'Homicide': Medical examiner says police restraint, cardiopulmonary arrest killed Floyd

George Floyd memorial outside Conga Latin Bistro.
A memorial for George Floyd is seen outside Conga Latin Bistro in Minneapolis on Monday, where Floyd used to work as a security guard.
Jay Gabler | MPR

Updated 6:12 p.m.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner late Monday described George Floyd’s death as a homicide, saying he went into cardiopulmonary arrest as a Minneapolis police officer kept his knee on the neck of the prone, handcuffed man.

The office also identified “hypertensive heart disease,” “fentanyl intoxication” and “recent methamphetamine use” as other “significant conditions.”

The medical examiner’s office preliminary report last week said that the combined effects of being restrained, potential intoxicants in Floyd's system and his underlying health issues, including heart disease, likely contributed to his death.

Floyd, a black man, died after the white officer ignored bystander shouts to get off him and Floyd's cries that he couldn't breathe. His killing, captured on citizen video, sparked days of protests in Minneapolis that have spread to cities around America.

The officer who held his knee on Floyd's neck, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter and is in custody in a state prison. The other three officers on scene, like Chauvin, were fired the day after the incident but have not been charged.

Police officer kneeling on man's neck.
Derek Chauvin kept his knee on George Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes, including nearly three minutes while Floyd was unresponsive, according to the criminal complaint.
Screenshot

The criminal complaint filed against Chauvin had said the autopsy "revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation."

That view was challenged Monday by the Floyd family. On Monday, a lawyer representing Floyd’s family said their independent autopsy found Floyd died of “asphyxia due to neck and back compression” and that Floyd died at the scene where Minneapolis police detained and restrained him.

Family attorney Ben Crump, however, said Floyd “would be alive today if not for the pressure applied to his neck” by Chauvin and the pressure applied on Floyd’s back and legs from two other officers.

“George died because he needed a breath,” Crump said. “A breath of air.”

Walz OKs modified curfew; Guard scales back

After the calmest night in a week, Gov. Tim Walz struck an optimistic tone Monday morning as he announced a modified curfew for the next two nights and the beginnings of a pullback in National Guard operations.

"I don't want to paint a picture that this is over. But I do want to paint a picture that we as Minnesotans have regrounded ourselves in the values we care about,” he told reporters as he set a 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew for Minneapolis and St. Paul Monday and Tuesday.

“There’s a clear delineation between the folks who are rightly pained and angry” peacefully protesting George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis police custody, “and those who are bent on wanton destruction,” Walz said.

Public Safety commissioner: Truck driver probably wasn't trying to hurt people
by Brandt Williams | MPR News

Officials also said that Sunday’s most terrifying incident — a tanker truck speeding toward a group of peaceful protesters on the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis — appeared to be unintentional.

John Harrington, the state’s public safety commissioner, said the driver had run the route earlier in the day and turned onto I-35W from Interstate 94 before the exits had been blocked. He was speeding, but the tanker was empty.

Harrington said the driver did not go around barricades.

“We do have some information that he saw the crowd and initially he panicked, then he saw a young woman on a bike fall down in front of him and he slammed on the brakes until the vehicle stopped,” Harrington said of the driver.

The driver, who was arrested, “did something really stupid” and feels lucky that he didn’t kill anyone, said the governor, who also praised people on the bridge who intervened to stop others from severely hurting or killing the driver.

Truck surrounded by authorities.
A semitruck that drove into a crowd of protesters on Interstate 35W is surrounded by authorities, Sunday in Minneapolis.
John Minchillo | AP

Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen, head of the Minnesota National Guard, confirmed the Guard will begin pulling back some of the 7,000 members currently mobilized but cautioned “this is not an order to return the entire organization back home” and that it could be reversed if situations warrant.

Jensen said he guaranteed to Walz that the Guard presence on the streets Sunday will continue in Minneapolis and St. Paul. He did not say when that would end.

The governor echoed that sentiment: “We are not going to live in fear. We will not leave citizens unprotected."

Walz and other state and city leaders praised the efforts of citizens to keep the curfew, keep the peace and help to clean up the debris from the destruction in the past week.

As the curfew got extended to Tuesday morning, Metro Transit said that its bus, light rail and Northstar rail services will continue to be suspended at least until Tuesday. The agency will alert the public by 6 p.m. Tuesday its decision on resuming service.

Overall, Walz said the protesters raising their voices over Floyd’s killing in police custody were poised to make “real change” around the treatment of people of color in society. They’re “not going to take a commission or report. They’re going to want fundamental change.”

He said Minnesotans would not “live in fear. … We don’t fear the future. We create it here.”

Crowd rallies at governor’s residence

Protesters gathered late Monday afternoon outside the governor’s residence in St. Paul.

St. Paul police say Summit Avenue is closed to vehicle traffic in between Lexington Parkway and Victoria Street as about 2,000 people fill the streets near the residence Monday afternoon.

There’s also a heavy Minnesota National Guard presence on St. Paul’s Grand Avenue. Hundreds of protesters later in the evening peacefully marched down Summit to the State Capitol, chanting, “What's his name? George Floyd.”

Speakers included Diamond Reynolds, who posted the death of her boyfriend, Philando Castile, on Facebook live. A police officer shot and killed Castile in 2016 during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights. He was charged but found not guilty on all counts.”

Floyd’s brother urges calm

Chants of “What's his name? George Floyd!” filled the air Monday as a large crowd gathered at the spot where Floyd died last week.

Wearing a face mask with George’s Floyd's image on it, his brother Terrence Floyd dropped to his knees at the storefront that has been turned into a memorial covered with flowers and signs. As he knelt silently, many who were around him joined him on the ground.

George Floyd’s brother Terrence speaks to crowd
George Floyd’s brother Terrence Floyd speaks at the site of George’s death in Minneapolis on Monday.
Tom Baker for MPR News
Floyd’s brother urges calm
by Nina Moini | MPR News

“I understand y’all are upset. I doubt y’all are half as upset as I am,” said Terrence Floyd, who lives in New York.

“What are y’all doing? ... That’s not going to bring my brother back at all.”

Terrence Floyd took several minutes sitting in the spot where the officer pinned his brother, and he sobbed.

“My brother moved here from Houston. He loved it here,” Terrence Floyd said. "So, I know he would not want you all to be doing this.”

Addressing the crowd, he said he did not understand why the three other police officers who arrested Floyd and who were fired with Chauvin have not also been arrested and charged.

Still, he said, the Floyd family, which he described as “peaceful” and “God-fearing,” wants calm protests at this time with hopes that justice will follow.

“In every case of police brutality the same thing has been happening. You have protests, you destroy stuff ... so they want us to destroy ourselves. Let’s do this another way,” he said, encouraging the crowd to vote and to educate themselves. “Let’s switch it up, y’all.”

‘Hearing crazy stuff’

Earlier in the day Monday, Harrington addressed the flood of reports posted on social media the past few days of people claiming hidden explosives in their neighborhood or cars driving on streets with no license plates.

Police rarely found what callers and others were reporting, he said, lamenting that the fact that people took the police’s response as confirmation that what they were hearing was true.

“I was hearing crazy stuff — the Klan was marching down the street. It didn’t happen,” Harrington said, adding that some of it was being “deliberately planted as misinformation."

Late Monday afternoon, the Minneapolis police said they asked residents to check their property for “harmful objects that may be have been left by uninvited people. Propane tanks, bottles filled with gasoline & other substances have been reported.”

The department concluded there were “no credible threats” against private homes.

Walz continued to walk back early comments that the bulk of the arrests made during the looting and mayhem were not people from Minnesota when, in fact, they were.

The governor conceded that he "got out over my skis a little bit" when he said most of the people doing the serious damage were not from Minnesota. While arrest data isn't the only metric, "we need to get a better understanding of this,” he said. “We need to actually know who it was."

Ellison pleads for patience

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said Monday his office still has a lot of work to do on the case against Chauvin. Walz on Sunday said the Ellison would take the lead in prosecutions in the killing of Floyd.

Ellison told MPR News that he is asking Minnesotans for patience as he and his attorneys work on the prosecution of Chauvin. Three other former officers who were at the scene last Monday may also be charged with crimes.

Ellison said history has shown that even video evidence may not be enough in trials involving criminal charges against police.

Attorney General Keith Ellison on taking over the Floyd case
by Cathy Wurzer

“Tonight we’re not prepared to talk about what the charges will be,” Ellison said at a Sunday night news conference.  “I want to let you know that we are pursuing justice. We are pursuing truth … and we’re pursuing accountability.”

While saying he would work with the county attorney’s office, Ellison made clear that he will have final say in the case.

In announcing Ellison’s role, Walz praised the attorney general as someone who, while serving with Walz in Congress, “understood the systemic issues that were holding us back. His voice was loud. … This decision is one that I feel takes us in the direction to start getting the justice for George Floyd.” He added that he made the decision after talking to the Floyd family.

“They wanted the system to work for them. They wanted to believe that there was trust, and they wanted to believe that the facts would be heard and justice would be served.”

Chauvin was moved Sunday night from the Hennepin County jail to Oak Park Heights prison. His first hearing is set for June 8.

Calling in an outside prosecutor is extremely rare, and typically only reserved for cases in which the prosecuting office has a conflict of interest.

The move followed days of criticism from activists, who view Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman as part of the system they want reformed. He served as Hennepin County attorney in the 1990s and was elected to the post again in 2006. While leading the office, he has charged only one officer in a fatal shooting — and that was in the case of Mohamed Noor, a black officer who killed Justine Ruszczyk Damond, who was white.

Activists have pressed Freeman to charge the other three officers, including protesting outside his house.

It took four days for Freeman to bring charges against Chauvin, a delay criticized by activists. More than 100 people gathered outside Freeman’s home Sunday, calling for a special prosecutor, the arrests of all four officers and for Freeman’s resignation.

“We want somebody who's on our side. Mike Freeman is not on our side,” said Sharaunta Beach, a protester. “We have to have people who are for the truth and what’s right.”

Authorities stand near a tanker truck
Authorities stand near military vehicles as a tanker truck is seen in the background on the Interstate 35W bridge across the Mississippi River on Sunday in Minneapolis. The truck drove into a crowd of thousands of protesters who were on the bridge.
Julio Cortez | AP

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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