Terrence Floyd (C) attends a vigil where his brother George Floyd was killed by police one week ago on June 1, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Stephen Maturen | Getty Images
Lawyers for George Floyd’s family on Monday called for a first-degree murder charge to be filed against ex-Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin, who already faces lesser murder and manslaughter charges, after an independent autopsy commissioned by the family found that Floyd died as the result of asphyxiation from sustained pressure on his neck and back.
Floyd’s family cited those findings as they called for criminal charges to be lodged against the three police officers who were with Chauvin as he knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.
Hours later, the Hennepin County, Minnesota, Medical Examiner’s Office released updated findings of its official autopsy, which ruled that Floyd was the victim of a homicide, with the cause of death being cardiopulmonary arrest complicated by police restraining him and compressing his neck.
The ME’s autopsy noted “other significant conditions” in Floyd, which included “arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease; fentanyl intoxication; recent methamphetamine use.”
Booking photo of former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin
Photo provided by Ramsey County Jail
Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter last week after the preliminary findings of the official autopsy suggested that Floyd’s underlying heart conditions, combined with the police restraint and “potential intoxicants in his system,” likely contributed to his death.
Those earlier findings by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner did not support a diagnosis of strangulation as the independent autopsy by Floyd’s family did.
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But Dr. Michael Baden, one of the pathologists who performed the independent autopsy, at a news conference Monday said, “Mr. Floyd had no underlying medical problems that caused or contributed to his death.”
Baden’s autopsy found that Floyd’s death was a “homicide caused by asphyxia due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain,” according to a statement issued by the family’s lead attorney, Ben Crump.
“Sustained pressure on the right side of Mr. Floyd’s carotid artery impeded blood flow to the brain, and weight on his back impeded his ability to breathe,” the statement said.
“The independent examiners found that weight on the back, handcuffs and positioning were contributory factors because they impaired the ability of Mr. Floyd’s diaphragm to function.”
Baden addressed the fact that Floyd repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe” as Chauvin knelt on his neck.
“Police have this false impression that if you can talk, you can breathe. That’s not true,” said Baden, a former New York City medical examiner, who conducted the second autopsy with Dr. Allecia Wilson of the University of Michigan.
Crump said, “For Chauvin to leave his knee on George’s neck despite warnings and evidence that his life was in danger — and to continue that course for many minutes — demands a first-degree murder charge.”
“For George Floyd, the ambulance was his hearse,” Crump said.
Antonio Romanucci, another lawyer for the Floyd family, said he would leave it up to state prosecutors to decide what charges should be lodged against Chauvin’s three fellow officers, but said that charges of some kind are warranted, given the autopsy’s findings.
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“They knew that they were applying restraints that could or would cause death,” said Romanucci about the other officers.
“They are criminally liable because they knew what they were doing could lead to death.”
“Not only was the knee on George’s neck a cause of his death, but so was the weight of the other two police officers on his back, who not only prevented blood flow into his brain but also air flow into his lungs.”
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo on Sunday night said that all four officers are “complicit” in Floyd’s death.
The incident, which is the latest in a series of deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police, has ignited protests nationwide.
Crump and Floyd’s family said people should continue to protest, but urged them to not engage in violence or looting.
Chauvin and three other officers — all of whom have since been fired — detained and arrested Floyd on suspicion that he had used a counterfeit bill to make a purchase.
A criminal complaint, released Friday accuses Chauvin of keeping his knee pressed down on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, including for nearly three minutes after Floyd was unresponsive.