All four white Minneapolis police officers allegedly involved in the death of 46-year-old African American George Floyd are now facing criminal charges.
Until Wednesday, only one officer – Derek Chauvin, who held his knee on Floyd’s neck even as Floyd said he could not breathe – had been charged.
Charges were brought against the three other officers who were on the scene -- Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane. They were charged Wednesday with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
The third-degree murder charge against Chauvin was upgraded Wednesday to the more serious second-degree murder. He has also been charged with second-degree manslaughter.
“I strongly believe that these developments are in the interest of justice for Mr. Floyd, his family, our community and our state,” Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said. “We’re working together on this case with only one goal: justice for George Floyd.”
Ellison said he had studied the evidence and consulted with other prosecutors before deciding on the additional charges.
He said the nationwide upheaval and violent street protests sparked by Floyd’s death did not figure into his decision.
A Floyd family attorney said the additional charges are “a bittersweet moment.”
Protests continued in many cities for a ninth straight day Wednesday, with fewer reports of violence and looting.
Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser moved the city’s nighttime curfew Wednesday from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. after protesters in the nation’s capital remained generally quiet over the past two nights.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards thanked the residents of his state for holding peaceful marches in support of Floyd instead of the violence and looting that erupted in many other places.
“Every single person who’s shown up to protest and demonstrated has done so in a way that is an appropriate expression of their concerns about this,” Edwards said.
But an 8 p.m. curfew in New York City is expected to stay in effect at least through Sunday.
Officials in Philadelphia on Wednesday tore down a statue of the late former Mayor Frank Rizzo, which was the constant target for vandals. Rizzo’s police force was routinely accused of racism and brutality during the 1970s.
The Associated Press reports Virginia Governor Ralph Northam will announce Thursday plans to dismantle a well-known Richmond city landmark – a statue of Civil War Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Demonstrators have also vandalized the structure during the past week.
Richmond was the capital of the Confederate States of America during the war between Northern states and breakaway Southern states.
African Americans call such Civil War statues symbols of hate and slavery, and mayors and governors across the southern U.S. have heeded calls to remove them.
Also Wednesday, a federal court in Las Vegas announced the arrests of three far-right extremists for allegedly planning to spark violence during protests in the Nevada city.
Prosecutors say all two are former military members and the third is an army reservist.
The criminal complaint against the three said they were caught last Saturday making Molotov cocktails in a parking lot with apparent plans to throw them during a protest march. Prosecutors said the three had also planned in April to use explosives in a drive to force business shuttered by the coronavirus epidemic to reopen their doors.
U.S. Attorney for Nevada Nicholas Trutanich said authorities have been focused on instigators hijacking peaceful protests and demonstrations across the country to exploit “the real and legitimate outrage over Mr. Floyd’s death for their own radical agendas.”