The family lawyers of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in US police custody, have requested his body for an independent autopsy after the county coroner raised doubts about suffocation as the cause of death.
The 46-year-old died on Monday after Derek Chauvin, a white officer in Minneapolis, pinned his neck down to the ground with his knee for nearly nine minutes. His death has sparked protests demanding justice across the United States.
The Hennepin County medical examiner said the combined effects of being restrained, potential intoxicants in the 46-year-old’s system and his underlying health issues, including heart disease, likely contributed to his death. It revealed nothing to support strangulation as the cause of death.
There were no other details about intoxicants, and toxicology results can take weeks.
In response to the preliminary autopsy findings, Benjamin Crump, one of the lawyers representing Floyd’s family, said the legal team would hire Michael Baden, the former chief medical examiner of New York City, to do the independent autopsy.
Baden had also been retained to do an autopsy for Eric Garner, a Black man who died in 2014 after New York police placed him in a chokehold and he pleaded that he could not breathe.
AUTOPSY STATEMENT: The legal team representing the family of George Floyd has issued the following statement related to the preliminary autopsy findings by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner. #GeorgeFloyd #SayHisName #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd #JusticeForGeorge #JusticeForFloyd pic.twitter.com/2szasXwiz8
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) May 30, 2020
Crump said the preliminary findings were part of a pattern also seen in previous cases of deaths at the hands of police.
“We saw in the Eric Garner case, and so many other cases where they have people who work with the city workers come up with things that are such an illusion – he had asthma, he had a heart condition – all these things that are irrelevant when they were living, breathing, walking, talking, just fine until the police accosted them,” Crump said.
A bystander video of Monday’s incident shows Floyd pleading for help, repeatedly saying: “I can’t breathe.”
Floyd eventually goes motionless, and Chauvin continues to kneel on Floyd’s neck for nearly three minutes despite appeals by bystanders to get off of him, according to court documents.
The four officers involved, including Chauvin, were fired on Tuesday. Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on Friday, more than three days after the incident.