Derek Chauvin, 3 ex-officers now face federal charges related to killing of George Floyd

A federal grand jury has indicted the four former Minneapolis police officers involved in George Floyd’s arrest and death, accusing them of violating the Black man’s constitutional rights as he was restrained face-down on the pavement and gasping for air, according to indictments unsealed Friday.

The three-count indictment names Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao. Specifically, Chauvin, Thao and Kueng are charged with violating Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure and excessive force. All four are charged for their failure to provide Floyd with medical care. Chauvin was also charged in a second indictment, stemming from the arrest and neck restraint of a 14-year-old boy in 2017.

Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Kueng appeared via videoconference in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. Chauvin, who was not part of the court appearance, was convicted last month on state charges of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death and is in Minnesota’s only maximum-security prison as he awaits sentencing. 

The other three former officers face a state trial in August, and they are free on bond. They were allowed to remain free after Friday’s federal court appearance.

Floyd, 46, died on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin pinned him to the ground with a knee on his neck, even as Floyd, who was handcuffed, repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe.

Kueng and Lane also helped restrain Floyd — state prosecutors have said Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back and Lane held down Floyd’s legs. State prosecutors say Thao held back bystanders and kept them from intervening during the nine and a half minute restraint.

Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, argued during his murder trial that Chauvin acted reasonably in the situation and that Floyd died because of underlying health issues and drug use.

He has filed a request for a new trial, citing many issues including the judge’s refusal to move the trial due to publicity.

Nelson had no comment on the federal charges Friday. Messages left with attorneys for two of the other officers were not immediately returned, and an attorney for the fourth officer was getting in an elevator and disconnected when reached by The Associated Press.

WATCH | U.S. attorney general announces probe into Minneapolis police department:

A day after the conviction of former officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd, the entire Minneapolis police department is under a federal investigation. The U.S. Department of Justice will look to determine if it suffers from a pattern of ‘unconstitutional or unlawful policing.’ 2:53

Minneapolis police under investigation

The U.S. Justice Department last month announced it was opening a sweeping investigation into policing practices in Minneapolis.

The Minneapolis Police Department is also being investigated by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, which is looking into the police department’s policies and practices over the past decade to see if it engaged in systemic discriminatory practices.

Fatal shootings by the police department had attracted national attention before in recent years, including separate cases in which officers faced criminal charges filed related to the deaths of Justine Damond and Philando Castile.

This combination of photos provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, shows from left, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. The trio were fired from their Minneapolis Police Department jobs, face a state trial scheduled for August and now have been indicted in federal court for their roles in Floyd’s death. (Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office/AP)

But Floyd’s arrest and death, which a bystander captured on cellphone video, sparked protests nationwide and widespread calls around the world for an end to police brutality and racial inequities.

While the Chauvin trial was proceeding last month, a white police officer shot and killed a Black man in a Minneapolis suburb. Kim Potter faces a manslaughter charge after the death of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minn.

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