Minneapolis police chief says Floyd’s death was ‘murder’

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FILE – In this July 30, 2018 file photo, Minneapolis Police Union President Lt. Bob Kroll speaks during a news conference in Minneapolis. Talk of changing the Minneapolis Police Department is everywhere in the wake of George Floyd’s death in an encounter with four officers. But real change may depend on confronting a powerful union that has resisted similar attempts for years. Local politicians and police leaders have long blamed an entrenched culture in the department and the union. (Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune via AP)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minneapolis’ police chief says the death of George Floyd was “murder” and that the officer who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck knew what he was doing because he had taken specific training on the dangers of positional asphyxiation.

It appears to be the first time Chief Medaria Arradondo has used the word “murder” to describe the death. Floyd, a Black handcuffed man, died May 25 after Derek Chauvin, a white officer, pressed his knee into his neck for nearly 8 minutes and held it there even after Floyd said he couldn’t breathe and stopped moving.

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. Three other officers — J. Kueng, Tou Thao and Thomas Lane — are charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter.

All four officers were fired.

In response to questions and a data request from the Star Tribune, Arradondo issued a statement Monday night saying: “Mr. George Floyd’s tragic death was not due to a lack of training — the training was there. Chauvin knew what he was doing.”

Arradondo went on to say: “The officers knew what was happening — one intentionally caused it and the others failed to prevent it. This was murder — it wasn’t a lack of training.”

Attorneys for Chauvin, Thao and Kueng had no comment. A message left for Lane’s attorney wasn’t immediately returned to The Associated Press.

Arradondo said in his statement, first reported by the Star Tribune and also provided to the AP, that both Chauvin and Thao took training on the dangers of positional asphyxiation in 2014. The training, which covered how to get an arrestee from a prone position into a recovery or seated position, was required after a 2013 settlement with the family of David Cornelius Smith, a handcuffed Black man who died in 2010 after police pinned him face down.

Arradondo said the department also changed its policy in June 2014 to explicitly require moving an arrestee from a prone position to a recovery position when the highest degree of restraint is used, and to require continuous monitoring of the person’s condition.

He also said trainees continue to discuss the risks of in-custody deaths, and there’s “simply no way that any competent officer” would be unaware of the need to move an arrestee so he or she can breathe freely.

Separately, leaders of the Minneapolis police union acknowledged Tuesday that bystander video of the police encounter with Floyd was “horrific” but said they’ve been denied the chance to look at body camera video that could shed more light on what happened.

The union’s president, Lt. Bob Kroll, issued a statement soon after Floyd died cautioning the public not to rush to judgment and saying the union would provide its “full support” to the officers. On Tuesday, he told “CBS This Morning” that he thinks union members are being scapegoated for incompetent department leadership.

Kroll acknowledged that widely seen cellphone video of Floyd’s death is “horrific,” but that the union was left “blindsided” by being denied the right to review officer body camera video.

“Right now we cannot make an informed decision regarding the other officers that do not appear on camera,” he said.

Union director Rich Walker said “any human being” that watches the bystander video knows that Floyd’s arrest “should not have ended the way it did.” But Walker questioned statements that Floyd didn’t resist officers because the union hasn’t seen footage of the minutes leading up to what the bystander video showed.

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