Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter charges in George Floyd's death after pressing his knee into Floyd's neck as he cried out: “I can't breathe.”
The defense argued that Chauvin, a white 19-year veteran, used reasonable force and that Floyd died because of his illegal drug use and underlying health problems.
It has been rare to charge police with crimes in the death of civilians, and winning a conviction is harder in part because juries are often reluctant to second guess an officer’s split-second decisions. But Chauvin's knee was on Floyd's neck for 9 1/2 minutes, prosecutors say, as bystanders shouted at the officer to get off Floyd.
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Here's a look at other high-profile killings by police and the outcome of the case:
Eric Garner, 43, died in July 2014 in New York City after a white officer placed him in a chokehold when Garner refused to be handcuffed for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. A Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in December that year. The Justice Department said in 2019 that it wouldn't file civil rights charges after a yearslong investigation.
Michael Brown, 18, was fatally shot by a white officer, Darren Wilson, in August 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, touching off weeks of sometimes-violent protests. A St. Louis County grand jury declined in November 2014 to indict Wilson in the unarmed Black teen's death, and the U.S. Department of Justice later also declined to charge him. Wesley Bell, the current St. Louis County prosecuting attorney, conducted a five-month review of witness statements, forensic reports and other evidence and announced in July that he would not charge Wilson.
Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke shot 16 times at Laquan McDonald, killing the Black 17-year-old as he walked away from officers in October 2014. Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder the same day the city released the shocking dashcam video of the shooting. Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder in 2018 and sentenced to nearly seven years in prison.
Tamir Rice, 12, was fatally shot by a white Cleveland police officer in November 2014 after officers responded to a 911 call from a man drinking beer and waiting for a bus who said a “guy” was pointing a gun at people. Tamir, who was Black, had a pellet gun tucked in his waistband and was shot after the officers’ cruiser skidded to a stop just feet away. A grand jury in December 2015 declined to indict patrolman Timothy Loehmann, who fired the fatal shot, and training officer Frank Garmback. The U.S. Justice Department announced last year that it would not bring federal criminal charges, saying the quality of video of the shooting was too poor for prosecutors to conclusively establish what had happened.
Michael Slager, a white South Carolina police officer, shot Walter Scott in the back as the unarmed 50-year-old Black man fled following a 2015 traffic stop. In 2016, a mistrial was declared after the jury deadlocked over a verdict in Slager's murder trial. The next year, Slager pleaded guilty in federal court to violating Scott’s civil rights and as part of a plea deal, prosecutors dropped state murder charges. Slager was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He is now appealing his punishment, saying his lawyer never told him about a plea offer from prosecutors that could have cut years off his sentence.
Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Black man, died after he suffered a spinal injury while handcuffed and shackled in a Baltimore police van, sparking weeks of unrest across the city. Three officers were acquitted and prosecutors dropped the remaining state cases in July 2016. The U.S. Department of Justice announced in 2017 that it wouldn't bring federal charges against the six officers involved in the arrest, saying it did not find enough evidence to prove the officers willfully violated Gray's civil rights.
Philando Castile, a 32-year-old elementary school cafeteria worker, was shot five times by a St. Anthony, Minnesota police officer during a 2016 traffic stop after Castile informed the officer he was armed. The shooting gained widespread attention after Castile’s girlfriend, who was in the car with her then-4-year-old daughter, livestreamed its gruesome aftermath on Facebook. Officer Jeronimo Yanez testified that Castile was pulling his gun out of his pocket. The officer was acquitted of manslaughter at trial.
JUSTINE RUSZCZYK DAMOND
Justine Ruszczyk Damond, an unarmed white dual citizen of the U.S. and Australia, was fatally shot in July 2017 by Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor when she approached his squad car in the alley behind her home minutes after calling 911 to report a possible rape. Noor testified at trial that a loud bang on the squad car startled him and his partner and that he fired to protect his partner’s life. He was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter and sentenced in 2019 to 12 1/2 years in prison.
Roy Oliver, a white Texas police officer, fired at a car full of teenagers as it drove away from a large house party in April 2017, fatally shooting 15-year-old Jordan Edwards, who was sitting in the front passenger seat. Police initially said the vehicle backed up toward officers “in an aggressive manner,” but later admitted that bodycam video showed the vehicle was moving forward as officers approached. Oliver was convicted of murder in 2018 and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Louisville emergency medical worker studying to become a nurse, was shot several times in her hallway after three plainclothes narcotics detectives busted down the door of her apartment in the middle of the night in March 2020. A grand jury brought no charges against officers in her death, although one was indicted for shooting into a neighboring home that had people inside. Prosecutors said two officers who fired at Taylor were justified in using force to protect themselves after they faced gunfire from her boyfriend.