George Floyd Estate Files Civil Rights Case Against Minneapolis, Ex-Cops

From left to right: Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. (Hennepin County Sheriff via AP)

MINNEAPOLIS (CN) — George Floyd’s family sued Minneapolis and the four former police officers charged in his death Wednesday, claiming they violated Floyd’s constitutional rights during his arrest and the city knowingly harbored a police culture rife with racism and excessive force.

The 40-page complaint filed in U.S. District Court of Minnesota was announced Wednesday during a news conference held by prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Floyd’s family in their pursuit of unspecified financial damages from the four men and their former employer.

The legal team for Floyd’s family also includes Jeffrey Storms with the Minneapolis-based firm Newmark Storms Dworak and Antonio Romanucci with the Romanucci Blandin firm out of Chicago, in addition to the backing of at least three other law firms from the Twin Cities to Atlanta.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump wears a face mask with the words “Where’s the love?” on Wednesday after announcing the filing of a civil lawsuit against Minneapolis and the officers involved in the death of George Floyd. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Wednesday’s suit alleges that the four ex-officers – Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng – violated Floyd’s Fourth and 14th Amendment rights on May 25 when Floyd, a Black man, was arrested, handcuffed and restrained in a prone position outside a south Minneapolis supermarket before Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, ignoring his pleas for breath before he died.

Minneapolis police had been called to the Cup Foods on Chicago Avenue that Memorial Day on suspicion that Floyd had tried to use a phony $20 bill in the store. Body camera footage of the arrest was made semi-public on Wednesday.

Crump stood before a crowd of reporters in Minneapolis on Wednesday outlining Floyd’s family’s federal wrongful death civil rights suit that he said “documents what we have said all along, and that is that it was not just the knee of officer Derek Chauvin on George Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, but it was the knee of the entire Minneapolis Police Department on the neck of George Floyd that killed him.”

“The city of Minneapolis has a history of policies and procedures and deliberate indifference when it comes to the treatment of arrestees, especially Black men, that cries out for training and discipline,” the attorney said.

Crump went on to call the lawsuit “unprecedented” and said he hopes the case will “set a precedent to make it financially prohibitive that the police won’t wrongfully kill marginalized people, especially Black people, in the future.”

He argued that police brutality is a public health crisis occuring alongside the Covid-19 pandemic convulsing civic life worldwide for the past four plus months.

Floyd’s death, caught on video by a bystander, sparked an outpouring of grief and anger which erupted into weeks of ongoing protests in Minneapolis, across the United States and internationally, calling for criminal prosecution of the officers involved and forcing a referendum on violent, impenetrable police cultures that systemically target Black people and other marginalized groups with unchecked harassment and brutality.

Chauvin faces charges of second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for his role in Floyd’s death. Thao, Lane and Kueng have all been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree and second-degree manslaughter. As it stands now, all four officers’ trials are scheduled for next spring.

Unconstitutional actions of the four officers aside, Wednesday’s complaint alleges a history, and a present, where the Minneapolis Police Department trains its officers to use deadly force in non-deadly situations, including chokeholds, prone restraints and neck restraints of the type that caused Floyd, 46, to die in custody.

The suit charges that the MPD trained its officers in these potentially lethal forms of restraint without providing proper policy guidance and ancillary training on how to observe and attend to the medical needs of arrestees being subjected to restraint.

The filing uses the example of the case of David Smith, who in 2010 died in MPD custody after being handcuffed and forced into a prone position with one officer straddling Smith’s upper legs and another kneeling on his back for several minutes, both of whom berated Smith at the time instead of heeding his slowing breath and diminishing pulse.

The Floyd family’s lawsuit points to “killology” or “warrior style” training MPD officers allegedly received up until 2019 that encouraged officers to consider every person and situation as a potentially deadly threat and to respond accordingly with deadly force if necessary.

Wednesday’s complaint quotes Minneapolis police union president Bob Kroll as stating that policing should be looked at like “a basketball game, in that if you’re not getting any fouls, you aren’t playing hard enough.”

Even when officers are found to have violated departmental rules, Floyd’s family says in their filing that the MPD “frequently fails to terminate or discipline officers who demonstrate patterns of misconduct.”

The complaint says Chauvin alone was the subject of 17 citizen complaints from 2006 to 2015, “only one of which resulted in discipline, in the form of a letter of reprimand.” He also participated in the shooting and killing of at least three different people, and in 2005 engaged in a police chase that resulted in the deaths of three others, all without discharge from the MPD.

“This is the tipping point for policing in America,” Crump said Wednesday, emphasizing that “right now is the time to finally deal with this pandemic, once and for all, of police brutality and racism and discrimination in our criminal justice system.”

Crump is also currently representing the families of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, two Black people who died at age 25 in March and February, respectively. The former was sleeping in bed when she was shot to death by Louisville police executing a no-knock warrant, and the latter was shot dead while jogging in Brunswick, Georgia. Three white men have been charged in Arbery’s killing.

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