Four former police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights are to be arraigned in United States federal court in Minneapolis on Tuesday in a hearing to address some pretrial motions.
A federal grand jury formally charged Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Alex Kueng and Tou Thao in May with depriving Floyd of his civil rights while acting under government authority when he was arrested and killed in May 2020.
Floyd, an unarmed Black man, handcuffed and not resisting, was held face-down by the four officers while Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd’s neck, choking him. The incident was captured on bystander video. Floyd’s death led to worldwide protests and calls for changes in policing in the US.
Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder and was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison. In Tuesday’s hearing, he and the other three officers face separate federal charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights.
The federal indictment alleges Chauvin violated Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure and unreasonable force by a police officer.
Thao and Kueng are charged with violating Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure by not intervening to stop Chauvin as he knelt on Floyd’s neck.
All four officers are also charged with depriving Floyd of his rights when they failed to provide him with medical care.
Kueng, Thao and Lane also face trial in Minnesota state courts starting in March on charges of aiding and abetting Chauvin’s killing of Floyd.
Lane, Kueng and Thao have asked that their federal civil rights trial be separated from Chauvin’s on grounds any jury would be unfairly prejudiced against them if they went to trial alongside him. US prosecutors have asked the court to conduct one trial for all four.
During Floyd’s arrest, he repeatedly said he could not breathe as Chauvin pinned him to the ground. Kueng and Lane helped restrain Floyd; Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, and Lane held Floyd’s legs, according to evidence in state court.
Thao held back bystanders and kept them from intervening during the 9 1/2-minute restraint.
The US Department of Justice is investigating policing practices in Minneapolis. The investigation known as a “pattern or practice” — examining whether there is a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing — includes a sweeping review of the entire police department.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland, the US’s top law enforcement official, announced on September 14 that the Department of Justice would seek to improve its oversight of local police departments following criticism and pushback from police leaders that federal oversight has been ineffective.
At the same time, Minneapolis police have been backing off arrests, according to a study of public data by the Reuters news service. Almost immediately after Floyd’s death, Minneapolis police officers all but stopped making traffic stops and approached fewer people they considered suspicious for fear an encounter could become another flashpoint.
The US Justice Department on Tuesday announced it was curtailing the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies from using chokeholds to restrain suspects or executing no-knock warrants at homes before entering.
Breonna Taylor, a Black woman, was shot dead in her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky in March 2020, by police officers serving a no-knock warrant. She had been sleeping at the time.
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