The Minnesota attorney general filed new charges Wednesday in the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, adding a second-degree murder charge against Derek Chauvin and charging the other three officers involved in the arrest with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin has already been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The additional charges arrived days after the state’s attorney general, Keith Ellison, at the urging of Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, took over the prosecution of the case from Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. Each of the four officers now faces up to 40 years in prison, according to the criminal complaint.
The elevated charge against Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes before his death, accuses the 44-year-old white officer of committing murder without intent to do so. “First-degree murder charges in Minnesota require premeditation, Ellison said Wednesday,” MPR reports. “Second-degree murder charges involve unintentional killing while committing a felony. Ellison said in this case the felony was an assault on Floyd.”
The three other officers on the scene—Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao—were fired along with Chauvin in the immediate aftermath of the killing, and faced their first criminal charges Wednesday of aiding and abetting Chauvin’s alleged murder of Floyd. All three officers were taken into custody Wednesday and are being held on $1 million bail. Chauvin was arrested last week and is currently being held in a state corrections facility.
Representatives for Floyd’s family welcomed the news, but noted that charges were not the same as convictions. Ellison said he is confident that he can gain convictions of the charged officers, but prosecuting police officers for killings on duty has historically been difficult. “Charges against officers are rare, and convictions even rarer,” the Washington Post notes. “Since 2005, 110 nonfederal law enforcement officers in the United States have been arrested for murder or manslaughter for shooting someone on duty, according to a tally kept by Philip Stinson, a Bowling Green State University professor. From those ranks, five have been convicted of murder, five of homicide and another 22 of manslaughter.”