WASHINGTON - A federal grand jury has indicted Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers involved in the May 2020 death of African American George Floyd on charges of civil rights violations.
The four officers were charged under a federal law that makes it a crime for a law enforcement officer to “willfully deprive a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.”
A three-count indictment unsealed Friday accuses Chauvin of robbing Floyd of the right to be free from the “use of unreasonable force by a police officer” by pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9½ minutes as Floyd “lay on the ground, handcuffed and unresisting,” causing Floyd’s death.
Two of Chauvin’s fellow officers on the scene – Tou Thao, 35, and J. Alexander Kueng, 27 – are accused of failing to stop Chauvin, 45, from using unreasonable force against Floyd. The third, Thomas Lane, 37, faces accusations of “willfully” failing to help Floyd as he lay on the ground “in clear need of medical care,” as do the other three.
Floyd’s death, captured on video, sparked outrage and international protest.
Floyd team 'encouraged'
In a statement, the Floyd family’s legal team said, "We are encouraged by these charges and eager to see continued justice in this historic case that will impact Black citizens and all Americans for generations to come.”
A separate, three-count indictment, also unsealed Friday, accuses Chauvin of civil rights violations in connection with the violent arrest of a 14-year-old three years before Floyd’s death.
In the 2017 incident, Chauvin, “without legal justification, held the teenager by the throat and struck the teenager multiple times in the head with a flashlight,” resulting in injury to the teen, according to the indictment.
Chauvin “held his knee on the neck and the upper back of the teenager even after the teenager was lying prone, handcuffed and unresisting, also resulting in bodily injury,” the indictment says.
Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, did not respond to a request for comment on the federal charges against his client.
The widely expected federal indictment adds to Chauvin’s legal troubles following his conviction last month on state murder and manslaughter charges in Floyd’s death.
Alleging jury misconduct, Chauvin’s defense team Wednesday requested a mistrial.
Thao, Kueng and Lane face state charges of aiding and abetting. Their trial is set to start in August.
In a statement, the Justice Department said the charges against the four former Minneapolis police officers were separate from a federal “pattern or practice” investigation of the city of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Police Department that Attorney General Merrick Garland announced last month.
The inquiry will examine whether the Minneapolis Police Department has engaged in a “pattern or practice” of unconstitutional policing, Garland said at the Justice Department. It will also examine the department’s use of force against protesters and whether its treatment of people with behavioral disabilities violates federal law.
"Building trust between community and law enforcement will take time and effort by all of us, but we undertake this task with determination and urgency, knowing that change cannot wait,” Garland said April 21.
A week later, Garland announced a federal investigation of policing practices in the Southern U.S. city of Louisville, Kentucky, where officers last year shot and killed Breonna Taylor, a Black emergency medical technician, during a bungled raid on her home.