Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison will lead the prosecution of Derek Chauvin, a now fired Minneapolis police officer videotaped kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for over 8 minutes, allegedly causing his death on May 25. The event has sparked nationwide and international protests over police brutality and racism in the U.S.
Ellison, Minnesota’s first African American attorney general and the first Muslim American to hold statewide office, had been appointed on Sunday.
“We are reviewing the evidence, and we are reviewing the law, and we are going to charge this case in a manner consistent with the highest level of accountability that the facts and the law will support,” Ellison said to MSNBC.
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, the white officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 45 seconds, has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, according to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.
Known as the knee restraint, it has been used an “unusually high” 44 times since 2015 by the Minneapolis Police Department. Many police nationwide have condemned the restraint because it prevents breathing, according to retired police officer Jack Ryan.
The three other officers involved — Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng — have not yet been charged.
The video shows Floyd saying “I can’t breathe” multiple times, as well as pleading for his mother. During the incident, one of the officers suggested rolling Floyd onto his side, but Chauvin allegedly replied, “No, staying put where we got him.”
Floyd had been handcuffed for allegedly using a counterfeit bill at a store, refusing to get into the squad car, according to the complaint.
The complaint added that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death by “his culpable negligence.” Floyd had coronary artery and hypertensive heart disease, which, along with “being restrained by police,” allegedly aggravated his death, according to charging documents quoting the County Medical Examiner’s Office autopsy.
The county autopsy stated Floyd did not die of asphyxiation, but a new independent version of the autopsy, ordered by Floyd’s family, challenged that, according to The Star Tribune.
Gov. Tim Walz announced Ellison’s appointment after the Hennepin County prosecutor asked Ellison to “assist” in the investigation in a letter, saying the constituents have “lost faith” in Freeman’s ability to impartially investigate the prosecutions, according to NBC News.
Ellison has been elected to the Minnesota House of Representations twice. He is also a “noted community activist,” and a member of the Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL).
He acknowledged that it is “hard to convict the police” in such a case and said he would not rush the prosecution, urging “space.”
“This is justice. We’re going on justice, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Ellison said.
“I know that people are frustrated by the pacing, but I want to assure them that as a person who has dedicated my whole life to civil rights and justice, I am going to pursue justice vigorously, relentlessly, uncompromisingly.”
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