Matter.” In that article he predicted that this radical organization would act as provocateurs for the Obama administration, helping the radical left tear down America’s system of government so that Democratic politicians could fill the void with a new socialist system. The more than 4,700 protests that spread across America this past summer show that his analysis was right.
The Bible prophesies this about America and Britain in the end time: “Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers” (Isaiah 1:7).
The racially charged rhetoric being hurled by politicians is stirring up hatred and anger, while the money activists are funneling to groups like Black Visions Collective is creating ideal conditions for violence. This is part of a deliberate strategy to undermine America’s constitutional system of government. There is also an evil spiritual force at play that is going to amplify the violence to levels that even the most unscrupulous activists could not imagine. If you have not proved this truth, you desperately need to do so. We will send you a free copy of Gerald Flurry’s booklet America Under Attack. It explains the hidden, spiritual dimension behind the radical left’s strategy to fundamentally transform America!
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