ST. PAUL, Minn. (CN) — The former Minneapolis police officer seen on video kneeling on George Floyd’s neck was arrested Friday on murder and manslaughter charges, three days after Floyd’s death sparked nationwide protests and riots.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Derek Chauvin, who was arrested Friday afternoon by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
“This is by far the fastest that we’ve ever charged a police officer. Normally these charges take nine months to a year,” Freeman said.
He emphasized the difficulty of prosecuting police officers, noting that his office is one of the very few to successfully prosecute a police officer for murder in the last five years. Former Minneapolis police officer Mohammed Noor, a black man, was convicted on murder and manslaughter charges last year for the 2017 shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a white woman.
“That’s unusual. We know how to do this,” Freeman said, crediting the assistance of the BCA, FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in a statement Friday that while Freeman’s office is tackling charges under state law, the Justice Department is conducting its own investigation on whether federal civil rights laws were broken.
“The video images of the incident that ended with death of Mr. Floyd, while in custody of Minneapolis police officers, were harrowing to watch and deeply disturbing,” Barr said. “Both state and federal officers are working diligently and collaboratively to ensure that any available evidence relevant to these decisions is obtained as quickly as possible.”
Chauvin, a now-fired Minneapolis police officer, has been at the center of massive unrest across Minneapolis and the neighboring state capital of St. Paul since bystanders filmed Floyd’s arrest on Monday evening.
In widely circulated videos, Chauvin, white man, is shown kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as Floyd, an African American, cries “I can’t breathe” and asks for his mother before apparently falling unconscious.
The criminal complaint against Chauvin made public shortly after Freeman’s press conference details Floyd’s arrest from start to finish.
Floyd was first approached by MPD officers Thomas Lane and J. A. Kueng on Monday evening after a store owner reported that he had purchased merchandise with a counterfeit $20 bill. Lane pulled his gun and pointed it at Floyd through the open driver’s side window of a car, putting it down when Floyd showed his hands, the complaint states.
He then pulled Floyd from the car, and Floyd first resisted being handcuffed but then became compliant, according to the complaint. When Kueng and Lane tried to walk Floyd to their squad car, he dropped to the ground and told them he was claustrophobic.
Chauvin and officer Tou Thoa then arrived, and they unsuccessfully attempted to get Floyd into the car’s back seat.
Chauvin then pulled Floyd from the car and placed his knee on Floyd’s head and neck, the complaint states. After Kueng checked Floyd for a pulse and couldn’t find one, Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost two more minutes. Floyd was pronounced dead at Hennepin County Medical Center after being transported there by ambulance.
“Police are trained that this type of restraint with a subject in a prone condition is inherently dangerous,” the complaint read.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frei announced Tuesday morning that Chauvin, Thao, Lane and Kueng had been fired.
Freeman did not announce any charges against the other officers, saying that his office had opted to “focus on the most dangerous perpetrator.”
The firings didn’t stop Minneapolis from erupting into protests Tuesday. While the first night remained largely peaceful, fires erupted across the city Wednesday night as protesters and looters traveled along south Minneapolis’ Lake Street corridor, eventually spilling into St. Paul Thursday morning.
The Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct, where Chauvin was stationed, was the epicenter of protests until it was evacuated and burned down Thursday night as the protests intensified.
Chauvin’s home in Oakdale, 16 miles from the 3rd Precinct, was also a center of protests, as was Freeman’s in south Minneapolis.
Asked about the riots, Freeman said he’d worked to do his job thoroughly in an intense environment.
“I am not insensitive to what’s happened in the streets. My own home has been picketed regularly. My job is to do it only when we have sufficient evidence,” he said of the charges.
Demonstrators have also clashed with police in New York City, Los Angeles, Denver, Memphis and Louisville, Kentucky.