The police release was entitled "Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction," and contains details contradicted by the video of the incident

By Steve Helling
April 21, 2021 04:05 PM
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George Floyd and Derek Chauvin
George Floyd, at left, and Derek Chauvin
| Credit: Splash

Before the video of George Floyd's murder went viral, the Minneapolis police posted a press release on their website with a very different story of what happened between Floyd and officer Derek Chauvin.

The news release was entitled, "Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction," and the narrative said that Floyd — who was not named — "physically resisted officers" and was "under the influence."

"Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress," the release said, adding that officers called for an ambulance to take Floyd to the hospital.

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"At no time were weapons of any type used by anyone involved in this incident," the release said.

That narrative might have stuck if a bystander video, taken by then 17-year-old Darnella Frazier, had not emerged. The video — which shows the last moments of Floyd's life — contradicts several key claims from the police release.

In the video, Chauvin pinned Floyd to the ground with his knee, applying the force of his bodyweight to Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes as Floyd repeatedly pleaded for help. Floyd ultimately went limp, while Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd's neck.

Even after Floyd lost consciousness, Chauvin's knee remained pressed against his neck. In the video, bystanders began to confront Chauvin, who responded by threatening them with mace.

Frazier's video went viral after the May 25, 2020 murder, fueling the worldwide response that sent millions into the streets to protest police brutality and racial injustice.

Frazier testified as a witness for the prosecution during Chauvin's trial, describing the trauma that has since followed her. She said it has caused her at times to lie awake at night "apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life."

"I heard George Floyd say, 'I can't breathe, please get off of me. I can't breathe,' " Frazier testified. "He cried for his mom. He was in pain, and it was like he knew it was over for him."

Chauvin was convicted of three charges: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He has been remanded to custody and will be sentenced in approximately eight weeks.

Second-degree murder carries a sentence of up to 40 years in prison; third-degree murder has a penalty up to 25, and manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

Listen below to the episode of our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day for more on Derek Chauvin's conviction.

According to the New York Times, the recommended sentence for a first-time offender found guilty of second- or third-degree murder is 12 1/2 years in Minnesota. The recommended sentence for manslaughter is 4 years.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.