'Justice will be served': Barr announces civil rights investigation into George Floyd's deathby Jerry Dunleavy
The FBI and Justice Department are carrying out an investigation into whether the Minneapolis police officers involved in the death of George Floyd violated any federal civil rights laws.
Attorney General William Barr said on Friday that he was “confident justice will be served” shortly after Derek Chauvin, the fired police officer who is accused of killing Floyd, was arrested. Mass protests, some of which turned violent with looting and the burning of businesses, broke out after video emerged of Chauvin digging his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes as he pinned Floyd to the pavement.
Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, could be heard begging for his life. Further video emerged showing three other officers also using their weight to press Floyd to the ground. Floyd was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
“The video images of the incident that ended with death of Mr. Floyd, while in custody of Minneapolis police officers, were harrowing to watch and deeply disturbing,” Barr said in a statement. “The state prosecutor has been in the process of determining whether any criminal charges are appropriate under state law. On a separate and parallel track, the Department of Justice, including the FBI, are conducting an independent investigation to determine whether any federal civil rights laws were violated.”
The attorney general said that “both state and federal officers are working diligently and collaboratively to ensure that any available evidence relevant to these decisions is obtained as quickly as possible” and stressed that “charging decisions must be, and will be, based on the law and facts.” He said the process for deciding whether to press Chauvin with federal civil rights charges “is proceeding quickly” but that “the state’s charging decisions will be made first.”
Hennepin County prosecutor Mike Freeman announced in a press conference that Chauvin, who has been fired from the department along with three other officers, was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
“We are in the process of continuing to review the evidence. There may be subsequent charges later,” Freeman said.
In a letter to Barr on Thursday, the Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee called for the Justice Department to “investigate the death of George Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department including whether it was part of a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct by the MPD."
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, demanded an end to the looting, arson, and other crimes after three days of violent protests.
"My first and foremost responsibility to the state of Minnesota is the safety and security of all citizens. We can not have the looting and the recklessness that went on. We cannot have it because we can't function as a society,” Walz said Friday. “And I refuse to have it take away the attention of the stain that we need to be working on, is what happened with the fundamental institutional racism that allows a man to be held down in broad daylight.”