Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with murder after he knelt on the neck of black man George Floyd in a video of his arrest that sparked violent protests across the country.
The 44-year-old white cop was arrested by state investigators on Friday afternoon and was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced.
His arrest comes a day after prosecutors had warned there was ‘evidence that did not support criminal charges’ in the case, saying they needed to prove Chauvin had used ‘excessive’ force on Floyd.
Freeman said prosecutors were able to formally lay charges after the office was able to ‘gather the evidence that we need.’ He did not have immediate details but said a criminal complaint would be made publicly available later.
He also highlighted the ‘extraordinary speed’ in charging the case just four days after Floyd’s death, but also defended himself against questions about why it did not happen sooner.
As for the other three officers who were fired alongside Chauvin over Floyd’s death – J Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao – Freeman said the investigation is ongoing and prosecutors chose to focus on the ‘most dangerous perpetrator’.
The charges come after three days of riots and protests that erupted across Minneapolis – and several states – demanding justice for 46-year-old Floyd.
In widely circulated footage, Floyd was seen on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back as Chauvin pinned him to the pavement until he lost consciousness and later died.
As news of Chauvin’s arrest broke around the country, protesters in Minneapolis were seen chanting: ‘One down, three to go’ and ‘all four got to go’, while in Florida, crowds rallied outside a town home belonging to the former cop.
A fatal shooting and lawsuit for excessive force: What we know about the four officers fired for George Floyd’s arrest
In 2006 Derek Chauvin (pictured), 44, was one of six officers connected to the death of Wayne Reyes
The white police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck has already been investigated over three police shootings and a fatal car chase.
In 2006 Derek Chauvin, 44, was one of six officers connected to the death of Wayne Reyes.
Reyes, 42 was killed by officers after allegedly pulling a shotgun on the six cops, which included Chauvin.
Also that year he was named in a lawsuit filed by an inmate at the Minnesota Correctional Facility. The case was dismissed in 2007.
Two years later Chauvin was investigated for his role in the 2008 shooting of Ira Latrell Toles during a domestic assault call.
Toles was wounded after police said he went for an officer’s gun and Chauvin shot him.
That same year Chauvin was handed a medal of valor for ‘his response in an incident involving a man armed with a gun.’
But in 2011 23-year-old Leroy Martinez was shot and injured during a chase given by officers including Chauvin.
Chauvin was arrested Friday – four days after Floyd’s death – and charged with third degree murder and manslaughter.
Tou Thao (pictured), was part of a $25,000 out of court settlement after being sued for using excessive force in 2017
Tou Thao, was part of a $25,000 out of court settlement after being sued for using excessive force in 2017.
A lawsuit obtained by the DailyMail.com shows Thao was sued for using excessive force in arrest where he was accused of punching and kicking a handcuffed suspect ‘until his teeth broke’.
The remaining two officers have been identified as Thomas Lane and J Alexander Kueng.
Both were reportedly rookie cops who were still in their probationary periods.
Thao, Lane and Kueng do not currently face charges.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz on Friday acknowledged the ‘abject failure’ of the response to this week’s violent protests which left Minneapolis in ruins after hundreds of businesses were looted and destroyed, and the Third Police Precinct was burned to the ground.
As riots raged on, President Trump threatened to ‘assume control’ of Minneapolis with military intervention, warning ‘thugs’ ‘when the looting starts the shooting starts’ in a tweet that was flagged by Twitter for ‘glorifying violence.’
Trump tried to clarify his comments following Chauvin’s arrest in another tweet saying he intended to call for peace on the streets to avoid further deaths.
‘Looting leads to shooting, and that’s why a man was shot and killed in Minneapolis on Wednesday night – or look at what just happened in Louisville with 7 people shot. I don’t want this to happen, and that’s what the expression put out last night means….
‘It was spoken as a fact, not as a statement. It’s very simple, nobody should have any problem with this other than the haters, and those looking to cause trouble on social media. Honor the memory of George Floyd!’
The message followed an earlier tweet in which Trump urged to ‘REVOKE 230!’ after signing an executive order Thursday seeking to strip social media giants of their legal protections, potentially exposing them to a flood of lawsuits.
Twitter would flagged the president’s incendiary tweet hours after he announced the order.
Earlier today Attorney General Keith Ellison had told CNN that officials were ensuring they have ‘a very strong case’ before they could announce charges on Chauvin.
‘Everybody believes that this is a violation of Mr Floyd,’ Ellison said. ‘And I believe that everybody wants to see these charges filed as soon as they can be. But again, I do want to say we have seen cases that seem so clear go south.’
In a long-anticipated press conference held by the state on Thursday, Freeman condemned the actions of the cop as ‘horrific and terrible’, but said prosecutors needed to determine if he used ‘excessive’ force.
‘That video is graphic and horrific and terrible and no person should do that,’ he said.
‘But my job in the end is to prove he violated a criminal statute – but there is other evidence that does not support a criminal charge.’
Governor Walz said the state would take over the response and asked citizens to show respect and dignity to those who are suffering.
‘Minneapolis and St. Paul are on fire. The fire is still smoldering in our streets. The ashes are symbolic of decades and generations of pain, of anguish unheard,’ Walz said, adding. ‘Now generations of pain is manifesting itself in front of the world – and the world is watching.’
The governor cited a call he received from a state senator who described her district ‘on fire, no police, no firefighters, no social control, constituents locked in houses wondering what they were going to do. That is an abject failure that cannot happen.’
‘We have to restore order…before we turn back to where we should be spending our energy – making sure that justice is served,’ he said.
‘We cannot have the looting and the recklessness that went on [last night].’
His comments came the morning after protesters torched a police station that officers abandoned during a third night of violence.
Livestream video showed protesters entering the building, where intentionally set fires activated smoke alarms and sprinklers.
The governor faced tough questions after National Guard leader Major Gen. Jon Jensen blamed a lack of clarity about the Guard´s mission for a slow response.
Walz said the state was in a supporting role and that it was up to city leaders to run the situation.
Walz said it became apparent as the 3rd Precinct was lost that the state had to step in, which happened at 12:05 a.m. Requests from the cities for resources ‘never came,’ he said.
‘You will not see that tonight, there will be no lack of leadership,’ Walz said
On Friday morning, nearly every building in the shopping district around the abandoned police station had been vandalized, burned or looted.
National Guard members were in the area, with several of them lined up, keeping people away from the police station.
Dozens of volunteers swept up broken glass in the street, doing what they could to help.
Derek Chauvin, 44, the officer filmed kneeling Floyd’s neck during his arrest, is a 19-year veteran of the force who was investigated over a fatal police shooting in 2006
Dozens of fires were also set in nearby St. Paul, where nearly 200 businesses were damaged or looted.
Protests spread across the US fueled by outrage over Floyd’s death, and years of violence against African Americans at the hands of police.
Demonstrators clashed with officers in New York and blocked traffic in Columbus, Ohio, and Denver.
In Southern California, nine people were arrested after rocks were thrown at businesses, vehicles and officers during a protest in Fontana where about 100 people moved up and down a thoroughfare and blocked traffic.
Police said an unlawful assembly was declared and the crowd was ordered to disperse but some persisted.
Elsewhere in the region, demonstrators gathered outside Los Angeles police headquarters but there was no repeat of Wednesday evening’s action in which protesters blocked freeways and attacked two Highway Patrol cruisers.
Chaos also spread over in New Mexico where four people in Albuquerque were taken into custody near a protest after gunshots were fired from a vehicle. There were no reports of injuries from the gunshots and it wasn’t clear whether that incident was related to the protest.
Albuquerque police used a helicopter and tear gas to disperse a crowd of people after several police cars had windows broken out during an confrontation with ‘an angry mob.’ Department spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said no injuries were reported.
In New York City, NYPD officers were seen brawling on the ground with protesters as at least 70 people were arrested in the Big Apple.
Protesters in Ohio smashed the windows of the statehouse in downtown Columbus and raided the building and demonstrators damaged a police cruiser in downtown Los Angeles.
Over in Kentucky, seven people were shot in downtown Louisville during a protest demanding justice for black woman Breonna Taylor who was shot dead by cops back in March, as the Floyd case reignited tensions between cops and the African-American community.
President Trump waded in on the escalating violence in Minneapolis in the early hours of Friday as he warned he would step in and take over if officials fail to bring the rioting under control.
He blasted the ‘Radical Left Mayor’ Frey saying he needs to ‘get his act together’ while slamming protesters for ‘dishonoring the memory’ of Floyd and warning ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts’.
‘I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right…..,’ the president tweeted.
‘These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!’
Speaking in the early hours of this morning, Mayor Frey fired back at the president and said: ‘Donald Trump knows nothing about the strength of Minneapolis.’
‘Weakness is refusing to take responsibility for your own actions. Weakness is pointing your finger at someone else during a time of crisis,’ he said.
‘Is this a difficult time period? Yes, but you’d better be damn sure that we’re going to get through this.’
Frey said he understood the ‘pain and anger right now in our city’, but added that ‘what we have seen over the last several hours and the past couple of nights in terms of looting is unacceptable’.
The mayor revealed it was him who had decided to evacuate the Third Precinct after determining that there were ‘imminent threats to both officers and public’.
‘The symbolism of a building cannot outweigh the importance of life, of our officers or the public. We could not risk serious injury to anyone,’ he said. ‘Brick and mortar is not as important as life.’
Minneapolis city officials issued a warning for protesters and residents to flee the scene of the Third Police Precinct as gas lines were cut because ‘other explosive materials are in the building’.
‘If you are near the building, for your safety, PLEASE RETREAT in the event the building explodes,’ the city government wrote in a Twitter update shortly before midnight.
Protesters broke into the police precinct at around 10pm, smashing up windows and setting fires inside.
As flames engulfed the building, protesters gathered out the front chanting ‘I can’t breathe’ – some of the last words Floyd said before he died.
Minneapolis Police released a statement saying that officers had fled the scene: ‘In the interest of the safety of our personnel, the Minneapolis Police Department evacuated the 3rd Precinct of its staff. Protesters forcibly entered the building and have ignited several fires.’