Independent Autopsy Finds George Floyd Died of Suffocation

Demonstrators start a fire Sunday near the White House as they protest the death of George Floyd. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

MINNEAPOLIS (CN) — The family of George Floyd released the results of an independent autopsy Monday afternoon that found his cause of death was homicide by asphyxiation from sustained pressure.  

The autopsy results contradicted preliminary findings by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, which attributed Floyd’s death to a combination of other factors. Those included the manner in which former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin restrained Floyd while kneeling on his neck a week ago, but the medical examiner also cited a variety of pre-existing health conditions as possible contributors.

Former New York City chief medical examiner Dr. Michael Baden and University of Michigan pathologist Dr. Allecia Wilson performed the independent autopsy, finding that “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,” according to a statement from Floyd’s family through civil rights attorney Ben Crump.

The fact that Floyd was handcuffed, his position, and the weight on his back contributed to his death by impairing his ability to breathe, the family said.

The death of Floyd, a black man, while being pinned down by a white police officer has sparked massive protests across the country in the week since Floyd died. The National Guard has been deployed in several states and curfews have been imposed in many cities.

In Washington, D.C., thousands took to the streets over the weekend. Some threw rocks and pulled on barricades at the White House, leading the Secret Service to hide President Donald Trump in a bunker.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced a 5 p.m. curfew less than 15 minutes before it began on Saturday, and Sunday in New York saw police ramming protesters with squad cars. Los Angeles, Atlanta, Columbus and other cities across the country have also seen protests, some of which have given cover to looting and arson.

Crump and Floyd’s family called for charges of first-degree murder for now-fired officer Chauvin, who was arrested Friday and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. The family also sought the arrest of three other fired officers – Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane – who helped to hold Floyd down and kept concerned bystanders away as Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for just shy of nine minutes.

“For George Floyd, the ambulance was his hearse,” Crump said in the release. “Mr. Floyd’s death was a homicide by officers who taunted him while holding him down for more than eight minutes. And the officer who stood by doing nothing was a physical blue shield – a living symbol of the code of silence.”

That officer, Thao, has since fled the state, and Lane left home without telling anyone where he was going, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Monday. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, appointed Thursday as a special prosecutor in the case against Chauvin, has said his office is considering charges for the other three former officers but has declined to provide specifics publicly.

Crump’s co-counsel, Antonio Romanucci of Chicago’s police misconduct-focused personal injury firm Romanucci & Blandin, took aim at what he called Minneapolis’ “pattern, custom and practice of failing to train and discipline its police officers, creating a culture of impunity allowing them to treat people of color as lesser human beings, unworthy of basic respect.”

The legal team and family reiterated their calls to protesters to continue demonstrating peacefully while refraining from violence and looting, which rocked Minneapolis in the days immediately following Floyd’s death but calmed down substantially Sunday night, leading Governor Tim Walz to decrease the National Guard presence in the city and its twin neighbor of St. Paul.

“We support the activism and energy of the people who want to make sure we achieve change, and we hope those efforts continue,” Crump said. “But looting and violence are absolutely unacceptable. They were unacceptable to George, and they must be unacceptable to us. The way to honor George is to achieve justice.”

In Minneapolis, the death toll from protests has stayed at one – a pawn shop owner shot Calvin Horton, 43, on Wednesday night. That count, through incredible luck, did not rise Sunday night when a tanker truck drove into a crowd of thousands on the infamous 35W bridge over the Mississippi River. The driver of the truck was quickly arrested, and officials have said the incident appears to have been accidental.

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