The police officer who pressed his knee against George Floyd's neck was charged with the more-serious offense of second-degree murder on Wednesday, while charges were also been brought against three other officers who were at the scene.
The killing in Minneapolis on May 25 was filmed by a bystander, leading to protests against police brutality and racism across the US, before demonstrations spread around the world.
The officer,â€ŻDerekâ€ŻChauvin, was fired a day after the incident and initially charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The three other officers involved were also fired but were not charged until Wednesday. They have been charged with aiding and abetting murder.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison brought the more-serious charge againstâ€ŻChauvin,â€Żwhile also charging Thomas Lane, J Kueng and Tou Thao with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
All of George Floydâ€™s murderers have been charged. Their mugshots. pic.twitter.com/l2DlPOnNHuâ€” Kirk Moore (@KirkWrites79) June 3, 2020
Ellison called the protests sparked by the death as "dramatic and necessary" and said Floyd "should be here and he is not. His life had value, and we will seek justice."
Floyd's family and protesters have repeatedly demanded criminal charges against all four officers, as well as more severe charges for Chauvin who, a little over a week ago, pressed Floyd's neck to the ground with his knee for almost nine minutes, despite protests from the victim and passerbys that he couldn't breathe.
An attorney for Floyd's family, Benjamin Crump, described the latest development as "a bittersweet moment" and "a significant step forward on the road to justice." Crump added that Ellison had pledged to continue his investigation and would upgrade the charge to first-degree murder if warranted.
An official autopsy has confirmed Floyd's death to be the result of homicide.
Positive test for COVID-19
A full post-mortem examination of Floyd showed that he had tested positive for coronavirus in April, the Associated Press reported. Floyd had reportedly appeared asymptomatic.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office released a 20-page autopsy report on Wednesday, showing that Floyd had a heart attack while being restrained.
The autopsy also showed that Floyd's lungs were healthy but had some narrowing heart arteries.
An earlier summary report from the county had mentioned fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use under the other significant conditions'' category and not under "cause of death."
The full report noted that signs of fentanyl intoxication can include "severe respiratory depression'' and seizures.
Across the US, there was relative calm after several nights of looting in major cities. Local authorities in several cities, including Washington, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, imposed curfews in a bid to stop the unrest.
In Washington, National Guard troops and law enforcement officers wee deployed near the White House. Despite thousands of protesters gathering in the area, there were not major altercations.
In New York, a video circulating on social media showed police officers beat a man riding a bicycle for being out after curfew. In Los Angeles, thousands of protesters gathered in downtown ahead of the curfew.