UPDATE: The Hennepin County Medical Examiner ruled the death of George Floyd a homicide. It lists his cause of death as “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression,” while adding Floyd “experienced a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officer(s).” It also states “other significant conditions” that could have contributed to Floyd’s death as heart disease, fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use.
An independent autopsy requested by the family of George Floyd found that Floyd died from asphyxiation while former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck, the New York Times reports.
The results of the independent autopsy stand in stark contrast to preliminary findings issued by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office. That report, which was contained in the criminal complaint leveled against Chauvin last week, said the autopsy “revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation,” and instead said Floyd died out of a combination of being restrained, potential intoxicants in his system and underlying health conditions like heart disease and hypertension.
The independent autopsy was conducted by Dr. Allecia M. Wilson of the University of Michigan and Dr. Michael Baden, a former New York City medical examiner, who also conducted an independent autopsy on Jeffrey Epstein and testified at the O.J. Simpson trial. Their autopsy also found that Floyd died not just because Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck, but because the other officers helped hold Floyd down. For instance, another officer’s knee, pressed against Floyd’s back, reportedly compressed his lungs and made it harder for him to breathe.
Antonio Romanucci, a lawyer for Floyd’s family, said, “Not only was the knee on George’s neck a cause of his death, but so was the weight of the other two police officers on his back, who not only prevented blood flow into his brain but also airflow into his lungs.”
Benjamin Crump, the lead lawyer for Floyd’s family, said, per the Star Tribune, that an independent autopsy was requested because the medical examiner’s findings “do not address in detail the effect of the purposeful use of force on Mr. Floyd’s neck and the extent of Mr. Floyd’s suffering at the hands of the police.” Crump added that, according to an EMT report, medics performed pulse checks and delivered one shock while transporting Floyd to the hospital, where they continued to ventilate him even though he was still without a pulse. Crump argued the evidence suggests Crump died at the scene where he was detained and not later that night.
“George died because he needed a breath, a breath of air,” Crump said. “For George Floyd, the ambulance was his hearse… [He] was living, breathing, talking until we see those officers restrain him while he’s face down in handcuffs with Officer Chauvin having his knee lodged into his neck for over eight minutes, almost nine minutes, and the other officer having both his knees lodged into his back. And the doctors will explain the significance of that, as to the cause and manner of death.”
Both Crump and Dr. Baden addressed the Medical Examiner’s initial findings, too. Crump said he hoped they do not “create a false narrative for the reason George Floyd died,” while Baden said, “The autopsy shows that Mr. Floyd had no underlying medical problem that caused or contributed to his death. This is confirmed by information provided to Dr. Wilson and myself by the family.” A final report from the Medical Examiner has yet to be issued.
Floyd died last Monday, May 25th, and while Chauvin and three other officers involved in the incident were fired the following day, Chauvin wasn’t arrested until four days later. He has since been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Floyd’s death — along with the deaths of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery — set off a wave of protests across the country seeking, once more, an end to police brutality and greater accountability for law enforcement.