Washington, Jun 3 (efe-epa).- The attorney general of Minnesota said Wednesday that the charge against the white former police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck for eight minutes before the African American man died has been upgraded to second-degree murder.
“I want to begin with a reminder and that is that we’re here today because George Floyd is not here. He should be here. He should be alive but he’s not,” Keith Ellison said at a press conference in St. Paul, the state capital.
“About nine days ago the world watched Floyd utter his very last words, ‘I can’t breathe,'” the attorney general said.
He said that he amended the original criminal complaint against Derek Chauvin, who was arrested last Friday and charged with third-degree murder, to include the count of second-degree felony murder.
“According to Minnesota law you have to have premeditation and deliberation to charge first-degree murder. Second-degree murder, you have to intend for death to be the result. For second-degree felony murder, you have to intended the felony and death be the result without necessarily having it being the intent. We would contend that George Floyd was assaulted and so that would be the underlying felony,” Ellison said.
Conviction for second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.
The attorney general went on to announce the filing of charges against the three other ex-cops who took part in the May 25 arrest of the 46-year-old Floyd on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill.
Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Drew Evans, superintendent of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, said that authorities were “in the process of taking the officers into custody.”
Chauvin, Thao, Kueng and Lane were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department the day after Floyd’s death.
Bystanders captured the entire episode on video.
In the days between the crime and the arrest of Chauvin, Minneapolis and neighboring St. Paul saw massive protests accompanied by instances of looting, vandalism and arson.
Reaction to the latest in a series of deaths of unarmed African Americans at the hands of police spread across the United States.
Though the response has taken the form mainly of peaceful demonstrations, looting and vandalism has prompted dozens of US cities to impose curfews.
After peaking over the weekend, violent disturbances have largely subsided, though protests continue in the US and people in various European countries began taking to the streets this week in solidarity with victims of police violence.
Ellison, who took over the case from local prosecutors at the request of Gov. Tim Walz, said that the unrest did not influence his approach.
“I can say that I did not allow public pressure to impact our decision making process. I was prepared to withstand whatever calls came. We made these decisions based on the facts we have gathered since this matter occurred and made the charges based on the law we think applies,” the state attorney general said.
Floyd’s family welcomed the upgraded charge against Chauvin.
“This is a bittersweet moment for the family of George Floyd. We are deeply gratified that Attorney General Keith Ellison took decisive action in this case, arresting and charging all the officers involved in George Floyd’s death and upgrading the charge against Derek Chauvin to felony second-degree murder,” the victim’s loved ones said in a joint statement with their attorney.
“This is a significant step forward on the road to justice, and we are gratified that this important action was brought before George Floyd’s body was laid to rest,” the statement said.