Today, Hennepin County prosecutor Mike Freeman announced charges against former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin in connection with the murder of George Floyd. Freeman made the announcement in a press conference three hours ago.
“I’m here to announce that former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin is in custody. Former Minneapolis Police officer Derick Chauvin has been charged by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office with murder and with manslaughter,” Freeman said. “He has been charged with third-degree murder. We are in the process of continuing to review the evidence; there may be subsequent charges later. I failed to share with you: a detailed complaint will be made available to you this afternoon. I didn’t want to wait any longer to share the news that he’s in custody and has been charged with murder.”
“What about the other three officers?” one reporter asked.
“The investigation is ongoing; we felt it appropriate to focus on the most dangerous perpetrator,” Freeman said. “I must say that this case has moved with extraordinary speed. This conduct — this criminal action — took place on Monday evening, May 25th. Memorial Day. I am speaking to you at 1:00 [pm] on Friday, May 29th. That’s less than four days. That’s extraordinary. We have never charged a case in that kind of time frame, and we can only charge a case when we have sufficient admissible evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. As of right now, we have that.”
In response to a follow-up question about why officers weren’t arrested earlier, Freeman responded: “We have charged this case as quickly as sufficient admissible evidence to charge it has been investigated and presented to us.” But the questions didn’t end there. “Yesterday you said that these kind of things take time,” a reporter noted. “What’s changed between yesterday and this afternoon?”
“Fair question,” Freeman answered. “We have now been able to put together the evidence that we need. Even as late as yesterday afternoon, we didn’t have all that we needed. We have now found it, and we felt a responsibility to charge this as soon as possible.”
Freeman refused to speak about specific pieces of evidence that influenced the decision, but said: “I can only talk about what’s in the complaint. You will see in the complaint the evidence and put it all together. We needed to have it all. Let me just quickly say: we have evidence. We have the citizens’ camera video — that horrible horrific terrible thing that we’ve all seen over and over again. We have the officer’s body-worn camera; we have statements from some witnesses; we have our preliminary report from the medical examiner; we have discussions with an expert. All of that has come together. So we felt, in our professional judgment, it was time to charge, and we have so done.”
Reporters pressed for details about the three officers who stood by and watched Chauvin suffocate Floyd to death. Freeman refused to comment on whether those three officers would be charged. “I’m not going to speculate today on the other officers; they are under investigation. I anticipate charges, but I am not gonna get into that. Today ,we are talking about former officer Chauvin, [whom] we believe met the standard to be charged,” he insisted.
In response to questions about statutes, Freeman stressed that the investigation is still in progress and may result in more charges. “The investigation is ongoing. We have more discussions to do with our experts. This is the same charges that we made when we charged former Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor — the exact same 3rd degree charge and manslaughter charge,” he said. (Noor was charged for fatally shooting Justine Damond in 2016, after she called 911 to report a sexual assault happening near her home in Minnesota. He was sentenced to 12.5 years in prison.)
“This is by far the fastest we’ve ever charged a police officer,” Freeman emphasized. “Normally, these cases could take nine months to a year. You have to charge these cases very carefully because we have a difficult burden of proof. And let me just say something about that: We entrust our police officers to use certain amounts of force to do their job, to protect us. They commit a criminal act if they use this force unreasonably. We have to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office is one of the few prosecuting offices in this country in the past five years to successfully prosecute a police officer for murder,” Freeman said. “And we did that on behalf of Justine Damond. We know how to do this. We are a very veteran prosecutor group; there’s a very veteran investigative group at the BCA. On top of that, we had great cooperation from the FBI and from United States Attorney Erica MacDonald. She may have some things to share with you soon, but she does that on her own timetable. I want to say to you that I’m very pleased about the level of cooperation which frankly, I would say to you, doesn’t necessarily happen in other jurisdictions, according to my friends and the national prosecutors.”
“Did public outrage play a role in the speed of this investigation?” a reporter asked.
“I am not insensitive to what’s happening in the streets,” Freeman replied. “My own home has been picketed regularly. My job is to do it only when we have sufficient evidence. We have it today,” Freeman said. “We do our level best to charge each case when we have the evidence to do it. But we cannot, and I will not, allow us to charge a case until it’s ready. This case is now ready, and we have charged it.”
The complaint has been completed; it is being processed now, and a signed copy will be made available to you today,” Freeman said before he left the podium.
ABC News reporter Terry Moran noted: “Under Minnesota law, third-degree murder is defined as ‘whoever without intent to affect the death of any person causes the death of another, by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others’. So it is not murder with intent; Mike Freeman was asked about that and he said this is the appropriate charge, given the evidence. But the investigation continues.”