George Floyd case: 4 police officers indicted on federal civil rights charges

The officers are charged with depriving Floyd's rights under color of law.

May 7, 2021, 1:07 PM

Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers involved in George Floyd's death were indicted Friday on federal civil rights charges.

The three-count indictment alleges Chauvin, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane deprived Floyd's rights when they saw him lying on the ground "in clear need" of medical care, but "willfully failed to aid Floyd, thereby acting with deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of harm."

Count one accuses Chauvin of deprivation of rights under color of law for his direct role in 46-year-old Floyd's May 25, 2020, death.

"Chauvin held his left knee across George Floyd's neck, and his right knee on Floyd's back and arm, as George Floyd lay on the ground, handcuffed and unresisting, and kept his knees on Floyd's neck and body even after Floyd became unresponsive," the indictment said. "This offense resulted in bodily injury to, and the death of George Floyd."

This combination of photos provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office in Minnesota on 3, 2020, shows, from left, Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao.
Hennepin County Sheriff's Office via AP, File

In count two, the grand jury accused Thao and Kueng of being "aware that [Chauvin] was holding his knee across George Floyd's neck as Floyd lay handcuffed and unresisting, and that Defendant Chauvin continued to hold Floyd to the ground even after Floyd became unresponsive, and the defendants willfully failed to intervene to stop Defendant Chauvin's use of unreasonable force."

Count three is against all four former officers, and claims that by not giving Floyd medical care and aid, they "willfully deprived Mr. Floyd of his constitutional right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law, which includes an arrestee’s right to be free from a police officer’s deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs."

The Justice Department said Friday's indictment is separate from its recently announced and still ongoing civil "pattern or practice" investigation looking into the policing practices of the entire Minneapolis Police Department.

People raise their hands as they protest at the makeshift memorial in honor of George Floyd on June 4, 2020 in Minneapolis.
Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

Civil rights attorneys in the Floyd case Ben Crump, Antonio Romanucci and L. Chris Stewart said in a statement they are "encouraged by these charges."

"The Constitution claims to be committed to life, liberty, and justice, and we are seeing this realized in the justice George Floyd continues to receive," they said. "This comes after hundreds of years of American history in which Black Americans unfortunately did not receive equal justice."

The attorneys said they're "eager to see continued justice in this historic case that will impact Black citizens and all Americans for generations to come.”

Derrick Johnson, the NAACP national president, in a statement called the charges "a step in the right direction."

"No police officer is above the law, nor should they ever be shielded from accountability. We need urgent reforms now," Johnson said.

Attorneys for Thao and Kueng declined to comment.

In addition to allegedly violating Floyd’s rights, Chauvin is named a second, separate indictment filed on Thursday for deprivation of rights under color of law for allegedly violating the civil rights of a 14-year-old in 2017. The indictment said "Chauvin, without legal justification, held" the teen "by the throat and struck Juvenile 1 multiple times in the head with a flashlight." Chauvin is also accused of holding "his knee on the neck and the upper back of Juvenile 1 even after Juvenile 1 was lying prone, handcuffed, and unresisting."

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin stands with Defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, after the verdict was read at the conclusion of his trial in the death of George Floyd, April 20 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis.
Court TV via ABC News

Chauvin was convicted last month on all state charges against him in Floyd's death: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

The three other officers involved in Floyd's death are awaiting trial. After appearing in court Friday morning over the new federal charges against them, all three were released on $25,000 bond.

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