Officer Filmed with Knee on George Floyd's Neck Is Arrested, Charged with Murder
The fired Minneapolis police officer seen on video with his knee on the neck of an unarmed black man who later died has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced at a Friday press conference.
The cases of three other police officers present at the time of George Floyd's May 25 death are still under investigation, Freeman said. But he added, "I anticipate charges" against the three officers.
Freeman said Chauvin's case represents the fastest time-span "by far" in which a murder charge has been brought against a Minneapolis police officer, saying such charges usually take nine months or more.
"We have to charge these cases very carefully because we have a difficult burden of proof," Freeman said.
The third-degree murder charge carries a maximum of 25 years in prison, according to Minnesota's criminal code. Freeman said the third-degree murder charge against Chauvin is the same as the one brought against Mohammed Noor, the police officer who killed unarmed woman Justine Damond in 2017 while responding to her 911 call. Noor was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison in 2019.
Freeman said more charges against Chauvin are possible, and that a criminal complaint against him will be finalized later on Friday.
When asked if public pressure, including protests in Minneapolis and beyond that have turned violent, had anything to do with the charges, Freeman said, "I am not insensitive to what's happened in the streets...[but] my job is to do it only when we have sufficient evidence."
CBS Minnesota reports that Chauvin, who was fired Tuesday along with the three other officers present, had been with Minneapolis police for 19 years.
The encounter between Chauvin and Floyd, 46, was caught on camera, with viral footage sparking widespread outrage on social media. In the video, Chauvin is seen placing his knee firmly on the back of Floyd's neck as he lies face down on his stomach, next to a patrol car.
Floyd can be heard in the video groaning in pain while bystanders plead with Chauvin to be more gentle. Throughout the nine-minute clip, he repeatedly asks for help. He tells the officers that he cannot breathe and says that "everything hurts." The video continued until Floyd was visibly still.
In the initial media statement after Floyd's death, the Minneapolis Police Department alleged that he was "under the influence," and that police were responding to a report of forgery.
Police also alleged that Floyd resisted arrest. But many lawmakers in Minnesota and others have questioned the police account, pointing out that no video evidence shows Floyd resisting.
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After Chauvin was taken into custody, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar wrote on Twitter the arrest was "the first step towards justice."
Protests over police brutality against people of color have followed Floyd's death, and have sometimes turned violent.
On Thursday, rioters set fires inside and around the Minneapolis Police Department's 3rd Precinct building, WCCO reported.
Protests also took place in neighboring St. Paul, where police said more than 170 businesses have been "damaged or looted," and about a dozen fires have been set. The New York Times reports lawmakers and employees were evacuated from the State Capitol as a precaution.
Protests have also spread across the country to cities like Denver, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.
Floyd's girlfriend and family have pleaded for peace during the protests.
The girlfriend, Courteney Ross, told the Star-Tribune of Minnesota, “Waking up this morning to see Minneapolis on fire would be something that would devastate Floyd… He loved the city. He came here [from Houston] and stayed here for the people and the opportunities. … Floyd was a gentle giant. He was about love and about peace.”
PEOPLE was not immediately able to reach Chauvin, and it was not immediately clear if he has retained an attorney who could comment on the charges.