Charges against former Minneapolis police officers involved in George Floyd's death
Derek Chauvin initially was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
A week after George Floyd was seen on a bystander's cellphone video gasping his last breaths with the knee of a former Minneapolis police officer pinned on his neck, three of the four former officers at the scene hadn't been charged.
That changed on Wednesday.
Thomas Lane, J.A. Kueng and Tou Thao each have been charged with second-degree aiding and abetting felony murder and second-degree aiding and abetting manslaughter, according to court documents. Charges against Derek Chauvin, who on May 29 was charged by Hennepin County prosecutors with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, has an additional charge of second-degree murder.
Chauvin is in jail on $500,000 bond. Lane, Kueng and Thao all were expected to be in custody by Wednesday afternoon, according to Drew Evans, superintendent for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
All four officers were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department in the wake of Floyd's death.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said at a press conference on Wednesday that two days after he was assigned to the case, there was "strong evidence" to file an amended complaint against Chauvin and issue arrest warrants for the others.
"The fact that we filed these charges is because we believe in these charges," said Ellison, adding that "winning a conviction will be hard."
The investigation is ongoing, and, Ellison added, it could take several months before going to trial as he wants "every link in the prosecutorial chain to be strong."
Ben Crump, an attorney for the Floyd family, has demanded that Kueng, Lane and Thao are charged with acting in concert with Chauvin allegedly to murder Floyd.
Minnesota attorney Jay Adkins told ABC News on Wednesday that the third-degree murder charge against Chauvin may have failed at trial.
"The third-degree murder charge ... is invalid in this case because the officer's actions were directed only to Mr. Floyd, not multiple people, like firing in a crowded building," said Adkins, who cited a Minnesota Supreme Court case that reads: "Third-degree murder 'cannot occur where the defendant's actions were focused on a specific person.'"
"If the elevated charges don't result in a conviction, the likely result would be a conviction to a form of manslaughter, not murder," Adkins added.
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz applauded the charges on Twitter as a "meaningful step toward justice."
According to arrest warrant documents, Chauvin pinned his knee onto the back of Floyd's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.
During that time, Lane asked Chauvin whether Floyd should get rolled onto his side, but Chauvin refused to move him, according to the warrant. Lane allegedly was holding Floyd's legs as Kueng allegedly was holding Floyd's back down as Chauvin kept his knee in place, according to the arrest warrant. Thao was seen on the video with both of his hands in his pockets.
"Based on ... their silence and based on their body cameras and audio, we know they did nothing ... they all participated in the death of George Floyd," Crump said at a press conference on Wednesday, before the new charges were announced.
A bystander recorded the incident on a cell phone. Floyd can be heard repeating pleading, "I can't breathe," and for his mother, who died years ago.
An independent autopsy determined Floyd's cause of death was by asphyxia "due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain." The county's medical examiner ruled that Floyd died because of a cardiopulmonary arrest.
Crump said in a statement Ellison informed the Floyd family "that his office will continue to investigate and will upgrade the charges to first-degree murder if the evidence supports it."
Protests erupted across the country, and around the world, on the heels of Floyd's death. Demonstrators are calling for an end to police brutality against people of color, specifically African Americans. Some of the peaceful protests have turned violent and resulted in the arrest of thousands.
"George Floyd's death is the symptom of a disease," Walz wrote on Twitter. "We will not wake up one day and have the disease of systemic racism cured for us. This is on each of us to solve together, and we have hard work ahead."
"We are working together in this case," Ellison said, "with only one goal: justice for George Floyd."
ABC News' Rachel Katz contributed to this report.
This report was featured in the Thursday, June 4, 2020, episode of “Start Here,” ABC News’ daily news podcast.
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