George Floyd, the 46-year-old unarmed black man filmed repeatedly saying he couldn’t breathe while a white Minneapolis police officer pinned his neck to the ground with his knee, died from asphyxia caused by pressure to his back and neck, according to an independent autopsy.
The independent autopsy performed by celebrity pathologist Dr. Michael Baden and Dr. Alllecia Wilson found that Floyd died of “asphyxia due to neck and back compression that led to lack of blood flow to the brain,” according to a statement released by civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who is representing the Floyd family.
“When [Floyd] said, ‘I can't breathe’... police think that if you can talk then you can breath. That is not true,” Baden said in a Monday press conference announcing the report, adding that Floyd has no underlying medical condition that would have contributed to his death. “He was in good health. The cause of death is asphyxia compression of the neck and back.”
The sustained pressure on the right side of Floyd’s carotid artery led to “impeded blood flow to the brain” and the weight on his back hindered his ability to breathe, the statement says. The two medical examiners also found that the weight on his back, handcuffs, and positioning were “contributory factors.”
The pair ruled Floyd’s death a homicide and found that it appears he “died at the scene.”
“The ambulance was the hearse... because based on all evidence, George was dead on that scene,” Crump said during the press conference. “George Floyd’s death will be permanent scar tissue on the subconscious of America.”
Hours after the independent report was revealed, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner released an updated autopsy report, which indicated that Floyd died from cardiac arrest while being restrained.
The updated report added that Floyd had indications of heart disease—including “arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease”— and he suffered from fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use. It also concluded that Floyd’s death was a homicide.
The two report comes three days after Hennepin County Attorney’s Office charged Derek Chauvin with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after he held his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes during a May 25 arrest.
Chauvin—along with Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and Alexander Kueng—were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department on May 26, one day after explosive footage of the incident spurred a national outcry and demands for a federal investigation.
Over the last six days, residents in more than 40 cities have taken to the streets, engaging in both peaceful and destructive protests, with some demonstrators burning police cars and clashing with authorities in the fight against police brutality. The National Guard has been deployed in almost half the states in the nation, plus Washington, D.C., after officials found local cops were insufficient to contain the outrage alone.
A criminal complaint filed against Chauvin last week outlines the events leading up to the now-infamous video of the 44-year-old officer pinning his knee on Floyd’s neck until he went limp. The complaint states that—according to body-camera footage—Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. For nearly three of those minutes, Floyd was unresponsive.
“Police are trained that this type of restraint with a subject in a prone position is inherently dangerous,” the complaint states.
“The combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death,” the complaint states.
Prosecutors allege two officers, Lane and Kueng, initially responded to a call at 8:08 p.m. on May 25 that Floyd had used a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store.
When the two officers found Floyd in his car, along with two passengers, they asked him to get out. According to the complaint, Lane pointed a gun at Floyd and ordered him to show his hands. He then pulled Floyd out of the car, and Floyd resisted being handcuffed.
As the pair walked Floyd to their squad car, the complaint says the 46-year-old stiffened up, and fell to the ground while saying he felt claustrophobic. The complaint states that officers Chauvin and Thao then arrived to help, and all four men tried several times to get Floyd in the car, but he kept “intentionally falling down” and saying he couldn’t breathe.
When Floyd fell down again, Kueng held his back and Lane held his legs—while Chauvin placed his knee on the unarmed man’s neck. Floyd said several times that he couldn’t breathe, and at one point called out for his mother.
In the gut-wrenching video recorded by a bystander, Floyd was heard begging for Chauvin to loosen his knee.
“My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Please, please I can’t breathe,” he said. By the time he was loaded into an ambulance, he had no pulse, a Minneapolis Fire Department report stated.
The complaint says that at one point, one officer told Floyd, “You are talking fine.” Later, Lane asked his fellow officers if they should roll Floyd on his side and said, “I’m worried about excited delirium or whatever.” Chauvin responded, “That’s why we have him on his stomach.”
“Unfortunately, many police are under the belief that if you can talk, that means you can breathe,” Baden said Monday. “That is not the case.”
After Floyd stopped moving, Lane again suggested moving him onto his side while Kueng checked for a pulse but couldn’t find one. The officers never changed Floyd’s position.
Antonio Romanucci, one of the attorney’s representing the 46-year-old’s family, said Monday the family is calling for the three other officers involved to be charged in Floyd’s death. Crump added that Floyd’s funeral will be held on June 9 in Houston, Texas.
“Police officers are the reason for [George Floyd’s] death,” Romanucci said, adding there was “extreme and systemic failures in the Minneapolis Police Department.”
On Sunday, Gov. Tom Walz announced Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is taking the lead in Chauvin’s prosecution. In an interview with CNN, Ellison said he is reviewing the actions of all the officers involved and his team is “moving as expeditiously, quickly and effectively as we can.”
“I need to protect this prosecution. I am not going to create a situation where people can say this was a rush to judgment,” Ellison told CNN on Monday.
Baden, who served as New York City’s chief medical examiner in the late '70s, has made a career investigating high-profile deaths, including those of Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, and former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez. Most recently, Baden performed the autopsy on billionaire pedophile Jeffery Epstein.
Wilson is currently the director of Autopsy and Forensic Services at the University of Michigan.