The Justice Department said on Thursday that it has made its investigation into the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died while in custody of Minneapolis officers, a “top priority.” Floyd’s death has sparked national outrage and prompted widespread protests from Minneapolis to Los Angeles. Floyd, 46, lost consciousness after saying repeatedly “I can’t breathe” while an officer pinned him down by kneeling on his neck. The four officers involved in the incident—Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng—were fired on Tuesday.
“The federal investigation will determine whether the actions by the involved former Minneapolis Police Department officers violated federal law,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota Erica MacDonald and FBI Special Agent Rainer Drolshagen. “It is a violation of federal law for an individual acting under color of law to willfully deprive another person of any right protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” The statement says that the “robust criminal investigation” will determine “whether federal criminal charges are supported by the evidence.”