The murder of George Floyd

The killing of George Floyd: What we know

The in-custody killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer ignited uprisings in Minnesota and across the nation

A man and young child kneel in front of a memorial.
A mural of George Floyd has been painted at the Cup Foods site where Floyd was arrested by Minneapolis police and later died in custody.
Judy Griesedieck for MPR News 2020

Updated: Feb. 10, 2021 | Posted: June 1, 2020

The killing of George Floyd, 46, of St. Louis Park, who repeatedly told a Minneapolis police officer he couldn’t breathe as the officer knelt on his neck, sparked mass protests at dozens of cities across the nation and days of widespread looting, fires and destruction in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Four officers involved in the May 25 arrest were fired. One of the former officers was charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the killing. The other three ex-officers have been charged with aiding and abetting. The trial for former officer Derek Chauvin begins in March; the other three officers will be tried in August.

Here’s a summary of what we know about what happened.

How did the incident start?

People stand outside of a building.
Cup Foods in South Minneapolis.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Police were called to the Cup Foods store on the corner of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020 — Memorial Day — on a report of a man who was using fake bills to buy a pack of cigarettes, according to the 911 transcript. The caller tells a dispatcher they asked the man to return the cigarettes he bought but that the the man is “drunk and not in control of himself” and refuses to give back the cigarettes.

According to a criminal complaint, officers Derek Chauvin and his partner Tou Thao arrived at the scene as two other officers, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, were trying to get Floyd into the back of a squad car. Floyd said he was claustrophobic and didn't want to get in the car, and that he complained of not being able to breathe even while he was standing up.

How did Floyd end up on the ground?

Floyd “took himself to the ground” while handcuffed at 8:19 p.m., according to the charging document. That's when Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd's head and neck area while Floyd was lying prone on the pavement.

A bystander recorded the incident and streamed it on Facebook. Floyd can be heard telling the officer he couldn’t breathe and onlookers could be heard imploring Chauvin to let Floyd up.

How long was Floyd on the ground?

Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd's neck for about nine minutes.

No one at the scene could be seen administering first aid to Floyd, who was loaded onto a gurney by a paramedic and taken to HCMC where he was pronounced dead.

What caused Floyd’s death?

An illustration of a man hangs in a window.
An illustration of George Floyd.
Evan Frost | MPR News

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner on June 1, 2020, described Floyd’s death as a homicide, saying he went into cardiopulmonary arrest as Chauvin kept his knee on the prone, handcuffed man.

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

The lawyer representing Floyd’s family said earlier the same day that their private 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.

Who is Derek Chauvin?

Man looking at camera
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Courtesy of Ramsey County Jail

Chauvin was a Minneapolis police officer for 19 years before he was fired on May 26, 2020. He had nearly 20 complaints and two letters of reprimand filed against him during his tenure with Minneapolis police. He has not spoken publicly since Floyd's death, his firing nor his arrest and charging.

In 2006, Chauvin was among a group of six officers who opened fire on a stabbing suspect after a chase that ended when the suspect pointed a sawed-off shotgun at them. A grand jury decided the use of force was justified, according to The Associated Press.

Two years later, he shot a man after he answered a domestic dispute call, the AP reported citing a Pioneer Press article. In that case, Chauvin shot the man after he went for the officer’s gun. The suspect survived and was charged in the case.

In the Floyd killing, Chauvin was initially charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Ellison added an additional count of second-degree murder on June 3.

Who are the other three officers?

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, lead prosecutor in the killing of Floyd, on June 3 filed aiding and abetting charges against the other three ex-Minneapolis officers involved — Thomas LaneTou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng.

  • Thao was sued in federal court in 2017 for alleged excessive force. That case was settled. Six complaints have been filed against Thao. Five were closed with no discipline. One remains open. The records didn't include any further details, according to the AP.

  • Lane joined the force in 2019. Records show no complaints against him.

  • No information was available about Kueng's service history. Records show no complaints against him.

When is the trial?

Chauvin will be tried months before the three other officers are scheduled to go on trial. Jury selection will begin March 8, 2021, and opening statements will begin no earlier than March 29.

The trial for Thao, Lane and Kueng is expected to begin Aug. 23, 2021.  

When did the protests begin and when did they turn from peaceful into mayhem?

People took to the streets the day after Floyd’s death near the Cup Foods, and peacefully pleaded for justice in the case and for the officers to be arrested and charged in his killing. Almost immediately, city, state and federal leaders and law enforcement experts decried the level of force used by Chauvin.

By May 27, 2020, the peaceful protest began to turn into the looting of area businesses — with one man shot and killed— which gave way to multiple fires being set in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

By May 28, 2020, the Police Department’s 3rd Precinct was evacuated and destroyed. Gov. Tim Walz activated the National Guard.

Burned building.
The smoldering exterior of the 3rd Precinct building in Minneapolis on May 29, 2020.
Liam James Doyle for MPR News 2020

On May 29, 2020, the destruction escalated and Walz ordered the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis under curfew but law enforcement officers took a mostly hands-off approach and similar uprisings were staged in dozens of cities across the nation.

During May 30’s curfew, thousand of members of the National Guard and law enforcement officers took a more aggressive approach.

Minnesota National Guard members maintain a position in Minneapolis.
Minnesota National Guard members maintain a position in south Minneapolis.
David Joles | Star Tribune via AP 2020

By the morning of May 31, 2020, Walz and other leaders attributed the curfew and residents’ adherence to it as helping to stamp down continued destruction. More than 100 people were arrested May 30-31.