Attorneys for George Floyd’s family on Friday refuted defense claims that Floyd died of complications stemming from a drug overdose while in the custody of Minneapolis police officers in May.
At a press conference that followed a pretrial court hearing in Minneapolis, civil rights attorney Ben Crump said it was the four criminally charged former officers — Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao — who caused Floyd’s death.
Chauvin, who held his knee to Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes, is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. Kueng, Thao and Lane are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
“They are trying to say that the knee on [Floyd’s] neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds was reasonable,” Crump said. “They are trying to claim some asinine theory about an overdose. America saw what happened. The world saw what happened. And so, who are you going to believe, your eyes or these killer cops?”
In July, Floyd’s family filed a civil lawsuit in federal court against the city of Minneapolis and the four former officers involved in the Black man’s killing.
Floyd died in police custody on May 25 after officers responded to a report of a counterfeit $20 bill that was used at a convenience store. Video taken at the scene showed a handcuffed Floyd being restrained on the ground by Chauvin. Floyd, 46, repeatedly told the officers he couldn’t breathe, according to the video and the criminal complaint in Chauvin’s case.
Floyd’s death sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and led to discussions in several cities about defunding the police — a proposal that would reallocate funding from police departments to other programs and social services.
Attorneys for Chauvin, Lane, Kueng and Thao all appeared in court in Hennepin County on Friday. They’re seeking separate trials for their clients, the Washington Post reported, as each defendant tries to distance himself from his co-defendants and Floyd’s death.
Defense attorney Thomas Plunkett, who represents Kueng, argued in court documents last month that Floyd had fentanyl in his system at the time of his death and had recently taken methamphetamine, Courthouse News reported. The drugs, coupled with Floyd’s health issues, caused his death, Plunkett argued in court documents, citing toxicology reports that determined Floyd had the drugs in his system, Courthouse News reported.
A press release issued in June by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office said Floyd had fentanyl and meth in his system, but said his death was caused in part by restraint and neck compression. The manner of death was ruled a homicide.
The claims that Floyd contributed to his own death more than the actions of the officers did outraged Floyd’s family and his supporters.
“It’s really a desperate defense,” Chicago attorney Antonio Romanucci, Crump’s co-counsel, said following Friday’s hearing. “They want to coincidentally say that whatever drugs were in his system killed him at the same time that the knee on the neck and the pressure on his back killed him. When you look at this from a legal perspective, the causation perspective, those drugs did nothing to him because we know that he had situational awareness. He was cooperative.”
Terrence Floyd, one of Floyd’s brothers, said he wants the officers to be held accountable.
“Growing up, that’s what I was taught,” he said. “Be accountable for your actions. If you do the crime, you do the time. So why is it different for these guys? It shouldn’t be different. It will not be different. ’Cause we will get justice for my brother.”
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