A family attorney has blasted a medical examiner’s findings that George Floyd had fentanyl in his system as a ‘red herring’ meant to distract attention away from a Minneapolis police officer’s responsibility for his death.
During a news conference Tuesday, attorney Ben Crump also disputed the findings released by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner that the cause of death was cardiac arrest, which happened as police restrained Floyd and compressed his neck in a widely seen video that has sparked worldwide protests.
The medical examiner also listed fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use, but not as the cause of death.
An autopsy commissioned by the family, which Crump released Monday, concluded that Floyd died of a lack of oxygen caused by the officers’ knees on his neck and back.
‘The cause of death was that he was starving for air. It was lack of oxygen. And so everything else is a red herring to try to throw us off,’ Crump said Tuesday.
He said the Hennepin County medical examiner went to great lengths to try to convince the public that what was shown on bystander video didn’t cause Floyd to die.
‘It is an attempt to assassinate his character, after they assassinated him right then on the video,’ he said.
Floyd, a black man who was in handcuffs at the time, died May 25 after Derek Chauvin, who is white, ignored bystander shouts to get off Floyd and Floyd’s cries that he couldn’t breathe.
Chauvin and the three other officers at the scene were fired, and Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Floyd’s family and many others have called for more serious charges against Chauvin and for the other officers to be charged.
Crump said in an interview that he expects the three other officers to be charged imminently.
‘We heard that they expect to charge those officers…We understand they will be charged,’ lawyer Benjamin Crump told NBC News’ Today show on Tuesday of the other three officers in the case.
‘That is what the family is hearing from the authorities,’ added Crump, a high-profile attorney who has also represented the families of Trayvon Martin in Florida and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
In addition to Chauvin, present at the scene were officers Tou Thao, Thomas K. Lane and J. Alexander Kueng.
None have been charged in the case, but Crump argues that the independent autopsy suggests that pressure on Floyd’s back also contributed to his death by impeding his breathing.
At some point during his arrest, video from the scene shows at least three officers pinning him to the ground, as another stands above.
Crump also called for upgrading the charges against Chauvin, who faces 25 years in prison if convicted.
‘I think it’s very likely the charges are going to be upgraded,’ Crump said of the charges against Chauvin.
‘Why is it when a white police kills a black person in America, we act like it’s such a difficult thing to charge them with what we would be charged with,’ he said.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who has taken over the case, recently addressed calls to upgrade the charges against Chauvin.
‘What I can tell you is that we are going to take a fresh look at the evidence and all the other law,’ Ellison told NBC News’ Into America podcast.
‘And we are going to go with a charge, the highest level of accountability that we can that can be sustained by those facts and the law,’ Ellison said.
‘So you ask, is it on the table? The answer to that question is yes, it is on the table. And we’re moving as expeditiously as we can as you weigh the evidence and think about whether those charges should be upgraded.’
‘I’m very reluctant to give a hard deadline at this point but we’re not talking too much longer,’ he said.
In a separate interview with Good Morning America, Ellison said that ‘all charges’ are on the table including first degree murder.
He said his office is working quickly to get through evidence and could see charges against three other cops ‘very soon’ but did not give a deadline.
Ellison, said Tuesday that prosecutors are working as fast as they can to determine whether more charges will be filed, but they also have to work carefully and methodically.
Ellison told ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ on Tuesday that despite the widely viewed bystander video of Floyd´s final moments, cases against police officers are hard.
He pointed to the deaths of Freddie Gray and Philando Castile, and the beating of Rodney King, as examples of cases where striking video of an incident did not lead to officers being convicted.
Ellison did not give a timeline for any new charges.
‘We’re making sure that every link in the prosecutorial chain will be tight and we are proceeding forward with justice in mind,’ he said, adding: ‘There is nobody who has culpability who will not be held accountable.’
Floyd’s death inspired protests across the country, which again devolved into violence and destruction on Monday, the seventh straight night of unrest.
President Donald Trump responded with boast and threats to send in troops to ‘dominate the streets.’
In New York, looters smashed shop windows near Rockefeller Center and breached the doors of Macy´s flagship store on 34th Street, littering the pavement with broken glass.
An SUV plowed into a group of officers at a demonstration in Buffalo, injuring three, including a state trooper who suffered a broken leg and a shattered pelvis.
Demonstrations also broke out in such places as Philadelphia, where hundreds of protesters spilled onto a highway in the heart of the city; Atlanta, where police fired tear gas at demonstrators; and Nashville, where more than 60 National Guard members put down their riot shields at the request of peaceful protesters who had gathered in front of Tennessee´s Capitol to honor George Floyd.
Bystander Sean Jones, who watched as people ransacked luxury stores in New York over the weekend, said: ‘People are doing this so next time, before they think about trying to kill another black person, they´re going to be like, ´Damn, we don´t want them out here doing this … again.´’
The death toll from the unrest rose to at least nine, including two people killed in a Chicago suburb.
More than 5,600 people nationwide have been arrested over the past week for such offenses as stealing, blocking highways and breaking curfew, according to a count by The Associated Press.
Cities struggled to keep police in line and avoid instances of excessive force. The police chief in Louisville, Kentucky, was fired after a beloved restaurant owner was killed by police and National Guard members enforcing a curfew.
In Richmond, Virginia, the police chief said officers who used tear gas on a group of peaceful protesters would be disciplined.
An officer was shot shortly before midnight near the Circus Circus casino in Las Vegas. Police had no immediate word on the officer’s condition. Four officers were shot in St. Louis; they were expected to recover.
Trump, meanwhile, portrayed himself as a hard-nosed, law-and-order president, with police under federal command using tear gas to clear peaceful demonstrators from a park near the White House so that he could walk to a church and pose with a Bible.
Emerging after two days out of public view, he threatened from the White House Rose Garden to deploy ‘thousands and thousands’ of U.S. troops.
The photo op at the house of worship known as the Church of the Presidents was condemned by Episcopal Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde.
‘The president just used a Bible and one of the churches of my diocese as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our church stands for,’ she said.
A senior White House official said Tuesday that despite Trump’s threats, the goal was to pressure governors to deploy National Guard units. The president was not rushing to use the Insurrection Act to send in the military, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Keith Griffith; The Associated Press