By Tiffany Williams –
On Friday the Department of Justice announced that a federal grand jury in Minneapolis, Minnesota returned two indictments that were unsealed today.
The first indictment, the DOJ says charges former Minneapolis Police Department officers Derek Chauvin, 45; Tou Thao, 35; J. Alexander Kueng, 27; and Thomas Lane, 38, with federal civil rights crimes for their roles in the death of George Perry Floyd Jr.
The three-count indictment alleges that all four defendants, while acting under color of law, willfully deprived Mr. Floyd of his constitutional rights, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 242. Specifically, Count One of the indictment alleges that on May 25, 2020, Chauvin held his left knee across Mr. Floyd’s neck, and his right knee on Floyd’s back and arm, as George Floyd lay on the ground, handcuffed and unresisting, and kept his knees on Mr. Floyd’s neck and body even after Mr. Floyd became unresponsive.
The indictment alleges that Chauvin’s actions violated Mr. Floyd’s constitutional right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a police officer and resulted in bodily injury to, and the death of, Mr. Floyd.
Count Two of the indictment charges that Thao and Kueng willfully failed to intervene to stop Chauvin’s use of unreasonable force, resulting in bodily injury to, and the death of, Mr. Floyd.
Count Three of the indictment alleges that all four defendants saw Mr. Floyd lying on the ground in clear need of medical care and willfully failed to aid him. The indictment alleges that by doing so, all four defendants willfully deprived Mr. Floyd of his constitutional right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law, which includes an arrestee’s right to be free from a police officer’s deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. The indictment alleges that this offense resulted in bodily injury to, and the death of, Mr. Floyd.
The DOJ also said today that Chauvin is also charged in a separate, two-count indictment with willfully depriving a Minneapolis resident who was then fourteen-years-old of the constitutional right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a police officer, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 242. Count One of this indictment alleges that on Sept. 4, 2017, Chauvin, without legal justification, held the teenager by the throat and struck the teenager multiple times in the head with a flashlight. The indictment alleges that this offense included the use of a dangerous weapon—a flashlight—and resulted in bodily injury to the teenager. Count Two of the indictment charges that Chauvin held his knee on the neck and the upper back of the teenager even after the teenager was lying prone, handcuffed, and unresisting, also resulting in bodily injury.
Both indictments charge violations of Title 18, United States Code, Section 242. 18 U.S.C. § 242 states that it is a crime for an official acting under color of law to willfully violate a person’s constitutional rights. If government employees, like police officers, use or misuse the power provided to them by their position, they are acting “under color of law.”