MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Prosecutors charged a Minneapolis police officer accused of pressing his knee against George Floyd's neck with second-degree murder on Wednesday, and for the first time leveled charges against three other officers at the scene, according to criminal complaints.
The updated criminal complaint against Derek Chauvin says the officer's actions were a "substantial causal factor" in Floyd's death.
"Officer Chauvin's restraint of Mr. Floyd in this manner for a prolonged period was a substantial causal factor in Mr. Floyd losing consciousness, constituting substantial bodily harm, and Mr. Floyd's death as well," the criminal complaint said.
The complaints against the other officers allege that they aided and abetted in Chauvin's actions.
Widely seen bystander video showing Floyd's May 25 death has sparked protests nationwide and around the world against police brutality and discrimination. Chauvin was fired May 26 and charged three days later with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The three other officers involved were also fired but were not charged until Wednesday.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison updated the complaint against Chauvin to add a charge of unintentional second-degree murder, in addition to the earlier charges. He also charged Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
The unintentional second-degree murder charge alleges that Chauvin caused Floyd's death without intent while committing another felony offense, namely third-degree assault. It carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison, compared with a maximum of 25 years for third-degree murder.
The other officers face the same maximum penalties for aiding and abetting, if convicted.
Attorney Earl Gray, who represents Lane, told the Associated Press that he hadn't seen the complaint or talked with his client. He said Lane was not in custody. Before news of the upgraded charges, an attorney for Chauvin said he was not making any statements at this time. Attorneys for Thao and Kueng did not return messages seeking comment on the charges.
Attorney Ben Crump tweeted that the Floyd family was "deeply gratified" by Ellison's action and called it "a source of peace for George's family in this difficult time." He said Ellison had told the family that his office will continue to investigate and would upgrade charges against Chauvin to first-degree murder if warranted. Reached by phone, Crump declined to speak beyond the statement or make clear when Ellison had spoken with the family and whether he had been informed directly that additional charges had been filed.
Floyd's family and protesters have repeatedly called for criminal charges against all four officers as well as more serious charges for Chauvin, who held his knee to Floyd's neck, despite his protests that he couldn't breathe, and stayed there even after Floyd stopped moving. Floyd, a black man, was in handcuffs when he died with his face pressed to the street.
"He died because he was starving for air," Crump said at a press conference earlier Wednesday. "He needed a breath. So we are demanding justice. We expect all of the police officers to be arrested before we have the memorial here in Minneapolis, Minnesota, tomorrow."
Crump said the other officers failed to protect a man who was pleading for help and said he couldn't breathe.
Personnel records released by the city show that Chauvin served as a military policeman in the U.S. Army in the late 1990s. Since being hired as a police officer in 2001, he has been awarded two medals of valor: one for being part of a group of officers who opened fire on a stabbing suspect after the man pointed a shotgun at them in 2006, and one for apprehending another man in a domestic incident in 2008. In the latter incident, Chauvin broke down a bathroom door and shot the man in the stomach.
Chauvin was reprimanded in 2008 for pulling a woman out of her car in 2007, frisking her and placing her in his squad car after he stopped her for speeding 10mph over the limit. His dashboard camera was not activated, and a report said he could have interviewed the woman while standing outside her car.
Lane, 37, and Kueng both joined the department in February 2019, and neither has any complaints on his file.
Lane previously worked as a correctional officer at the Hennepin County juvenile jail and as a probation officer at a residential treatment facility for adolescent boys.
Kueng is a 2018 graduate of the University of Minnesota, where he worked part time on campus security. He also worked as a theft-prevention officer at Macy's in downtown Minneapolis while he was in college.
Tou Thao, a native Hmong speaker, joined the police force as a part-time community service officer in 2008 and was promoted to police officer in 2009. He was laid off later that year because of budget cuts and rehired in 2012.
Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights on Tuesday launched a civil rights investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department and its history of racial discrimination, in hopes of forcing widespread change.
After three nights of a citywide curfew in Omaha — with large-scale demonstrations beginning to lose steam — two top city officials said Wednesday that the time was right to lift the curfew.
Mayor Jean Stothert and Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said that after observing the protests Tuesday night, they felt comfortable rescinding the curfew that locked down the city from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Protests around the country stemmed from the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, whose neck was pressed down by a now-former police officer’s knee for nearly 9 minutes while he was handcuffed.
The curfew decision was ultimately Stothert’s to make, though she consulted closely with Schmaderer and other city officials.
“After really reviewing the events in the last 24 hours, it did look like a lot of the activity as far as the riots, as far as the violence, has really decreased,” Stothert said at an afternoon press conference.
While Stothert rescinded the emergency order that authorized the curfew and a 25-person limit on crowds, she retains the ability to reinstate a curfew, or other restrictions, through Tuesday. That’s because the City Council this week voted to extend Stothert’s state of emergency proclamation, under which she can issue such orders.
Schmaderer said the Police Department is aware of a few coming events related to the protests, and officers are preparing accordingly. But the chief said Omaha has seen many positive, peaceful protests this week, and he doesn’t believe citywide restrictions will be necessary.
Police leadership will watch how the situation develops in the coming days and next weekend. He cautioned that “dynamics can change.”
“When they do, the one thing that we will do is make sure everybody has plenty of notice,” he said of a potential curfew.
Schmaderer outlined four “evaluation points” that the department used to determine that the curfew and crowd limitation could be lifted.
The first involved the intelligence available to the department in regard to anything leaders were “concerned about.” The second was if conditions were improving. The third was an evaluation of how Lincoln fared on Tuesday night without a curfew. The fourth involved the department’s available resources.
Schmaderer indicated that he also followed other metrics, which he did not share.
“We are very conscious of the pressure that those restrictions put on society, and we did not want to be in that position any longer than we needed to,” Schmaderer said.
He declined to answer a question about whether the department has evidence of “paid protesters” who may have demonstrated in Omaha this week, saying he’d prefer not to discuss the matter until an investigation is complete.
Schmaderer said Omaha has begun to scale back its response. Officers are now working 8 hours a day, seven days a week, compared with 12-hour days during the height of the protests. The National Guard remains in Omaha and will be used as needed.
Asked if she participated in any of the protests, Stothert said she considered coming downtown Saturday night but was advised otherwise by Schmaderer. On Monday afternoon, Stothert said she conversed with a group of protesters near City Hall.
“Would I stand with somebody and say ‘black lives matter’? I absolutely would because black lives do matter,” Stothert said. “But would I kneel with some of the violent ones that are throwing rocks and bricks at our police officers? I wouldn’t want to do that.”
Stothert commended Schmaderer for being a “no-nonsense chief” who investigates complaints against his officers and terminates them if warranted. She lauded the city’s officers, too, for their work.
Stothert also said it’s clear that racism is present across the country, and has been for hundreds of years. She said she doesn’t have all the answers but believes that the conversations happening now need to continue.
“If the solution to this was easy, we wouldn’t be standing here right now,” Stothert said.
It was a mixed message, but one that was welcomed by supporters of James Scurlock, a 22-year-old black man killed Saturday night by a white bar owner during protests in downtown Omaha.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine relented Wednesday and said he would petition the Douglas County District Court to appoint a special prosecutor and convene a grand jury to review whether charges should be brought against Jake Gardner, the former owner of The Hive and Gatsby bars at 12th and Harney Streets.
At the same time, Kleine said, he has seen additional evidence since Sunday, when he reviewed several videos and witness statements. None of what he saw would change his decision that Gardner was acting in self-defense, Kleine said.
“There have been a few things that have come in that actually, that probably (support) the nature of the decision that we made,” Kleine said. “Just enhanced or made that (decision) even more strong.”
That said, Kleine added: “I certainly believe in transparency and have no problem with any oversight about (our) decisions. … I welcome and support the calling of a grand jury to review evidence in this rare instance.”
Afterward, Scurlock’s father, James Scurlock II, thanked the community, especially black Omahans, for forcing the issue. And he thanked Kleine for listening.
Several people pushed for a grand jury after Kleine said Monday that he didn’t think one was necessary. Folks even started inquiring about petitioning for a grand jury, a move that would have required about 20,000 signatures.
“I want to thank the black community for getting us this grand jury — the pressure (from) everybody,” Scurlock said.
State Sen. Justin Wayne, an attorney for the Scurlocks, said it wasn’t just the black community.
“The outpours, the calls, the emails were huge in this matter,” he said. “And the reason it was huge in this matter is we are still having witnesses, videos and evidence coming forward. I think that played a role in this decision, and as we get a more clear picture, justice will be served for James.”
Kleine said he personally will file a petition with the presiding judge for a grand jury and a special prosecutor. He noted, however, that because of COVID-19, it may be a while before the grand jury can meet.
Monday, after reviewing a handful of grainy and graphic videos and transcripts of witness interviews, Kleine announced that he had concluded that the bar owner, Gardner, acted in self- defense when he shot and killed Scurlock.
Videos of the Saturday night incident show that Gardner had confronted three men, including Scurlock, after his father twice shoved someone and then was pushed to the ground. Scurlock had not been shoved, nor had he shoved Gardner’s father. Scurlock did push another man standing in front of Gardner’s two bars.
Scurlock was moving forward and Gardner was backing up. Gardner lifted his shirt to show a gun and pulled the gun to his side. A woman and another man tackled him to his back in a puddle in the street. He fired two warning shots — getting the first two people who tackled him to flee.
Four seconds later, as he rose to a knee, Scurlock jumped on Gardner’s back and the two went down. Scurlock placed Gardner in what authorities have alternately called a chokehold or a headlock. At the end of the 20-second struggle, Gardner fired over his shoulder, killing Scurlock.
An attorney for 40 years and a prosecutor for 30, Kleine blanched Wednesday at all the “whataboutism” going on. He responded to critics who questioned whether he would have made the same decision if the gunman were black and the protester white.
In his 14 years as Douglas County’s top prosecutor, Kleine said, Omaha police have investigated 28 shootings that were ruled to have been justified, Kleine said. Of the 28, 17 blacks, 10 whites and one Latino were ruled to have fired in self-defense.
Kleine provided The World-Herald with the list of those cases. One of the 28 cases involved a black male shooting and killing a white male in self-defense. Two of the 28 cases, including Gardner’s, involved white males killing black men.
In this case, 16 jurors and three alternates would meet in secret and hear evidence of whether charges should be filed. Twelve of those 16 would have to vote for charges in order for an indictment to be returned.
Wayne pointed out that details of the grand jury proceeding won’t automatically become public — unless there’s an exoneration and a judge decides it is in the public’s interest to view a transcript and exhibits.
Wayne called on people to stop harassing the owners of the building that housed Gardner’s bar, noting that they have evicted Gardner. He also called on people to stop harassing the Scurlocks; he said people have threatened them and thrown rocks at the Scurlocks’ home.
Wayne told The World-Herald Tuesday that witnesses have provided accounts to Omaha police that are “game-changers.” Wednesday, Wayne declined to detail those accounts because he said he didn’t want to taint the grand jury.
Wayne urged Douglas County’s presiding judge to appoint a special prosecutor whom “this community buys into,” noting that “our community has an inherent distrust of the judicial system.”
“This process is one step in the right direction,” Wayne said, “one step for justice for James.”
Gardner’s attorney could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
WASHINGTON — Rep. Steve King always embraced the role of conservative provocateur, employing rhetoric likely to generate headlines as well as outrage from those on the other side of the political spectrum.
But it’s his fellow Republicans who are pushing the nine-term Iowa congressman out the door.
Facing four challengers in Tuesday’s 4th District primary, King garnered a little more than one-third of the vote and came in well behind State Sen. Randy Feenstra.
“For regular Republicans, he had become a liability, if not an embarrassment, and they decided to cut their losses in order to hold the seat,” said Dennis Goldford, political science professor at Drake University.
King’s career has been marked time and again by controversy, from his warnings about “cultural suicide by demographic transformation” to his infamous description of drug smugglers coming across the southern border with “calves the size of cantaloupes.”
His words and actions brought rebukes from other Republicans at times, but the final straw was a statement to the New York Times that appeared to defend white supremacy. King has consistently and vehemently insisted that his words were twisted, but House Republicans stripped him of committee assignments last year all the same.
That meant no more seat on the Agriculture Committee even as Midwestern farmers have been hit hard by trade disruptions and extreme weather. It meant no more seat on the Judiciary Committee from which to defend President Donald Trump against impeachment.
Many of those on the left hailed King’s defeat as a rejection of his ideology, but the race focused less on policy differences than on King’s ability to translate those beliefs into results.
“We’re not looking for somebody that’s on a whole different political spectrum,” Clay County farmer Will Jones said. “We’re looking for effectiveness.”
As his county’s Republican chairman, Jones was officially neutral in the primary, but his wife, State Rep. Megan Jones, supported Feenstra.
“I’m glad to see a strong candidate on the ballot now,” Will Jones said of Feenstra. “Here’s a nice guy that’s going to be effective, going to be able to work with people and help get a seat at the table instead of getting banned from committees.”
Jones said it’s true that some of King’s controversial statements over the years were misconstrued or taken out of context, but he added that the congressman seemed determined to say things that could easily be used against the cause, distracted from the larger argument and made it more difficult to accomplish anything.
Bob Vander Plaats, head of the Family Leader, an influential Christian conservative group in Iowa, decided to back Feenstra over King this cycle.
“This wasn’t about Steve King,” Vander Plaats said. “This was about the people of the 4th District. They needed representation, and we can debate what happened, but (King’s) voice was definitely marginalized.”
In a video message on election night, King said it was striking that his opponents avoided attacking his policy positions, and he decried the money spent against him by independent groups.
“This comes from an effort to push out the strongest voice for full-spectrum constitutional Christian conservatism that existed in the United States Congress,” King said.
Feenstra will now face Democrat J.D. Scholten, who narrowly lost to King in 2018. Feenstra quickly set to work trying to tie Scholten to national Democrats.
“As we turn to the general election, I will remain focused on my plans to deliver results for the families, farmers and communities of Iowa,” Feenstra said.
For his part, Scholten said King’s defeat can be traced back to the hard work of his team last cycle. King had regularly notched double-digit victories in general elections past, but Scholten finished within a few percentage points.
Feenstra’s victory prompted some handicappers to predict that Republicans would hold on to the deeply red district, but Scholten said he thinks he can successfully highlight his opponent’s support from corporate interests and the GOP establishment. Voters are sick of career politicians and want to see real progress helping agricultural producers, he said.
It’s not clear what King will do next, but in his Tuesday night remarks the congressman said he plans to stick to his values.
“The effort to refurbish the pillars of American exceptionalism must go on, and I pick that up again tomorrow morning,” King said.