The world has united in protest after a graphic video emerged showing a Black man dying under the restraint of a White police officer. The victim, George Floyd, was in clear distress. He was pinned to the ground by three officers, with one officer — Derek Chauvin — placing a knee on his neck. For over five minutes, he tells the officers that he is unable to breathe. George Floyd died as horrified bystanders told the officers they were killing him.
The video is unquestionably horrific.
But in our rush to condemn an aggressive use of force and pursue justice for George Floyd, we have ignored crucial information which is necessary in judging the conduct of the officers. While nothing can absolve George Floyd’s death, these facts do cast doubt on the appropriateness of a murder charge for Chauvin, and paint a more nuanced picture of the events leading up to the tragic encounter.
There are six crucial pieces of information — six facts — that have been largely omitted from discussion on the Chauvin’s conduct. Taken together, they likely exonerate the officer of a murder charge. Rather than indicating illegal and excessive force, they instead show an officer who rigidly followed the procedures deemed appropriate by the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). The evidence points to the MPD and the local political establishment, rather than the individual officer, as ultimately responsible for George Floyd’s death.
These six facts are as follows: