The three former Minneapolis police officers who watched as their partner pinned George Floyd to the ground with his knee for more than eight minutes as he gasped for air and begged the officers to stop have been charged with aiding and abetting a crime, according to charging documents filed Wednesday.
Thomas Lane, J. A. Kueng, and Tou Thao face two charges each of aiding and abetting their fellow former officer Derek Chauvin in connection to Floyd’s death.
Charges against Chauvin were upgraded to second-degree murder, carrying the possibility of a longer sentence if convicted. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison was also set to announce the charges on Wednesday.
All four officers were fired shortly after the May 25 incident, but it wasn’t until Friday when Derek Chauvin, the white officer whose knelt on Floyd’s neck was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter by local prosecutors. Two autopsies have found that the compression of Floyd’s neck contributed to his death.
According to Minnesota law, third-degree murder carries a sentence of up to 25 years, and is considered when someone causes someone’s death “without intent.”
Second-degree murder carries a sentence of up to 40 years.
The latest charges come after Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison took over the prosecution in Floyd’s death, which was captured on video and has sparked days of unrest across the country as thousands take to the streets to protest police killings of unarmed black people.
According to the criminal complaint filed against Chauvin, officers were called after someone reported that a customer had used a counterfeit $20 bill. Officers pulled Floyd out of his car at gunpoint and placed him in handcuffs.
When officers tried to put him inside a police car, Floyd fell to the ground and told officers he was claustrophobic, according to the complaint. When Floyd fell to the ground, Kueng and Lane held his back and legs as Chauvin pressed his knee into his neck.
Thao is seen in the video standing over Chauvin and Floyd, and then turning his back to the two to face onlookers as they call on the officers to stop and check Floyd’s pulse.
An independent autopsy found Floyd died of asphyxiation. Experts who worked on that report said the pressure applied to Floyd’s neck, as well as the pressure on his back from the other officers, cut off air to his lungs and blood flow to his neck, making him lose consciousness. The official autopsy by a local medical examiner determined his cause of death to be “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”
“These officers are complicit by their silence, but we now know based on the audio from their body cam that they also are accomplices because their failure to act when they knew that he did not have a pulse,” Benjamin Crump, an attorney representing Floyd’s family said Wednesday near the site where Floyd was killed. “The system needed to be listening to George Floyd.”
In the eyes of Floyd’s family, Crump said, the three other officers were “just as guilty” for the death of George Floyd as Chauvin.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who tweeted news of the charges before the attorney general’s announcement, called the charges “another important step for justice.
In an interview with CNN Sunday night, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo told Floyd’s family that he believed that in addition to Chauvin, the other three officers were also responsible for the death.
“Mr. Floyd died in our hands, and so I see that as being complicit,” Medaria said. “Silence and inaction, you’re complicit. If there was one solitary voice that would have intervened … that’s what I would have hoped for.”