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George Floyd’s death was homicide, says medical examiner

World News | Published: | Last Updated:

A post-mortem found that he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression.

George Floyd

A medical examiner has classified George Floyd’s death as a homicide, saying his heart stopped as police restrained him and suppressed his neck, in a widely seen video that has sparked protests across the US.

“Decedent experienced a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officer(s),” the report read.

Under “other significant conditions” it said Mr 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 Mr Floyd’s death, and three other officers have been fired.

Demonstrators in Minneapolis
Demonstrators in Minneapolis (Evan Vucci/AP)

Bystander video showed the officer, Derek Chauvin, holding his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck despite the man’s cries that he cannot breathe until he eventually stopped moving.

A post-mortem examination commissioned for Mr Floyd’s family found that he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression, the family’s lawyers have said.

The examination found the compression cut off blood to Mr Floyd’s brain, and weight on his back made it hard to breathe, lawyer Ben Crump said at a news conference.

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The family’s procedure differs from the official post-mortem 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 Mr Floyd’s system, but also said it found nothing “to support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation”.

Mr Floyd, a black man who was in handcuffs at the time, died after the white officer ignored bystanders’ shouts to get off him and Mr Floyd’s cries that he couldn’t breathe.

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His death sparked days of protests in Minneapolis that have spread to cities around America.

The official post-mortem last week provided no other details about intoxicants, and toxicology results can take weeks.

In the emergency call that drew police, the caller described the man suspected of paying with counterfeit money as “awfully drunk and he’s not in control of himself”.

Mr Crump said last week that he was commissioning the family’s own post-mortem.

Mr Floyd’s family, like the families of other black men killed by police, wanted an independent look because they did not trust local authorities to produce an unbiased test.

The family’s post-mortem was conducted by Michael Baden and Allecia Wilson. Mr Baden is the former chief medical examiner of New York City, who was hired to conduct a post-mortem of Eric Garner, a black man who died in 2014 after New York police placed him in a chokehold and he pleaded that he could not breathe.

Mr Baden also conducted an independent post-mortem of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old shot by police in Ferguson, Missouri. He said that procedure, requested by the teenager’s family, did not reveal signs of a struggle, casting doubt on a claim by police that a struggle between Mr Brown and the officer led to the shooting.

The officer who held his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter and is in custody in a state prison.

Derek Chauvin
Derek Chauvin (Hennepin County Sheriff/AP)

The other three officers on scene, like Chauvin, were fired the day after the incident but have not been charged.

Mr Crump on Monday called for the remaining three officers to be arrested and for the charge against Chauvin to be upgraded to first-degree murder.

The head of the Minneapolis police union said in a letter to members that the officers were fired without due process and lawyers are fighting for their jobs.

Lieutenant Bob Kroll, the union president, also criticised the city leadership, saying a lack of support is to blame for the days of sometimes violent protests.

Mayor Jacob Frey said: “For a man who complains so frequently about a lack of community trust and support for the police department, Bob Kroll remains shockingly indifferent to his role in undermining that trust and support.”

Mr Frey said Mr Kroll’s opposition to reform and lack of empathy for the community has undermined trust in the police.

State governor Tim Walz announced on Sunday that attorney general Keith Ellison would take the lead in any prosecutions in Mr Floyd’s death.

Local civil rights activists have said Hennepin County attorney Mike Freeman does not have the trust of the black community. They have protested outside his house, and pressed him to charge the other three officers. He remains on the case.

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