Minnesota attorney general Keith Ellison is bringing charges against three cops who were on the scene at the time of George Floyd’s death and is upgrading the murder charge against former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin, according to multiple reports.
Ellison is charging Thomas Lane, J. Kueng, and Tou Thao with aiding and abetting second-degree murder, while Chauvin — the officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck — will now face second-degree murder and manslaughter charges, instead of the initial third-degree murder charge.
All four officers were fired the day after Floyd’s death, but only Chauvin was initially charged, leading to calls from Floyd’s family for all four officers to be prosecuted. They also called for a first-degree murder charge to be brought against Chauvin.
In Minnesota, second-degree murder can still be charged if the killing is unintentional. The state’s sentencing guidelines indicate two different possibilities for second-degree murder, depending on whether it is intentional or not — the former calls for 25.5 years in prison upon conviction, whereas the latter calls for 12.5 years.
Ellison, who was appointed by Minnesota governor Tim Walz on Sunday to lead the case, said it is “very difficult” to prosecute officers for murder.
“Prosecuting police officers for misconduct, including homicide, murder, is very difficult,” Ellison stated. “We’ll come under attack as we present this case to a jury or a fact finder. And we need to make sure that we are absolutely prepared.”
The official autopsy by the county medical examiner found that Floyd’s death was caused by cardiac arrest as police restrained him and compressed his neck, and also found fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use, but did not list the use of those substances as the cause of death.