Outrage against police brutality has spread across the country in the week following George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. On Friday, Derek Chauvin, the fired officer seen with his knee on Floyd’s neck, was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
Now, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, the other three former officers seen in the video, have been charged with aiding and abetting murder, according to the Star Tribune. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced the charges on Wednesday afternoon. Additionally, the charges against Chauvin were upgraded to second-degree murder. Sen. Amy Klobuchar initially announced the development on Twitter.
In the video of Floyd’s death, Thao is seen looking on as Chauvin has his knee on Floyd’s neck and Floyd pleads “I can’t breathe.” Kueng and Lane are seen helping Chauvin hold Floyd down by holding their knees on his back. All four officers were fired a day after the alleged murder occurred. An independent autopsy ordered by Floyd’s family labeled Floyd’s death a homicide as a result of him being asphyxiated from the knees placed on his neck and back.
This move comes only three days after Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz appointed Ellison as lead prosecutor on the case. Benjamin Crump, the attorney representing Floyd’s family, tweeted out the family’s response to the arrests.
Updated: 6/3/20, 5:18 p.m. ET: At a press conference on Wednesday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison explained the amended complaint that upgraded the charge against Derek Chauvin to second-degree felony murder, believing the evidence warranted the stronger charge.
“According to Minnesota law you have to have premeditation and deliberation to charge first-degree murder. Second-degree murder, you have to intend for death to be the result. For second-degree felony murder, you have to intended the felony and death be the result without necessarily having it being the intent. We would contend that George Floyd was assaulted and so that would be the underlying felony,” Ellison said in response to a question about the upgraded charges.
As to when the other three former officers would be taken into custody, Drew Evans, the superintendent of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, said, “We are in the process of taking the officers into custody. We can report that one is in custody now and the other two, we are in the process of taking into custody and expect them to be this afternoon.”
Ellison also stressed that the week of protest and unrest across the country played no role in his decision to charge the officers.
“I can say that I did not allow public pressure to impact our decision making process. I was prepared to withstand whatever calls came. We made these decisions based on the facts we have gathered since this matter occurred and made the charges based on the law we think applies.”
The story has been updated to reflect that the charges were announced.