Charges against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin were upgraded from third-degree murder to second-degree charges because investigators believe he "intentionally assaulted" George Floyd, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said Friday.
"We believe that he intentionally assaulted George Floyd as opposed to just doing a depraved, crazy, outrageous act that ultimately killed him," Ellison said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "We believe he committed a felony against George Floyd and that resulted in death, intended or not, and so that is the distinction. We believe he did act with intentionality on the underlying felony, which supports felony murder in the second degree."
The other three former officers, who stood near as Chauvin pinned Floyd's neck under his knee for more than eight minutes, were charged with aiding and abetting the murder. As evidence continued to come in, investigators believed that the facts were there to demonstrate to a jury that they "actively aided and abetted, and despite having a duty to do so, didn't render any aid," said Ellison.
Caution has been taken in determining charges against the four former police officers because there have been "so many cases" in which defense attorneys were able to break a link of the prosecutorial case and "the jury bought it," including in the Rodney King and Walter Scott police death cases and in the "quasi-police" case death of Trayvon Martin, said Ellison.
"We're all raised to believe, you know, the police, even though we know that police officers are members of the human race and subject to what everybody else is subject to, of good and bad," said Ellison.
But nobody is "beneath the law," including George Floyd, Ellison added.
"It's not okay to kill him in the streets and we're not going to stand for it," said Ellison, "so we brought the charges that we thought were supported by the evidence."
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