George Floyd death: Three former Minneapolis police officers charged in killing due in court

Alex Woodward

Three former Minneapolis police officers charged as accomplices to the killing of George Floyd are set to make their first court appearance on Thursday after Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced that they face charges of abetting and aiding second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

J Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao are each charged with one count, considered "unintentional" felonies. They are currently in custody in Hennepin County Jail.

Derek Chauvin, who was charged last week by the Hennepin County Attorney's Office with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after he was captured in widely shared footage with his knee on the back of Mr Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes on Memorial Day, now also faces charges of second-degree murder, the attorney general announced on Wednesday.

He was moved from county jail to custody in a state prison. He is expected to appear in court next week.

All officers have been fired from the Minneapolis Police Department.

Their court hearings on Thursday will likely determine bail and future court appearances.

Mr Kueng and Mr Lane were the first officers to arrive on the scene on 25 May after responding to reports of a man using a counterfeit $20 bill at Cup Foods, according to charging documents.

When they approached Mr Floyd in a nearby car, Mr Lane pointed his gun at him, then pulled Mr Floyd from the car and placed him in handcuffs and into a patrol car.

Mr Chauvin and Mr Thao arrived on the scene moments later, and Mr Chauvin pulled Mr Floyd from the car while has still handcuffed, then shoved him to the ground while Mr Kueng held his legs.

For several minutes, Mr Chauvin kept his knee into the back of Mr Floyd's neck, while he called out "I can't breathe", "mama" and "please".

None of the officers moved from their positions, according to charging documents, even as Mr Kueng checked for a pulse, while Mr Thao, who stood watch over Mr Chauvin, tried to turn away witnesses from the scene.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner determined Mr Floyd's death a homicide. Family attorneys for Mr Floyd said he was killed at the scene.

In a statement, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said the latest charges are "a meaningful step towards justice" as protests continue across the US demanding justice and an end to police brutality in the wake of Mr Floyd's death.

"But must also recognise that the anguish driving protests around the world is about more than one tragic incident," he said. "George Floyd's death is the symptom of a disease. We will not wake up one day and have the disease of systemic racism cured for us. This is on each of us to solve together, and we have hard work ahead."

Asked on Wednesday whether he would consider plea deals for the officers, Attorney General Ellison said that "it's simply way too early to begin that conversation".

He pointed to the state's historic lack of convictions for police misconduct while urging elected officials and other public figures to continue pushing for criminal justice reform.

"Winning a conviction will be hard," he said. "History does show that there are clear challenges here and we are going to be working very hard and relying on each other and our investigative partners and the community to support that endeavour."

Mr Ellison said that mass protests and demonstrations are "dramatic and necessary" while "building just institutions is more of a slow grind but equally important".

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