By Albert Traver
Minneapolis, Jun 2 (efe-epa).- Two separate autopsies have found that last week’s death of George Floyd in police custody – a disturbing incident that occurred in this midwestern city and has triggered protests and riots across the United States – was a homicide.
They differ, however, in what caused the African-American man’s death.
While an independent autopsy commissioned by Floyd’s family found that he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner in Minneapolis, the largest city in the US state of Minnesota, ruled that the victim experienced “cardiopulmonary arrest” while being restrained by a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, during his arrest on May 25.
The findings of those post-mortem examinations, both of which were released on Monday, have caused the net to tighten on the four former police officers involved.
All four have been fired.
But only Chauvin, who faces third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges for kneeling on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds while the suspect was handcuffed on the ground and repeatedly said he was unable to breathe, thus far has been taken into custody.
“The cause of death in my opinion is asphyxia, due to compression to the neck – which can interfere with oxygen going to the brain – and compression to the back, which interferes with breathing,” said Dr. Michael Baden, a former New York City medical examiner who was one of the physicians in charge of the independent autopsy.
He also said that no previous pathology played a role in the death of the 46-year-old Floyd, who had been detained after being suspected of using a counterfeit $20 bill at a supermarket in a Minneapolis grocery store.
Following the results of the independent autopsy, the attorney representing Floyd’s family, Ben Crump, called for the charges against Chauvin to be upgraded to first-degree murder and said the other officers should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
He accused the officers of killing Floyd “based on a knee to his neck for almost nine minutes, and two knees to his back compressing his lungs,” adding that the ambulance into which he was subsequently placed “was his hearse.”
The Hennepin County autopsy, meanwhile, said that “the victim suffered cardio-respiratory arrest while being immobilized by law enforcement officials.”
It said that at the time of his death Floyd was suffering from heart problems and also was under the effects of fentanyl intoxication, although it did not link those factors to his death.
The autopsy results are now in the hands of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison after he took the reins of the case from Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, who had announced the charges against Chauvin on Friday.
Ellison, who in the past has criticized outcomes favorable to police in investigations involving the deaths of African-American men, now must decide if the autopsy findings are sufficient to order the arrests of the other three officers.
Calls for their arrest have become a rallying cry of protesters, while the anger over Floyd’s death has degenerated into the country’s worst race riots since the 1960s.
In Minnesota, a state that was under a coronavirus-triggered stay-at-home order until May 18 and where gatherings of 10 or more individuals are still prohibited, thousands of people went to the governor’s mansion in St. Paul, the state capital, on Monday to air their demands.
“One down, three to go” and “Lock them all four” were two of the chants heard at that peaceful demonstration.
The state’s Democratic governor, Tim Walz, was booed by protesters when he stepped outside. But he listened to accounts from people at the scene who said they had been victims of police brutality.
On Monday night, authorities arrested dozens of people who violated a curfew in Minneapolis, where the chaos, looting and arson attacks of previous days appear to have subsided.