George Floyd family files lawsuit against Minneapolis, officers

Lawyers seek an amount to be determined by a jury, hope it will be so costly as to stop future killings by police.

Police Killing Victim George Floyd''s Old Houston Neighborhood
A mural dedicated to George Floyd is displayed on a wall of The Breakfast Klub in midtown, near where Floyd grew up and later mentored young men in Houston's Third Ward [Mario Tama/Getty Images/AFP]

George Floyd’s family has filed a lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis and the four police officers charged in his death, alleging the officers violated Floyd’s rights when they restrained him and the city allowed a culture of excessive force, racism and impunity to flourish in its police force.

Wednesday’s lawsuit seeks compensatory and special damages in an amount to be determined by a jury. The complaint also asks for a receiver to be appointed to ensure the city properly trains and supervises its police officers in the future.

“We seek to set a precedence to make it financially prohibitive that the police won’t wrongfully kill marginalised people, especially Black people in the future,” lawyer Benjamin Crump said at a news conference announcing the lawsuit. 

The complaint, emailed to Al Jazeera by Crump’s office, alleges the Minneapolis Police Department is at fault for Floyd’s death, due to its ratification of “the culture of systemic racism and disparate treatment of the Black Community”, vague and “unconstitutional” use of force policies and “Killology” training that “teaches officers to consider every person and every situation as a potential deadly threat and to kill ‘less hesitantly'”.

Crump said in a statement that accompanied the complaint: “The City of Minneapolis has a history of policies, procedures and deliberate indifference that violates the rights of arrestees, particularly Black men, and highlights the need for officer training and discipline.”

Floyd, a Black man who was handcuffed, died on May 25 after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd said he could not breathe.

Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. Three other officers at the scene – Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J Kueng – have been charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter.

All four officers were fired the day after Floyd’s death, which set off protests that spread around the world and turned into a national reckoning on race in the US.

Floyd’s death also sparked calls to abolish the Minneapolis Police Department and replace it with a new public safety department. A majority of City Council members support the move, saying the department has a long history and culture of brutality that has resisted change.

A public hearing was planned later on Wednesday on the proposal, which requires a change in the city’s charter that could go to voters in November.

The lawsuit came on the same day a court allowed public viewing by appointment of video footage from the body cameras of Lane and Kueng.

A coalition of news organisations and attorneys for Lane and Kueng has been advocating to make the videos public, saying they would provide a more complete picture of what happened when Floyd was taken into custody. The judge hasn’t said why he’s not allowing the video to be disseminated more widely.

According to documents in state probate court, Floyd is survived by 11 known heirs, including five children and six siblings. They live in Texas, North Carolina, Florida and New York. All but one of Floyd’s children are adults. He has no living parents or grandparents.

The families of victims of other high-profile police shootings have received high payouts in Minnesota.

Last year, Minneapolis agreed to pay $20m to the family of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, an unarmed woman who was shot by an officer after she called 911 to report hearing a possible crime happening behind her home.

Philando Castile
Protesters carry a portrait of Philando Castile on June 16, 2017 in St Paul, Minnesota. Protests erupted in Minnesota after Officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted on all counts of shooting and killing Philando Castile [Stephen Maturen/Getty Images/AFP] 

The settlement came three days after the officer, Mohamed Noor, was convicted of murdering her and is believed to be the largest payout ever stemming from police violence in Minnesota.

At the time, Mayor Jacob Frey cited Noor’s unprecedented conviction and his failure to identify a threat before he used deadly force as reasons for the large settlement.

The mother of Philando Castile, a Black motorist killed by an officer in 2016, reached a nearly $3m settlement with the suburb of St Anthony, which employed the officer.

The officer, Jeronimo Yanez, was acquitted of manslaughter and other charges.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies