Derek Chauvin Faces Elevated Charges in George Floyd Death, 3 Other Ex-Cops Charged

Maya Chung
Demonstrators in New York City protesting the death of George Floyd.Maya Chung

Fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin had initially been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

After more than a week of protests, violence and destruction across American, more serious charges have been filed Wednesday against fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, according to the state attorney general. Charges against three other ex-officers involved in the death of George Floyd were also announced against Tuo Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng. Those counts are aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

Chauvin, who is seen on viral video pushing his knee into Floyd's prone neck for nearly nine minutes, now faces an elevated charge of second-degree murder. Last week, he was initially charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. 

"We strongly believe these developments are in the interest of justice for Mr. Floyd, his family, this community and our state," said Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison at a press conference.

"George Floyd mattered. He was loved, his family was important and his life had value," Ellison said. "We will seek justice for him and for you and we will find it."

The original charges infuriated Floyd's family and protesters nationwide, who demanded harsher punishment for the officers seen holding Floyd down on the pavement as he cried out "I can't breathe" and called for his mother, who died three years ago.

Civil unrest has rocked the country since the release of bystander video showed people at the scene shouting at officers to get off Floyd, who was detained by police answering a call about a counterfeit bill being used at a convenience store.

The amended criminal complaint against Chauvin says officers knew pinning someone's neck for a sustained period posed serious harm.

"Police are trained that this type of restraint with a subject in a prone position is inherently dangerous. … Officer Chauvin's restraint of Mr. Floyd in this manner for a prolonged period was a substantial factor in Mr. Floyd losing consciousness, constituting substantial bodily harm, and Mr. Floyd's death as well."

Floyd's Memorial Day death was deemed a homicide this week by an independent autopsy and a revised postmortem determinations from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office.

More than 149 cities have been rattled by large demonstrations, some marked by violence and looting. President Trump threatened to send in the military to quell the uprisings.