Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison made several announcements today in the prosecution of the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis.
First, Attorney General Ellison announced that he has filed a charge of second-degree murder against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. The new second-degree murder charge joins the previously-filed charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Second, Attorney General Ellison announced that he and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman have filed charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter against former Minneapolis officers J.A. Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao. Arrest warrants have been issued for Kueng, Lane, and Thao.
All the complaints charge that the four officers caused Mr. Floyd’s death while using unlawful and excessive force in arresting Mr. Floyd.
The complaints allege that on the evening of May 25, the officers arrested Mr. Floyd at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis. In detaining Mr. Floyd, Derek Chauvin used an unauthorized restraint technique in which he pressed his knee into Mr. Floyd’s neck to restrict Mr. Floyd’s movement while Mr. Floyd was handcuffed and laying on the pavement. Thomas Lane and J.A. Kueng held Mr. Floyd by the legs and hips to further restrict movement. Tou Thao stood guard to prevent members of the public, who gathered nearby to witness the police action, from intervening to aid Mr. Floyd. While the officers restrained him nearly motionless on the ground, Mr. Floyd repeatedly told the officer he could not breathe and also said that he was about to die.
The complaints allege that Derek Chauvin, who last week was charged with third degree murder but now faces an additional charge of second degree murder, assaulted Mr. Floyd by using unauthorized and unnecessary force to intentionally inflict bodily harm upon Mr. Floyd. The actions of Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J.A. Kueng aided Chauvin’s assault by allowing him to continue to inflict bodily harm on Mr. Floyd for several minutes, well after any need by the officers to use physical force had dissipated. Because the actions of the officers resulted in Mr. Floyd’s death, second-degree murder is an appropriate charge.
Derek Chauvin was arrested on May 28 and remains in custody. J.A. Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao were arrested today and also remain in custody.
The case is under continuing investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. The officers will be prosecuted by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office and the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, with Attorney General Ellison as the lead prosecutor. Copies of the complaints for Chauvin, Kueng, Lane, and Thao are available on Attorney General Keith Ellison’s website.
Attorney General Ellison’s remarks as prepared for delivery at today’s press conference announcing the charges are below.
I want to begin with a reminder of why we’re here today.
We’re here today because George Floyd is not here. He should be here. He should be alive. But he is not.
About nine days ago, the world watched Floyd utter his last words, “I can’t breathe,” as he pleaded for his life. The world heard Floyd call out for his mama and cry out, “Don’t kill me.”
Just two days ago, when I became the lead prosecutor in the murder of Mr. Floyd, I asked for time to thoroughly review all the evidence in this case that’s available so far, even while the investigation is ongoing.
I also said that that I know it’s a lot to ask people and communities who have suffered decades and centuries of injustice to be patient and to wait longer for justice.
I thank you for the patience you’ve show me in the pursuit of justice so far.
I am here today to make some announcements in the prosecution of the murder of George Floyd.
First, today, I filed an amended complaint that charges former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin with murder in the second degree for the death of George Floyd. I believe the evidence available to us now supports the stronger charge of second-degree murder.
Second, today, arrest warrants were issued for former Minneapolis police officers J.A. Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao.
Finally, today, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman joined me in filing a complaint that charges former police officers Kueng, Lane, and Thao with aiding and abetting murder in the second degree, a felony offense.
I strongly believe that these developments are in the interests of justice for Mr. Floyd, his family, our community, and our state.
I’m the lead prosecutor on the State’s case and I will be speaking for it — and this is absolutely a team effort. I’ve assembled a strong team. We have one goal and one goal only: justice for George Floyd.
I want to thank Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, who has been a true partner. His experience and insight has been invaluable. I also want to thank County Attorney Freeman’s professional staff, who have cooperated with us from the minute that I took the lead on this case.
I also want to thank Superintendent Drew Evans of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and his professional staff for the care and speed with which they are conducting the investigation.
I especially thank U.S. Attorney Erica McDonald and Special Agent in Charge Rainer Drolshagen, who are conducting a parallel federal “color of law” investigation. I have heard directly from the leadership of the Justice Department that there is full support for her leadership. As she put it so well: “one team, one goal, one mission.” I agree 100 percent.
And as I said earlier, I thank Mr. Floyd’s family and the community for their patience in allowing us time and space in these last two days to lay these charges.
As hard as it to do, I now ask for more patience.
This case continues to be under investigation. We will also not be able to say very much publicly about the investigation, except that we encourage anyone who believes that have any evidence in the case at all to come forward and cooperative with the investigation.
As we develop the case for the prosecution, we will also not be able to say very much publicly about it.
So I ask for your patience while we limit our public statements in the pursuit of justice. I also ask for your trust that we are pursuing justice by every legal and ethical means available to us.
I also want to add some caution.
The investigation is ongoing. We are following the path of all evidence, wherever it leads. We are investigating as quickly as we can, because speed is important. We are also investigating as thoroughly as we can, because thoroughness is also important — and thoroughness takes time.
The reason thoroughness is important is because every link in the prosecutorial chain needs to be strong. It needs to be strong because trying this case will be hard. Winning a conviction will be hard. I say that not because I doubt our resources or abilities or resolve, but because history shows that trying and winning a case like this one is hard.
To the Floyd family, to our beloved community, and everyone that is watching, I say: George Floyd mattered. He was loved. His life was important. His life had value. We will seek justice for him and for you and we will find it.
The very fact that we have filed these charges means that we believe in them. But what I do not believe is that one successful prosecution can rectify the hurt and loss that so many people feel. The solution to that pain will be in the slow and difficult work of constructing justice and fairness in our society.
That work is the work of all of us. We don’t need to wait for the resolution of the investigation and prosecution of the George Floyd case. We need citizens, neighbors, leaders in government and faith communities, civil- and human- rights activists to begin rewriting the rules for a just society. We need new policy and legislation and ways of thinking at municipal, state, and federal levels. The world of arts and entertainment can use their cultural influence to help inspire the change we need. There is a role for all who dream of a justice we haven’t had yet.
In the final analysis, a protest can shake the tree and make the fruit fall down. But after that fruit is in reach, collecting it and making the jam must follow. The demonstration is dramatic and necessary. But building just institutions is slower and more of a grind, and just as important. We need your energy there too. We need it now.
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