Mr. Floyd died after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by an officer’s knee in an episode that was captured on video, touching off nationwide protests.
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It’s a Monday evening in Minneapolis. Police respond to a call about a man who allegedly used a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes. Seventeen minutes later, the man they are there to investigate lies motionless on the ground, and is pronounced dead shortly after. The man was 46-year-old George Floyd, a bouncer originally from Houston who had lost his job at a restaurant when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Crowd: “No justice, no peace.” Floyd’s death triggered major protests in Minneapolis, and sparked rage across the country. One of the officers involved, Derek Chauvin, has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder. The other three officers have been charged with aiding and abetting murder. The Times analyzed bystander videos, security camera footage and police scanner audio, spoke to witnesses and experts, and reviewed documents released by the authorities to build as comprehensive a picture as possible and better understand how George Floyd died in police custody. The events of May 25 begin here. Floyd is sitting in the driver’s seat of this blue S.U.V. Across the street is a convenience store called Cup Foods. Footage from this restaurant security camera helps us understand what happens next. Note that the timestamp on the camera is 24 minutes fast. At 7:57 p.m., two employees from Cup Foods confront Floyd and his companions about an alleged counterfeit bill he just used in their store to buy cigarettes. They demand the cigarettes back but walk away empty-handed. Four minutes later, they call the police. According to the 911 transcript, an employee says that Floyd used fake bills to buy cigarettes, and that he is “awfully drunk” and “not in control of himself.” Soon, the first police vehicle arrives on the scene. Officers Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng step out of the car and approach the blue S.U.V. Seconds later, Lane pulls his gun. We don’t know exactly why. He orders Floyd to put his hands on the wheel. Lane reholsters the gun, and after about 90 seconds of back and forth, yanks Floyd out of the S.U.V. A man is filming the confrontation from a car parked behind them. The officers cuff Floyd’s hands behind his back. And Kueng walks him to the restaurant wall. “All right, what’s your name?” From the 911 transcript and the footage, we now know three important facts: First, that the police believed they were responding to a man who was drunk and out of control. But second, even though the police were expecting this situation, we can see that Floyd has not acted violently. And third, that he seems to already be in distress. Six minutes into the arrest, the two officers move Floyd back to their vehicle. As the officers approach their car, we can see Floyd fall to the ground. According to the criminal complaints filed against the officers, Floyd says he is claustrophobic and refuses to enter the police car. During the struggle, Floyd appears to turn his head to address the officers multiple times. According to the complaints, he tells them he can’t breathe. Nine minutes into the arrest, the third and final police car arrives on the scene. It’s carrying officers Tou Thao and Derek Chauvin. Both have previous records of complaints brought against them. Thao was once sued for throwing a man to the ground and hitting him. Chauvin has been involved in three police shootings, one of them fatal. Chauvin becomes involved in the struggle to get Floyd into the car. Security camera footage from Cup Foods shows Kueng struggling with Floyd in the backseat while Thao watches. Chauvin pulls him through the back seat and onto the street. We don’t know why. Floyd is now lying on the pavement, face down. That’s when two witnesses begin filming, almost simultaneously. The footage from the first witness shows us that all four officers are now gathered around Floyd. It’s the first moment when we can clearly see that Floyd is face down on the ground, with three officers applying pressure to his neck, torso and legs. At 8:20 p.m., we hear Floyd’s voice for the first time. The video stops when Lane appears to tell the person filming to walk away. “Get off to the sidewalk, please. One side or the other, please.” The officers radio a Code 2, a call for non-emergency medical assistance, reporting an injury to Floyd’s mouth. In the background, we can hear Floyd struggling. The call is quickly upgraded to a Code 3, a call for emergency medical assistance. By now another bystander, 17-year-old Darnella Frazier, is filming from a different angle. Her footage shows that despite calls for medical help, Chauvin keeps Floyd pinned down for another seven minutes. We can’t see whether Kueng and Lane are still applying pressure. Floyd: [gasping] Officer: “What do you want?” Bystander: “I’ve been —” Floyd: [gasping] In the two videos, Floyd can be heard telling officers that he can’t breathe at least 16 times in less than five minutes. Bystander: “You having fun?” But Chauvin never takes his knee off of Floyd, even as his eyes close and he appears to go unconscious. Bystander: “Bro.” According to medical and policing experts, these four police officers are committing a series of actions that violate policies, and in this case, turn fatal. They’ve kept Floyd lying face down, applying pressure for at least five minutes. This combined action is likely compressing his chest and making it impossible to breathe. Chauvin is pushing his knee into Floyd’s neck, a move banned by most police departments. Minneapolis Police Department policy states an officer can only do this if someone is, quote, “actively resisting.” And even though the officers call for medical assistance, they take no action to treat Floyd on their own while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Officer: “Get back on the sidewalk.” According to the complaints against the officers, Lane asks him twice if they should roll Floyd onto his side. Chauvin says no. Twenty minutes into the arrest, an ambulance arrives on the scene. Bystander: “Get off of his neck!” Bystander: “He’s still on him?” The E.M.T.s check Floyd’s pulse. Bystander: “Are you serious?” Chauvin keeps his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost another whole minute, even though Floyd appears completely unresponsive. He only gets off once the E.M.T.s tell him to. Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes, according to our review of the video evidence. Floyd is loaded into the ambulance. The ambulance leaves the scene, possibly because a crowd is forming. But the E.M.T.s call for additional medical help from the fire department. But when the engine arrives, the officers give them, quote, “no clear info on Floyd or his whereabouts,” according to a fire department incident report. This delays their ability to help the paramedics. Meanwhile, Floyd is going into cardiac arrest. It takes the engine five minutes to reach Floyd in the ambulance. He’s pronounced dead at a nearby hospital around 9:25 p.m. Preliminary autopsies conducted by the state and Floyd’s family both ruled his death a homicide. The widely circulated arrest videos don’t paint the entire picture of what happened to George Floyd. Crowd: “Floyd! Floyd!” Additional video and audio from the body cameras of the key officers would reveal more about why the struggle began and how it escalated. The city quickly fired all four officers. And Chauvin has been charged with second degree murder. Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao were charged with aiding and abetting murder. But outrage over George Floyd’s death has only spread further and further across the United States.
The death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, drew widespread outrage in May 2020 after a video circulated online showing Officer Derek Chauvin holding his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck on a Minneapolis street corner as he gasped for breath.
Mr. Floyd’s death spurred nationwide protests against police brutality and a reckoning over everything from public monuments to sports team names.
Mr. Chauvin and the three other officers involved in Mr. Floyd’s death — Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng — were fired and charged with a variety of crimes.
On April 20, Mr. Chauvin, 45, was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Mr. Lane, Mr. Thao and Mr. Kueng, who had been scheduled to face a joint trial starting in August, will now be tried in March.
On May 7, federal prosecutors announced the indictment of all four former officers on charges of willfully depriving Mr. Floyd of his constitutional civil rights during his arrest.
Here is a recap of what has happened in the case.
Mr. Floyd died on May 25 after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground under the knee of Mr. Chauvin, who is white, for more than nine minutes. The county medical examiner ruled the death a homicide caused by a combination of the officers’ use of force, the presence of fentanyl and methamphetamine in Mr. Floyd’s system and his underlying health conditions.
Bystander video of the encounter quickly went viral.
The disturbing video incited large protests against police brutality and systemic racism in Minneapolis and more than 150 American cities in the months that followed, leading to a nationwide racial justice movement not seen since the civil rights protests of the 1960s. The National Guard was activated in at least 21 states, and cities announced curfews as protesters filled the streets. The protests sometimes turned destructive.
Law enforcement was criticized for responding to the protests — a majority of which were peaceful — with force, by spraying tear gas and shooting rubber bullets at protesters, and conducting mass arrests.
After the video of the arrest surfaced, the Minneapolis Police Department fired Mr. Chauvin and the three other officers involved. The explosive video also prompted an F.B.I. civil rights investigation.
Around 8 p.m. on May 25, Minneapolis police officers responded to a call from a store clerk who claimed Mr. Floyd had paid for cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill, the Police Department said in a statement.
In an initial statement, the police said that Mr. Floyd “appeared to be under the influence.” It said that officers ordered him to step away from his car, and that he resisted them after he got out. Officers “noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress,” the statement read, after which they called an ambulance.
The statement lacked critical details about the fatal encounter, and bystander video and officer body camera footage released in August helped to fill in the blanks.
The body camera footage shows police officers approaching a car in which Mr. Floyd is sitting in the driver’s seat. In the footage, Mr. Lane, one of the officers, taps his flashlight on the window and asks Mr. Floyd to show his hands. After being asked several times, Mr. Floyd eventually opens the car door, while apologizing.
Six seconds after the door opens, Mr. Lane draws his gun, points it at Mr. Floyd and says, “Put your [expletive] hands up right now.” Without explaining the reason for the stop, he pulls Mr. Floyd out of the car.
After removing Mr. Floyd from the vehicle, Mr. Lane and Mr. Kueng handcuff him and walk him across the street to their squad car. Mr. Floyd protests and resists sitting in the back seat, saying he is claustrophobic, and officers try to force him in. He pushes himself out the other side of the vehicle, saying he is going to lie on the ground.
Three officers pin Mr. Floyd facedown — Mr. Chauvin kneeling on his neck, Mr. Kueng kneeling on his upper legs and holding his wrist, and Mr. Lane holding Mr. Floyd’s legs. (Mr. Thao was keeping bystanders away.)
Mr. Floyd began saying repeatedly that he could not breathe. Mr. Chauvin kept his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for nine and a half minutes.
Six minutes after the officers put Mr. Floyd facedown, and only after bystanders shouted at them to attend to him, Mr. Kueng checks for Mr. Floyd’s pulse and says he cannot feel it. All three of the officers continue to hold Mr. Floyd in a position that restricts his breathing.
Two minutes later, emergency responders arrive, and the medics load him into an ambulance. He was pronounced dead that night.
On May 26, the day after the killing, large protests erupted in Minneapolis and Mayor Jacob Frey announced that the four officers involved in the case had been terminated. Mr. Frey said he had asked the F.B.I. to investigate, and in a statement posted on social media, he said, “Being Black in America should not be a death sentence.”
Mr. Chauvin was arrested on May 29 and initially charged with third-degree murder. Within days, he had agreed to plead guilty, The New York Times reported in February, but William P. Barr, then the U.S. attorney general, stepped in to reject the agreement, which had also included an assurance that Mr. Chauvin would not face federal civil rights charges.
Judge Peter A. Cahill, who oversaw the trial, later dismissed the third-degree murder charge, but he upheld a more severe charge of second-degree murder, as well as a second-degree manslaughter charge.
In March, however, Judge Cahill allowed prosecutors to reinstate the third-degree murder charge.
Mr. Chauvin had said through his lawyer that his handling of Mr. Floyd’s arrest was a reasonable use of authorized force. The officer was the subject of at least 22 complaints or internal investigations during his more than 19 years at the department, one of which resulted in discipline.
After a weekslong trial, Mr. Chauvin was found guilty on April 20 of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He faces up to 40 years in prison when he is sentenced, but he is likely to receive far less time. The presumptive sentence for second-degree murder is 12.5 years, according to Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines, although the state has asked for a higher sentence.
After the verdict was announced, Philonise Floyd, one of Mr. Floyd’s brothers, said, “We are able to breathe again.” President Biden also praised the verdict in a nationwide address, calling it a “too rare” step to deliver “basic accountability” for Black Americans.
The three other former officers involved in Mr. Floyd’s death were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. They had been scheduled to stand trial together in August, but on May 13, Judge Cahill announced during a pretrial hearing that the trial would be delayed until March to allow a federal case against the former officers to move forward.
On May 7, federal prosecutors announced that a grand jury had indicted all four former officers on charges of willfully depriving Mr. Floyd of his constitutional civil rights during his arrest.
The new charges — another extraordinary censuring of law enforcement officials, who rarely face criminal charges for using deadly force — are also separate from the Justice Department’s continuing investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department, which was announced on April 21.
After the release of the video of Mr. Floyd’s arrest, demonstrators poured into Minneapolis streets for several nights. Officers used tear gas and fired rubber bullets into the crowds. Images on television and social media had captured businesses being set on fire and people carrying goods out of a vandalized store.
State officials said that a series of errors and misjudgments — including the Minneapolis police’s decision to abandon a precinct on May 28 that protesters overtook and burned — had allowed demonstrators to create what Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota called “absolute chaos.”
In total, a five-mile stretch of Minneapolis sustained extraordinary damage. Not since the 1992 unrest in Los Angeles had an American city suffered such destructive riots.
Protests also spread across the country to Los Angeles, New York, Boston and Louisville, Ky.
Reporting was contributed by Tim Arango, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Audra D. S. Burch, Maria Cramer, John Eligon, Manny Fernandez, Christine Hauser, Neil MacFarquhar, Kwame Opam, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Lucy Tompkins and Neil Vigdor.