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Hennepin County medical examiner calls Floyd's death 'homicide'

Heart stopped as man was held down by police officer.

Posted: Jun 1, 2020 7:01 PM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A medical examiner on Monday classified George Floyd’s death as a homicide, saying his heart stopped as police restrained him and compressed his neck, in a widely seen video that has sparked protests across the nation.

“Decedent experienced a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officer(s),” the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office said in a news release. Cause of death was listed as “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression.”

Under "other significant conditions” it said Floyd suffered from heart disease and hypertension, and listed fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use. Those factors were not listed under cause of death.

A Minneapolis police officer was charged last week with third-degree murder in Floyd’s death, and three other officers were fired. Bystander video showed the officer, Derek Chauvin, holding his knee on Floyd’s neck despite the man's cries that he can't breathe until he eventually stopped moving.

A separate autopsy commissioned for Floyd’s family also called his death a homicide. It concluded that that he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression, said the family’s attorney, Ben Crump, who called for the charge against Chauvin to be upgraded to first-degree murder and for three other officers to be charged. He didn't say what the charges against the other officers should be.

That autopsy, by a forensic pathologist who also examined Eric Garner’s body, 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, Crump said.

Both the medical examiner and the family’s experts differed from the description in last week’s criminal complaint against the officer of how Floyd died. The complaint, citing preliminary findings from the medical examiner, listed the effects of being restrained, along with underlying health issues and potential intoxicants in Floyd’s system. But it also said nothing was found “to support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation.” Neither side has released its full autopsy report so far.

The family's autopsy found no evidence of heart disease and concluded he had been healthy.

Floyd, a black man who was in handcuffs at the time, died after Chauvin, who is white, ignored bystander shouts to get off Floyd and Floyd's cries that he couldn't breathe. His death sparked days of protests in Minneapolis and around America.

The complaint provided no details about intoxicants. In the 911 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.”

Floyd’s family and attorneys, like the families of other black men killed by police, commissioned their own autopsy because they didn’t trust local authorities to produce an unbiased report.

The family's autopsy was done by Michael Baden and Allecia Wilson. Baden is the former chief medical examiner of New York City, and was hired to do an autopsy of 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.

Baden also did an autopsy at the family's request for Michael Brown, an 18-year-old shot by police in Ferguson, Missouri. He said Brown didn’t reveal signs of a struggle, casting doubt on a claim by police that a struggle between Brown and the officer led to the shooting.

Dr. Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist from the San Francisco Bay area who blogs about the subject and is not connected with the case, said the key difference between the medical examiner's conclusions and those of Baden and Walker are the official finding of “significant” conditions for Floyd, including heart disease and drugs in his system.

Baden and Wilson acknowledged on a conference call with reporters that they didn't have access to the tissue samples that the medical examiner kept that might have given more information on his health. Nor did they have their own toxicology results yet.

Melinek said it's not unusual for different pathologists to reach different determinations, given that they may be looking at different information and that they've had different experiences and training.

Under the law, a medical examiner determines the cause and manner of death, but it's up to prosecutors to decide whether criminal charges are warranted. The term homicide means only that a person's death was caused by another person.

Chauvin, who was also charged with manslaughter, is being held in a state prison. The other three officers on scene, like Chauvin, were fired the day after the incident but have not been charged.

The head of the Minneapolis police union said in a letter to members that the officers were fired without due process and labor attorneys are fighting for their jobs. Lt. Bob Kroll, the union president, also criticized city leadership, saying a lack of support is to blame for the days of sometimes violent protests.

When asked to respond, Mayor Jacob Frey said Kroll's opposition to reform and lack of empathy for the community has undermined trust in the police.

Gov. Tim Walz announced Sunday that Attorney General Keith Ellison would take the lead in any prosecutions in Floyd's death. Local civil rights activists have said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman doesn't have the trust of the black community. They have protested outside his house, and pressed him to charge the other three officers.

Freeman remains on the case.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 42772

Reported Deaths: 1542
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin13697791
Ramsey5313234
Dakota275396
Stearns253619
Anoka2458111
Nobles16946
Washington130641
Olmsted130220
Mower9872
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Blue Earth5862
Wright5475
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Sherburne3725
Lyon3512
Freeborn3140
Watonwan2720
Steele2501
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St. Louis23816
Nicollet20712
Martin1755
Winona15015
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Crow Wing11512
Otter Tail1151
Pine1150
Chisago1111
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Dodge990
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Polk903
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Isanti830
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Grant320
Houston320
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Lincoln250
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Koochiching221
Wilkin223
Norman210
Cass202
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Marshall160
Clearwater150
Mahnomen131
Pope130
Stevens110
Hubbard100
Lake90
Traverse70
Lac qui Parle50
Red Lake50
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 35534

Reported Deaths: 754
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk7611185
Woodbury334944
Black Hawk253459
Buena Vista173811
Johnson14878
Dallas141531
Linn141083
Marshall110019
Scott109810
Dubuque100023
Story8778
Pottawattamie84113
Wapello71631
Muscatine69545
Crawford6813
Sioux5050
Tama48829
Webster4295
Wright3991
Louisa36713
Jasper35717
Plymouth3535
Warren3371
Cerro Gordo3291
Dickinson3073
Washington2559
Hamilton2041
Boone1751
Clay1511
Clarke1453
Clinton1391
Allamakee1384
Mahaska11917
Shelby1190
Carroll1171
Bremer1167
Franklin1130
Poweshiek1128
Pocahontas1091
Des Moines1022
Emmet970
Cedar961
Henry933
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Cherokee851
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Floyd822
Guthrie814
Taylor810
Benton781
Monona780
Jones741
Butler702
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Sac680
Jackson670
Buchanan651
Calhoun652
Iowa631
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Harrison620
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