New Charges Filed Against Ex-Minneapolis Officers In George Floyd's Death

Jun 4, 2020
Originally published on June 4, 2020 8:07 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Today in Minneapolis, there will be a memorial for George Floyd, the man killed by police in an encounter that sparked nationwide protests. There are also new charges in the case, something protesters have been waiting for. The officer filmed with his knee on Floyd's neck is now facing a more serious second-degree murder charge. The other three officers at the scene are charged with aiding and abetting. And let's bring in NPR's Leila Fadel, who is in Minneapolis. Hi, Leila.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Hi.

GREENE: So we have this new criminal complaint now. What's in there?

FADEL: Well, it says that Floyd did not resist, that he dropped to the ground, his hands cuffed behind his back, and Chauvin put his knee on Floyd's neck. Meanwhile, two of the other officers, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, held down Floyd's legs and his back. A fourth officer, Tou Thao, stood by, and Floyd slowly lost consciousness as he called out, Mama, I can't breathe, and, finally, I'm about to die. About six minutes later, Floyd stopped moving. And the complaint says when Kueng checked for Floyd's pulse, he couldn't find one. And it was almost three more minutes before Chauvin finally removed his knee.

GREENE: But what - how are people reacting now to this complaint and these new charges?

FADEL: Well, bittersweet. Right after the announcement, my colleague Gabriela Saldivia and I went to the part of this city where every day is a remembrance to George Floyd.

NUNI NICHOLS: Right now, we are on 38th and Chicago. We're right at the site where George Floyd was murdered by the police.

FADEL: That's Nuni Nichols (ph).

NICHOLS: Free food, honey. You want something?

FADEL: She's passing out sandwiches, fruit, vegetables, hand sanitizer from the back of her car.

NICHOLS: Do you want sour cream?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: No.

NICHOLS: OK. You want lettuce?

FADEL: Floyd's killing has at least temporarily transformed this corner where he begged for his life. Those who mourn him gather to demand change, some who knew him, but mostly, it's the people who virtually witnessed his killing, an all too familiar scene for black Americans. As for the charges against the officers involved, Nichols is skeptical.

NICHOLS: If we actually can get a conviction and we actually can get some police reform, then I'll feel a lot better. But, like, right now, it's kind of like a Band-Aid being put over, like, a big, gaping, open wound.

FADEL: She comes here to be with others who feel that wound and allies who want to help heal it, because charges are a tiny step on a much longer path to change.

NICHOLS: What else are we doing to make sure that this doesn't happen again and to make sure that the black people in this country feel safe? 'Cause at this point, I don't feel safe.

FADEL: Some want reform. Others want to defund the police. But everyone here is trying to process the pain.

NICHOLS: Being a black person in America, you know, it's just - it's constant trauma after trauma after trauma. And it's like, when is it ever going to be time for us to breathe, like, OK, finally?

FADEL: Now the place where Floyd took his last breath has become sacred ground. The air is filled with the sounds of community...

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FADEL: ...Music, laughter, invitations to share food - but also the sounds of protest.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: George Floyd.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Say his name.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: George Floyd.

FADEL: People pose in front of a black-and-white portrait of Floyd with their fists in the air. On the ground, piles of bouquets are sprinkled with handmade signs. One asks, how long must we wait for justice?

This place outside Cup Foods where Floyd was pinned down by police officers is where Taylor Winbush (ph) says he now comes for solace. He's a black man, 28. Today, he says he feels better than yesterday. Every day, he sees more people join, including people that don't look like him, protesting police brutality and systemic racism. But he's tired.

TAYLOR WINBUSH: How do you spend your whole life seeing people that look like you die on the news and not facing consequences?

FADEL: He pauses.

WINBUSH: My grandparents had the same thing. They marched in 1965 to Selma, and we're still here today, marching for the same reason. It's tiring.

FADEL: Winbush begins tearing up. He slips off his mask and wipes the tears with his shirt.

WINBUSH: I haven't cried yet the whole time.

FADEL: But even getting here, he and others say, took so much. They wonder if parts of Minneapolis and other parts of the country didn't literally burn, would these charges have even been brought?

GREENE: Leila Fadel reporting there, and Leila's still with us. Let's look forward to today, Leila. There's a memorial service for Floyd in Minneapolis. What do we know?

FADEL: It's a private service at a sanctuary here. Floyd's family flew in to attend. And a public viewing is planned for Monday in Houston.

GREENE: All right, Leila, thanks for your reporting.

FADEL: Thank you.

GREENE: NPR's Leila Fadel in Minneapolis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.