Ex-Police Officer Who Knelt On George Floyd's Neck Is Arrested And Faces Charges

May 29, 2020
Originally published on May 29, 2020 7:37 pm
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He pinned George Floyd to the ground with his knee. He ignored Floyd's pleas that he couldn't breathe. And now, he has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd's death. Derek Chauvin is the now-fired Minneapolis police officer in question. Chauvin is white. Floyd was black. Protesters have been demanding this arrest for days in a city that is now burning, both figuratively and literally. But activists say they want more. Demonstrations continue in cities around the country. Video shows protesters smashing police cars in Atlanta. Huge crowds have gathered outside the Barclay Center in New York. And in Washington, the White House is locked down due to the protests outside. NPR's Leila Fadel joins us now from Minneapolis. Hey, Leila.


CHANG: Hi. So what else do we know so far about this arrest?

FADEL: Well, as you mentioned, this is that police officer in the video with his knee to George Floyd's neck as Floyd calls out for his mother and pleads for his life. Hennepin County attorney Mike Freeman made the announcement. This arrest and these charges are something demonstrators have been begging for, wondering why Chauvin wasn't under arrest already based on the video. If convicted on both of these charges, Chauvin could face up to 35 years in prison. The other three fired police officers who were involved are also under investigation. Freeman says he anticipates charges there.

CHANG: But one of the big questions here is, why the delay with this arrest? Floyd died Monday. It's now Friday. What's happened?

FADEL: Yeah. You know, that's something that Freeman was asked. A lot of people are asking, what is the delay, including actually the mayor of this city, Minneapolis. This is what Freeman says about that.


MIKE FREEMAN: We have charged this case as quickly as sufficient admissible evidence to charge it has been investigated and presented to us.

FADEL: Included in that evidence is footage from bystanders, the officer's body cam, statements from witnesses, and the medical examiner's report. Freeman says his office charged Chauvin in record time. He also says he doesn't want to get it wrong and have people walk away because of a botched case.

CHANG: But do you have any sense right now about whether this arrest will satisfy all those people out there protesting still?

FADEL: Yeah. That's a good question. I don't know that it will. First of all, a lot of questions about why not a higher degree of murder and manslaughter charges when this video is so graphic, and it clearly shows this man losing his life. They also say this is not just about George Floyd. It's about Floyd. It's about Breonna Taylor shot in her home in Kentucky. It's about the many other black people who deal with police abuse and racism whose lives, demonstrators say, are put at risk when police are involved. And about a systemic problem that just is never solved. In a press conference today, Leslie Redmond, the president of the NAACP Minneapolis chapter, said they want all four officers arrested and eventually convicted. And she says this was a long time coming.


LESLIE REDMOND: If you keep murdering black people, this city will burn.


REDMOND: We have stopped this city from burning numerous times, and we are not responsible for it burning now.


REDMOND: Mike Freeman is holding up progress.


REDMOND: Poverty and oppression is holding up progress.


REDMOND: This is not simply looting. This is an uprising.


REDMOND: An uprising of the oppressed peoples.


FADEL: So she says these protests, as you heard, are an uprising. She says officials...

CHANG: Yeah.

FADEL: ...Are demonizing the protesters and focusing on the looter looting rather than looking at what led to the rage.

CHANG: Now, I understand that you've been out near the third precinct this morning. This is the police precinct that had burned last night. Can you just tell us, what was it like out there?

FADEL: Well, the smoke was still rising, flames still coming out of businesses and mixed emotions. A young mother Somali American who wondered where she would safely shop in a pandemic now and others saying this is the police's fault, including Riley Hanson (ph)...


FADEL: ...A pregnant software engineer.

CHANG: That is NPR's Leila Fadel in Minneapolis. Thank you, Leila.

FADEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.