Three former Minneapolis police officers who were present during the arrest of an unarmed black man have been charged in connection with his subsequent death.
The charges were announced at a press conference Wednesday by Hennepin County District Attorney Mark Freeman and Minnesota State Attorney General Keith Ellison.
Court records obtained by a local news station revealed Thomas Lane, 37; Tou Thao, 34 and Alexander Kueng, 26 were each charged with one count of unintentionally aiding and abetting murder and one count of intentionally aiding and abetting manslaughter.
The charges stem from last week’s arrest of George Floyd, a Minneapolis resident who was accused by a deli employee of attempting to make a purchase with counterfeit money.
One officer, 44-year-old Derek Chauvin, was captured on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck during the arrest. Throughout the video, Floyd could be heard telling the officers he was in pain and unable to breathe.
Floyd’s lifeless body was placed on an ambulance stretcher and removed from the scene of the arrest. Video of the incident, first posted to Twitter, sparked a national outcry and led to days of protests in major cities across the country.
Last Friday, Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and third-degree unintentional manslaughter. On Wednesday, prosecutors added a second-degree murder charge against the officer.
Earlier this week, defense attorney Mark Reichel told FOX40 News he anticipated charges against the other three officers captured on cellphone videos during Floyd’s arrest.
On Wednesday, Mark said the additional second-degree charge is a more-serious offense that could carry a lengthier prison sentence, adding that prosecutors may have more evidence proving Chauvin’s intent.
“Second-degree murder charge means [Chauvin] intended the killing at some point,” Mark told FOX40 News. “Second-degree murder in Minnesota means there was a use of force and he intended to cause bodily harm, serious bodily harm, and during it someone died.”
Mark said it was unlikely prosecutors would have prevailed in court with a third-degree murder charge because Minnesota law requires proof that a person killed more than one individual during the incident.
“Had the case stayed with the county attorney and stayed as third-degree murder, [the officer] likely would have won the case,” Mark said.