A Minnesota medical examiner on Monday classified George Floyd’s death as a homicide, saying the Minneapolis man’s heart stopped as police restrained him and suppressed his neck, in a widely seen video that has sparked protests across the country.
“Decedent experienced a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officer(s),” the report by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner read.
Under “other significant conditions,” the medical examiner wrote that Floyd suffered from heart disease and hypertension and listed fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use.
A Minneapolis police officer has been charged with third-degree murder in Floyd’s death. Bystander video showed the officer, Derek Chauvin, pinning down Floyd with a knee on Floyd’s neck despite the man’s cries that he couldn’t breathe. He eventually stopped moving.
A separate autopsy commissioned for Floyd’s family found that he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression, the family’s attorneys said Monday.
The autopsy found the compression cut off blood to Floyd’s brain, and that the pressure of other officers’ knees on his back made it impossible for him to breathe, attorney Ben Crump said. He called for the third-degree murder charge against Chauvin to be upgraded to first-degree murder and for the three other officers to be charged.
The family’s autopsy differs from the official autopsy as described in a criminal complaint against the officer. That autopsy included the effects of being restrained, along with underlying health issues and potential intoxicants in Floyd’s system, but also said it found nothing “to support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation.” The family’s autopsy found no evidence of heart disease and concluded he had been healthy.
Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who was in handcuffs at the time, died after Chauvin, who is white, ignored bystander shouts to get off him and Floyd’s cries that he couldn’t breathe. His death sparked days of protests in Minneapolis and around the U.S.
The official autopsy last week provided no details about intoxicants.
Brother pleads for peace
Earlier Monday, Floyd’s brother Terrence pleaded for peace in the streets, saying violence is “not going to bring my brother back at all,” as U.S. cities hoped another night of violence could be avoided with the country already buckling because of the coronavirus outbreak and the Depression-level unemployment it has caused.
The U.S. has been convulsed by angry demonstrations from coast to coast for the past week in some of the most widespread racial unrest in the U.S. since the 1960s. Spurred by the death of Floyd in Minneapolis, protesters have taken to the streets to decry the killings of black people by police.
Floyd made an emotional plea for peace at the site where his brother died.
“Let’s switch it up ya’ll. Let’s switch it up. Do this peacefully, please,” he said.
‘A peaceful family’
Wearing a face mask with the image of his brother’s face on it, Terrence Floyd spent several minutes of silence at the flowers and other memorials that have sprung up to his brother before speaking.
Floyd said his family is “a peaceful family. My family is God-fearing.” And he said, “in every case of police brutality the same thing has been happening. You have protests, you destroy stuff … so they want us to destroy ourselves. Let’s do this another way.”
The crowd chanted, “What’s his name? George Floyd” and “One down, three to go,” referring to the other three officers involved in the arrest. Protesters are demanding they be prosecuted, too. All four were fired.
The gathering was part rally and part impromptu eulogy as Floyd urged people to stop the violence and use their power at the ballot box to vote.
WATCH | Minneapolis community organizer talks about how to achieve real change through protests:
‘Small number’ of protesters violent
While most of the demonstrations have been peaceful, others have descended into violence, leaving neighbourhoods in shambles, stores ransacked and cars burned, despite curfews around the country and the deployment of thousands of National Guard members in at least 15 states.
Even as police in some places tried to calm tensions by kneeling or marching in solidarity, officers elsewhere were accused of the very type of harsh treatment at the heart of the unrest.
In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., an officer was suspended for pushing a kneeling woman to the ground during a protest. In Atlanta, two officers were fired after bashing in the window of a car and using a stun gun on the occupants. In Los Angeles, a police SUV accelerated into several protesters, knocking two people to the ground.
In New York, the police commissioner said about six incidents were being investigated by the department’s internal affairs bureau, including a weekend confrontation in Brooklyn in which two police vehicles appeared to plow through a group of protesters. In another incident, an officer pointed a gun at protesters, drawing condemnation from the mayor.
WATCH | Aggressive police action during protests adds to distrust
Police officers and National Guard soldiers enforcing a curfew in Louisville, Ky., killed a man early Monday when they returned fire after someone in a large group shot at them, police said. By Monday afternoon, the city’s police chief was fired, after the mayor learned that officers involved in a shooting that killed the popular owner of a barbecue spot failed to activate body cameras during the chaotic scene.
The U.S. attorney said federal authorities will join state police in investigating the fatal shooting.
In Indianapolis, two people were reported dead in bursts of downtown violence over the weekend, adding to deaths recorded in Detroit and Minneapolis.
Former vice-president Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, wrote a post online expressing empathy for those despairing about Floyd’s killing. On Monday, he met with community leaders at a black church in his hometown of Wilmington, Del.
“The vice-president came to hear from us. This is a homeboy,” said Sylvester Beaman, pastor of the Bethel AME church.