Independent autopsy requested for George Floyd

George Floyd is pictured in an undated photo released by the office of Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump.Courtesy Ben Crump Law

Attorneys for a Minneapolis man whose last moments alive were captured by a bystander on a 10-minute cellphone video have requested to have an independent autopsy.

George Floyd was accused by a convenience store clerk on May 25 of attempting to use a counterfeit $20 bill when Minneapolis Police Department officers arrived on scene. About 20 minutes later, Floyd was pronounced dead, and four days later, former officer Derek Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder. It's unclear whether Chauvin has retained legal counsel.

None of the other responding officers had been charged as of Friday night.

Chauvin arrived outside the Cup Foods on Chicago Avenue with Officer Tou Thoa to assist two other officers, whose body cameras had been activated, with making the arrest.

Floyd complained of being "claustrophobic" and having troubling breathing before he was wrestled onto the pavement face first, according to the arrest warrant.

Around 8:19 p.m., Chauvin placed his left knee onto the back of Floyd's neck, refusing to move it despite Floyd's pleading, "I can't breathe."

"Should we roll him on his side?" Officer Thomas Lane is heard on bodycam footage asking Chauvin.

"No," Chauvin responded. "Staying put where we got him."

"The defendant had his knee on Mr. Floyd's neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in total. Two minutes and 53 seconds of this was after Mr. Floyd was non-responsive. Police are trained that this type of restraint with a subject in a prone position is inherently dangerous," according to the arrest warrant.

Ben Crump and S. Lee Merritt, attorneys for Floyd's family, announced at a press conference on Friday that they will have Dr. Michael Baden, a renowned forensic pathologist, conduct an independent autopsy instead of the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office.

"Under Minnesota state law, the Medical Examiner is a neutral and independent office and is separate and distinct from any prosecutorial authority or law enforcement agency," according to a statement from the medical examiner's office.

"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 at a press conference.

Floyd's words were reminiscent of the death of Garner, who died in police custody in July 2014 after being placed in an unauthorized chokehold by NYPD Officer Daniel Panteleo. Panteleo wasn't criminally charged, but he was fired from the force after a departmental trial in 2019. Garner's death also was caught on camera.

Baden also conducted an independent autopsy on Garner after a New York City medical examiner determined that a chokehold triggered a fatal cascade of events, including an asthma attack, for the 43-year-old.

Prior to Chauvin's arrest on Friday, Crump and Merritt called for a congressional hearing and a national task force to address deadly police-involved shootings.

"We need a national response -- we can no longer do this on a case-by-case basis" Merritt said.

"We have been dealing with the pandemic of racism and discrimination for far too long," said Ben Crump. "It is a pandemic, a national pandemic, we cannot keep looking at this regionally, this is affecting all African Americans, this a state of emergency. If we don't address this in the next month or two we will see another senseless, unjustifiable killing of an African American at the hands by people who are police or pretend to be police."

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