The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Minnesota State Attorney said Thursday that they’re investigating the case of how four police officers were involved in the death of George Floyd on May 25. The investigation is a top priority, they said.
Video of an officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as he repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe went viral this week, causing protests to erupt in Minneapolis, where Floyd lost his life after being held down by the officer until he was unconscious.
On Thursday the FBI released a statement with the Minnesota State attorney saying that they are looking into whether the four officers who were involved broke federal law.
The statement said the FBI “will determine whether the actions by the involved former Minneapolis Police Department officers violated federal law. It is a violation of federal law for an individual acting under color of law to willfully deprive another person of any right protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.”
Investigators Will Look Into Whether the Officers Knew They Were Killing Floyd
The FBI Special Agent In Charge, Rainer Drolshagenand, and Minnesota Attorney General, Erica MacDonald, said in the statement that they have assigned “experienced” criminal investigators and prosecutors to the Floyd case.
The four officers involved, Derek Chauvin, who was the one who knelt on Floyd’s neck, Tou Thao, who dealt with bystanders who were voicing concern that Chauvin should get off of Floyd, and officers Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane will all be investigated for their role in Floyd’s death. All four officers have been fired.
According to the Department of Justice, law officers are commonly investigated by the FBI for complaints of excessive force. The official language of the law is:
“Whoever, under color of any law, …willfully subjects any person…to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States [shall be guilty of a crime].”
The FBI will investigate specifically whether “the law enforcement officer(s) knew what he/she was doing was wrong and against the law and decided to do it anyway….Mistake, fear, misperception, or even poor judgment does not constitute willful conduct prosecutable under the statute,” according to the Department of Justice.
It is up to the FBI and prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the four officers knew Chauvin was killing Floyd and the others did nothing to stop it.
Protests and Violence in Minneapolis Erupted in Reaction to Floyd’s Death at the Hands of Police, With Gov. Tim Walz Saying ‘Feelings of Anger, Anguish, & Disillusionment are Justified’
Even though it may take months to file charges against the officers involved in the Death of George Floyd, the court of public opinion is clear. The Governor of Minnesota tweeted, “… I’m pushing for a full, fair, and expeditious investigation that will bring us closer to justice. We must continue to examine and address the systemic inequities and discrimination that led to this incident and far too many that have come before.”
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey tweeted in part, “Being black in America should not be a death sentence… I believe what I saw and what I saw was wrong on every level.”
Frey also pleaded with the community to keep the protests peaceful as reports of violence emerged, tweeting, “Please, Minneapolis, we cannot let tragedy beget more tragedy,” as an area on Lake and Hiawatha was reportedly becoming a dangerous place to be Wednesday night.
The NAACP Called Floyd’s Death a ‘Systematic State Sanctioned Murder’
The NAACP launched the the hashtag #WeAreDoneDying campaign on May 7. The campaign is “aimed at exposing the inequities embedded into the American healthcare system and the country at large. From COVID-19 to running while Black in America, the abuse faced by people of color, particularly African Americans is devastating.”
Only 18 days after the NAACP launched the #WeAreDoneDying Campaign, Floyd was killed by a police officer in the middle of the day on a public street as onlookers urged Chauvin to get off of Floyd’s neck. Video shows the three other officers did nothing to end the excessive force even after Floyd was unconscious.
The group called Floyd’s death “systematic state sanctioned murder,” and listed the names of several other African Americans who recently were killed by law enforcement.