George Floyd autopsy shows he died of asphyxia and his death was partly caused by other officers, lawyer says

"For George Floyd the ambulance was his hearse" — Attorney Ben Crump 

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Monday 01 June 2020 21:43 BST
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The lawyer for George Floyd’s family says that an independent autopsy shows that Mr Floyd died from asphyxiation caused by neck and back compression during his arrest by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day.

Medical examiners found that pressure on Mr Floyd’s carotid artery impeded blood flow to his brain and weight on his back impeded his ability to breathe. From all the evidence, doctors Michael Baden and Allecia Wilson said it now appears that he died at the scene.

"What we found is consistent with what people saw. There is no health issue that could cause or contribute to the death," Dr Baden said. "Police have this false impression that if you can talk, you can breathe. That's not true."

Attorney Ben Crump has called for former officer Derek Chauvin to be charged with first degree murder for the sustained pressure he placed on Mr Floyd's neck with his knee for at least eight minutes — including after witnesses and a paramedic expressed concern for Mr Floyd's safety.

The autopsy states that the two officers kneeling on Mr Floyd's back also played a contributing factor in his death in addition to the handcuffs and his positioning. The fourth officer who stood by is described as a "physical blue shield — a living symbol of the code of silence".

"For George Floyd the ambulance was his hearse," Mr Crump said.

Co-counsel Antonio Romanucci of the firm Romanucci and Blandin, said that while it was Mr Chauvin's knee that pressed into Mr Floyd's neck, it was the culture of the Minneapolis Police Department that was largely responsible for his death.

"The city of Minneapolis clearly had a pattern, custom and practice of failing to train and discipline its police officers, creating a culture of impunity allowing them to treat people of colour as lesser human beings, unworthy of basic respect," Mr Romanucci said.

Mr Crump added: "What we know is this: George Floyd was alive before his encounter with Derek Chauvin and his fellow officers, and he was dead shortly after that. The tragic cause of death is incredibly clear, and we are fiercely committed to justice for his family."

Mr Chauvin has been charged with third degree murder and manslaughter. The other three officers present have not been taken into custody. All four were fired from the police department.

Findings from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's initial autopsy found "no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation" and ruled that "underlying health conditions" contributed to Mr Floyd's death. The Floyd family decided to pursue an independent autopsy.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner added an update on Monday to its official autopsy, saying the manner of death is homicide and listed as the cause of death as "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression".

It also said Mr Floyd suffered from other significant conditions, including arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease, fentanyl intoxication, and recent methamphetamine use.

"Decedent experienced a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officer(s)," the updated statement said.

"Manner of death classification is a statutory function of the medical examiner, as part of death certification for purposes of vital statistics and public health. Manner of death is not a legal determination of culpability or intent, and should not be used to usurp the judicial process. Such decisions are outside the scope of the Medical Examiner's role or authority."

The Floyd family and their legal representatives called on protesters to continue to raise their voices, but to refrain from violence and looting.

"Looting and violence are absolutely unacceptable. They were unacceptable to George, and they must be unacceptable to us. The way to honour George is to achieve justice," Mr Crump said. "As a country, we need to take a deep breath. George Floyd wasn't allowed that, be we must."

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