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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Minneapolis Police Officer Charged With Third-Degree Murder. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired May 29, 2020 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: But, certainly, the NYPD very much prepared here, as we see behind me.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Shimon, thank you so much for the update there in Manhattan.
And thank you for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER STARTS" right now.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
And we begin today with breaking news in our national lead.
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is now in custody and is being charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter for the killing of George Floyd. Chauvin was the officer who kneeled on the neck of Floyd, an unarmed black man, for more than eight minutes, as Floyd begged that he could not breathe.
Soon after, Floyd obviously had been killed.
The charging documents spelling out that Floyd was nonresponsive for almost three minutes before Chauvin removed his knee from Floyd's neck. The prosecutor in the case also saying that he anticipates charges for the other police officers involved.
This comes as new video of the incident has emerged. And I want to warn our viewers, this video is graphic. It appears to start earlier than the video many of us have previously seen. You can see in the video that it looks as though three officers are holding Floyd down, not just officer Chauvin.
CNN has reached out to the Minneapolis Police Department and the Floyd family about the video. We have not yet received a response. We will bring that to you when we get one.
Let's go straight now to CNN's Sara Sidner. She's live for us in Minneapolis. And, Sarah, we're learning more about what happened from the charging document. Tell us more.
SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
Look, you had mentioned it. And I just want to kind of go through a bit of it for you right now, Jake, though new details that we're seeing from these charging documents. But these, you could count out yourself.
It says that the defendant had his knee -- and that's the defendant, the police officer who was fired, Derek Chauvin -- on Mr. Floyd's neck eight minutes and 46 seconds. For a full two minutes and 53 seconds, Mr. Floyd was unresponsive, and the officer had his knee on his neck that entire time.
The charging documents also reveal what the medical examiner has so far determined, although the autopsy is not finished. He has said -- and this is something that the defense will likely seize on -- that there is no indication that Floyd died of intoxic -- or -- sorry -- of asphyxiation or strangulation, so no indication of asphyxiation or strangulation causing his death.
But -- and this is important -- the combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by police, his underlying health conditions, and his putting any potential intoxicants in his system is likely the contributor to Mr. Floyd's death.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: No justice.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: No peace!
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: No justice.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: No peace!
SIDNER (voice-over): Calls for justice continuing today in Minneapolis, as Derek Chauvin, the officer seen here kneeling on George Floyd's neck, is accused of third-degree murder.
MICHAEL FREEMAN, HENNEPIN COUNTY, MINNESOTA, ATTORNEY: Has been charged by the head of a county attorney's office with murder and with manslaughter. This is by far the fastest we have ever charged a police officer.
SIDNER: Prosecutors say the other officers involved are also under investigation and will likely face charges soon, this after overnight protests left the police precinct, the neighborhood, and parts of downtown in ruins.
REP. TIM WALZ (D-MN): Your pain is real. The chapter that's been written this week is one of our darkest chapters.
SIDNER: Minnesota Governor Tim Walz now vowing solidarity. WALZ: The ashes are symbolic of decades and generations of pain, of anguish unheard.
SIDNER: The Twin Cities tinderbox set ablaze Monday by this devastating scene.
GEORGE FLOYD, DIED IN POLICE CUSTODY: I can't breathe.
SIDNER: Now new cell phone video, first obtained by NBC News, shows Chauvin and two other officers pinning Floyd to the ground. He ultimately died.
We're also now learning Chauvin and Floyd used to work security at the same local nightclub, according to the owner.
MAYA SANTAMARIA, FORMER NIGHTCLUB OWNER: We were all working on the same team in that sense. And it's horrible to think that at this point that Chauvin would take the life of anyone that was associated with our nightclub.
SIDNER: Thursday night, police say more than 170 Minneapolis businesses were looted, damaged or destroyed.
Protests also erupted in Colorado, New York, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arizona, and Ohio.
L.Z. GRANDERSON, ESPN: It is so stressful at times just to be black in America. I still tense up, because I don't know if this is the day. And it's real. It's not made up. This is real.
SIDNER: This morning, the nation shocked at another arrest, CNN's own Omar Jimenez arrested live on air.
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you mind telling me why I'm under arrest, sir?
SIDNER: He and his team were inexplicably arrested this morning. They were held for some 90 minutes. Governor Walz now strongly denouncing their treatment.
WALZ: I don't care at this point what the circumstance was why they got arrested. It is wrong. It is unacceptable. And we needed to correct it.
SIDNER: Or we could do right here, if you can see the -- so, I want to give you a look at the scene right now. I want to give you a look at the scene right now.
We were here all night, as the 3rd Precinct went up in flames. The state patrol is out here again, the same department that arrested Omar Jimenez. They are standing so that nobody can get anywhere near the 3rd Precinct. You will see the building there, Jake, that has the boards up all the
way down. And then you see the Target sign. The 3rd Precinct is there. You can see the fence bent over. But there are folks gathering again.
And let me just give you a view of the folks that are gathering again. Why are they gathering? People say, oh, well, the officer has been arrested and charged. They want to see the other three officers arrested and charged. They do not feel like justice has been served yet -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Sara Sidner for us in Minneapolis, thank you so much.
Joining me now is former federal prosecutor Laura Coates, former police officer Redditt Hudson, who founded the National Coalition of Law Enforcement Officers for Justice, Reform and Accountability, and, of course, CNN political commentator Van Jones. Also joining us, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta to talk about some of the information we're getting in this new report, this charging document.
Laura, let me start with you.
We're getting a glimpse into the charging document for now former officer Chauvin -- or Chauvin, rather.
It says -- quote -- "The defendant, officer Chauvin, had his knee on Mr. Floyd's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds in total, eight minutes 46 seconds. Two minutes and 53 seconds of this was after Mr. Floyd was nonresponsive," so almost three minutes, his neck -- on his neck after Floyd is nonresponsive.
"Police are trained that this type of restraint with a subject in a prone position is inherently dangerous."
So, help us understand how that affects the case against him. He's being charged right now, third-degree murder and manslaughter.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, of course, third-degree murder is about a non-intent-based crime. It's saying that, although you did not intend to actually kill somebody, you acted with such a disregard for human life that it was essentially inevitable or at least foreseeable. That's the context of a third-degree, non-intent-based murder charge.
And why this is relevant here and what you have described here as the amount of time, which is just heartbreaking and repulsive to think that amount of time transpired with this officer's knee on this human being's neck, was that that's where they start -- the clock will essentially start.
The clock we will start from the moment that this person was, if he was resisting arrest at any point in time, if there is any murky area about whether there was any need for an officer to deploy some level of force to repel a force against them, well, at that moment in time, at the very least, at that moment, in time, when he was no longer moving, when he essentially was rendered completely submissive and nonresponsive, and to have that two-and-a-half more minutes go on, that indicates to you that this may actually be enhanced to an intent- based crime with a further investigation, number one.
It'll also show that reckless disregard for human life. And it also shows you about the officer's position of his hand. If you see from a lot of the photographs we're seeing, Jake, the officer had his hands in his pocket, which already alerts you, if you're intending to defend yourself against someone, are your hands in your pocket, or are they ready and to be able to repel any force against you?
Hand in pockets, nonresponsive person the ground, prone position, handcuffed, already telling you begging for air, the clock starts there and really undermines, perhaps fatally, any claim of self- defense, number one, or any claim that this officer was not fully aware that his actions could kill someone and did.
TAPPER: And, Sanjay, I want to get your reaction to a quote from the charging document looking into the medical examination.
It says -- quote -- "The autopsy revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation. Mr. Floyd had underlying health conditions, including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease. 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."
Look, I'm a layman, I'm not a doctor, I'm not a lawyer, but that seems strange to me to include that in there, because even if he wasn't the healthiest individual, and even if he had alcohol or drugs in his system, it seems pretty clear that the precipitating event here is that his -- that the officer's knee was on his neck for nine minutes.
Why include that other information?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think, with these autopsies, they're trying to be as complete as -- sorry, I apologize -- my -- trying to be as complete as possible with regard to providing all the -- all the medical information.
They're not sort of designed necessarily to answer all the questions about the circumstances. So, oftentimes, with these autopsies, they also say, we want to have you put it in the context of the situation. You got to put these things together.
I don't see that paragraph as being incongruence with itself. They may not have found a specific anatomical thing that suggested strangulation. That doesn't mean it didn't occur. You add in the context of what actually happened, and I think it becomes pretty clear.
But, Jake, to your point as well, start removing some of these mitigating factors. He had an underlying history of heart disease, yes. His lab results may have shown some intoxicants in his system. But it was the precipitating event. Clearly, those two things alone were not likely to lead to his death at that moment in time.
And I think that's another thing that medical examiners will say. Take what we're giving you, apply it to the to the situation overall.
TAPPER: And, Redditt, the charging document lays out some of the discussions officers were having while George Floyd was pinned down.
One officer asks multiple times if they should roll him over. Another checked Floyd for a pulse. What kind of insight does that give you into what the other officers who are not currently charged might have been thinking during this situation?
REDDITT HUDSON, FORMER ST. LOUIS POLICE OFFICER: They knew he was in distress. There's no other reason for them to ask those questions or raise those kinds of concerns, unless clearly they understood through what the victim was saying that he was in deep distress.
And it is good today that Derek Chauvin has been charged for the sadistic murder that he committed on camera. The next step is for him to be convicted. If we want to see things toned down around the country, that's what's required.
But those officers clearly understood what was happening to the man, as did Derek Chauvin.
TAPPER: And, Van, many activists today are saying that this one arrest is not enough.
What changes now that this one officer has been charged? Is there at least some relief that perhaps there will be justice?
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. No. Nothing's changed.
The -- first of all, I just want to be very clear. I have been doing police misconduct, criminal justice stuff as an attorney and as an advocate for about 25 years. This particular medical examiner's report reminds me of the 1990s, where there was this thing called sudden in- custody death syndrome, sudden in-custody death syndrome.
Things just got so sudden that the person died. And it was this kind of -- almost began to feel like a collaboration or collusion between law enforcement and the medical examiners to come up with stuff that kind of watered down the role of the police.
If you're going to say that -- if hypertension is going to become an excuse for what happened here, African-Americans, including myself, have hypertension at epidemic rates. So, you're basically saying, you're going to look the other way. That's the danger. That's the fear that people have when they hear that kind of medical examiner speak, that it's going to be used.
The medical examiner, of course, they're just doing their job, but it could be used and it could be abused.
And then I'm in conversation, communication with people on the ground there, just talked to attorney Crump. People feel badly about the idea that this is manslaughter and third-degree murder.
It may be the smarter move. It may be easier to prove up. And that may be the right course. But the way that it has landed is a slap in the wrist -- on the wrist already. The assumption is, you're going to plead down from that, and that there's not a seriousness about this.
Also, the other officers are accessories. If you or I did what is being described, if we had a gang, and the four of us went and held somebody down and put a knee on the neck, and other people wouldn't help or told other people to go away, we would be accessories to a crime.
And so, no, this is not going to end until all the officers are charged, and until there is a sense of some real determination. And that's why you're seeing the cry already going up from the black community to let Keith Ellison, the attorney general, get in this.
He is trusted. He's a longtime fair person. He's got ties to the black community. They want the state to step in. They do not trust this medical examiner. There also will be an independent medical examination by the family. They don't trust the medical examiner. They don't trust the DA.
Nobody trusts anybody until we see all four of those officers in handcuffs with real charges.
TAPPER: And, Sanjay, the charging document also says that he was unresponsive, Mr. Floyd, for almost three full minutes of -- about a third of the time that he was under the knee, his neck was under the knee of the officer.
Presumably, the officer would notice that he was unresponsive, which is baffling.
GUPTA: It is totally baffling. We don't understand why that would be. I mean, he had -- he would have noticed it. There were people around that would have clearly noticed it. I mean, that was just obviously, blatantly disregarding what you are seeing right in front of you.
So, that's -- I don't even have to say it's baffling, it seems really, really concerning that that would happen and that no one else flagged it. I think I could hear that people were saying things, but I don't know if he wasn't listening or what, but it was clear that he was unresponsive. Somebody who is right there would have absolutely noticed that.
TAPPER: And, Redditt, the charging document says the officers tried to get Floyd into the squad car multiple times but he, quote, struggled with officers by intentionally falling down, saying he was not going in the car and refusing to stand still, unquote.
Would that be considered resisting arrest by police standards? Why would this be included in the charging document?
HUDSON: You could articulate that that's resisting arrest.
But you can never equate what you saw the victim do on camera to what the response was from the officers that ultimately took his life. There were multiple opportunities, it appeared to me, once he was under the control of all four officers, to just pick him up and put him in the car. He was expressing his willingness to stand, he was asking to stand.
So I think that is really a nonissue and it doesn't mitigate anything when it comes to prosecuting this case. What I am encouraged by, though, what I see around the country, that we've had this conversation now running for years, Jake, is more and more law enforcement officers speaking out against this obvious abuse of power, from Los Angeles to New York, we've seen chiefs of police and other officers and people in the criminal justice system condemning the vicious act that they saw on this camera. We need to see more of that.
I've always believed that the change we need to see in this system, beyond the change, that we need to see throughout the nation relative to race and racism and institutional racism is that people inside the system and who have proximity have the opportunity to change the system from inside. We're starting to see more of that. It's very important relative to bringing cases like this, who your D.A. is, who your circuit attorneys are.
Here in St. Louis, for example, we have a circuit attorney, Kim Gardner (ph), who has been aggressive in going after police who abuse their authority. We need to see more of that, and they need to be supported when they do it, because, of course, they come under attack from keepers of the status quo in law enforcement unions that never want to be held accountable for anything, including incidents like this.
TAPPER: It's a good point. I have noticed other police chiefs condemning this in a way that I haven't in previous such incidents. And we should remind our viewers that what Mr. Floyd was accused of having done is having used a counterfeit $20 bill. This wasn't a violent crime he was being accused of or asked about.
Laura, let me ask you, the Hennepin County attorney in Minnesota says he anticipates charges against the other officers involved but his office wanted to get the, quote, most dangerous perpetrator first. As you know, there is new video showing what other officers were doing when George Floyd was being held on the ground.
What kind of charges might they face?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, oftentimes if people are acting in concert with somebody, they will be held to the same standard and liable for the actions that that person has taken. So, for example, in a concept generally of felony murder, if you have decided to engage in an armed robbery and one of you ends up killing someone, well, guess what, everyone who planned that army robbery is now liable for what's happened.
A similar theme could be in play for these other officers, either talking about what role they played, either passive or active. That's also however why they were calling for other witnesses to come forward. Is there more indication this was an active participant or a passive person who simply was complicit by turning a blind eye? We'll have to wait and see.
TAPPER: All right. Laura, thanks so much, and thanks so much to Van and Redditt and Sanjay, of course.
Coming up, President Trump announces a press conference but does not hold a press conference. He takes no questions and completely ignores the situation in Minnesota to say nothing of the 100,000 plus dead from coronavirus.
We're also watching crowded protests building across the nation already this afternoon after one officer has been charged in the murder of George Floyd.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. TIM WALZ (D-MN): Well, Minnesotans, your pain is real. The chapter that's been written this week is one of our darkest chapters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Welcome back to our national lead.
That was Minnesota Governor Tim Walz pleading for help to restore order, stop protests turning into lawlessness and to put an end to those who, quote, dropped firebombs to the businesses.
Now, the Minneapolis mayor is imposing a curfew tonight beginning at 8:00 p.m.
Joining us now, Minneapolis City Council member, Alondra Cano.
Councilwoman Cano, thanks so much for joining us.
Let's start with the investigation. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has now been charged with murder and manslaughter. What's your reaction to that and do you want charges against the other three officers?
ALONDRA CANO, NINTH WARD, MINNEAPOLIS CITY COUNCIL: I do want charges against the other three officers. I think all four people were involved and complicit in the cold, calculated, cruel killing of Mr. George Floyd.
I am very pleased to hear of the arrests by the BCA. And I have made a request to the governor's office to transfer the case from the jurisdictional purview of our Hennepin County district attorney, Mike Freeman, to the hands of our Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.
TAPPER: And we've just seen three nights of protests in Minneapolis. Some of the protests of course turned violent. The city's third police precinct was on fire last night. Officers have been responding using rubber bullets, and tear gas and more.
What's your message to the protesters?
CANO: I know that many of our protesters that have been out there trying to protect the sanctity of life through their voice and their actions are peaceful. Many of them indeed have participated in the actions and gotten hurt by our Minneapolis police department.
And that does not sit well with me. And there will be, I would say, actions that the council will consider in the coming days and weeks to make sure that we are able to correct for those behaviors and those actions, because we did not want to see anybody tear gassed, we do not want to see anybody hit with rubber bullets.
We have multiple reports from the ground where folks were indeed asking peacefully but would get hurt nonetheless. That's different than the folks who I think are out there putting buildings into fire and threatening the life of renters who are sleeping in the middle of the night while their buildings are burning right underneath them. It's different than the people who are continuing to go back to the businesses day after day to rob them of their property and their goods.
And my main concern really is for the small and immigrant locally- owned businesses that we have been working so hard to elevate, to close the city's racial wealth gaps. So, I think for us, many of us who are working on these issues of police reform and police transformation, we are unified and that we want peaceful demonstrations and we want a peaceful show of voice for accountability and we do not support the burning down of buildings.
Right now, Lake Street is in shambles. There could be irreversible damage done to our communities that will take years and years and years to bring back. So, I do hope people take it to heart that it's time to turn the page.
We've seen the grief come out of our community on Monday night, on Tuesday night. We have seen the physical impact of that grief on the structures around us. And now, I invite all of the folks who want to see true accountability to turn the page and focus on the difficult and long work that we have ahead of us to deconstruct the policing systems that we have inherited and to rebuild from the ground up systems that are going to align with our values and with protecting the safety of all human beings.
TAPPER: All right. Councilwoman Alondra Cano, thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate it. We're praying for peace in Minnesota. There have been days of protests, now one arrest, but protests are
building this afternoon across the nation. So, will tensions remain high tonight?
Stay with us.