Two doctors who carried out an independent autopsy of George Floyd, the black man whose death in Minneapolis police custody last week triggered nationwide protests, said on Monday that he died from asphyxiation and that his death was a homicide.
The doctors also said Floyd had no underlying medical conditions that contributed to his death – and that he was likely dead before he was placed into an ambulance.
That contradicts the initial findings of the official autopsy by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, which was cited in the court charging document against the police officer who drove his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
Those initial findings said there was no evidence of traumatic strangulation. It also said coronary artery disease and hypertension also likely contributed to Floyd’s death. The county’s full autopsy report has not yet been released. Later on Monday, the medical examiner declared Floyd’s death was a homicide.
“The evidence is consistent with mechanical asphyxia as cause of death and homicide as manner of death,” said Dr. Allecia Wilson of the University of Michigan, one of the two forensic doctors who performed an independent autopsy.
He suffered a cardiac arrest while being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on 25 May, the report found.
It listed Floyd’s cause of death as “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression”.
The examination also showed he had heart disease and recent drug use.
DEAD WITHIN MINUTES
Bystander video showed Floyd pleading to be let up and saying repeatedly that he couldn’t breathe as a police officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee firmly pinned into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Two other officers applied pressure with their knees to Floyd’s back.
Chauvin, who is white and has been fired from the Minneapolis police department, was hit with third-degree murder and manslaughter charges last week.
But Dr. Michael Baden, who also took part in the independent autopsy at the behest of Floyd’s family, said that the two other officers’ actions also caused Floyd to stop breathing.
“We can see after a little bit less than four minutes that Mr. Floyd is motionless, lifeless,” Baden said, adding he found no underlying health conditions in Floyd that caused his death.
Baden has worked on several high-profile cases, including the 2014 death of Eric Garner, a black man who died after being choked by police in New York City.
Baden shot down the argument that if Floyd could speak then he could breathe.
“Many police are under the impression that if you can talk, that means you’re breathing. That is not true,” Baden said. “I am talking right now in front of you and not taking a breath.”
MORE CHARGES DEMANDED
Antonio Romanucci, one of the attorney’s representing the Floyd family, said that all four officers at the scene should be facing charges, not just Chauvin.
“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 the blood flow into his brain, but the air flow into his lungs,” Romanucci said. “That makes all of those officers on the scene criminally liable.”
Ben Crump, lead attorney for the Floyd family, said the independent autopsy and video evidence make it clear that Floyd was dead while he was still lying on the street with police atop him.
“That ambulance was his hearse,” he said.
Crump said the Floyd family wants to see charge lodged against all four officers who were at the scene – and for Chauvin, who kneed Floyd’s neck, to be facing first-degree murder charges.
But they are also seeking an end to the violent protests that have beset the United States to end.
“George died because he needed a breath, a breath of air,” Crump said. “I implore you all to join his family in taking a breath – taking a breath for justice, taking a breath for peace.”