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Friday May 07 2021

Four ex-cops face US rights charges in George Floyd killing

This combination of booking photos provided by the Hennepin County Jail created on June 03, 2020 shows (L-R, top to bottom) Minneapolis ex-officers Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Kiernan Lane. A federal grand jury has charged the four police officers with civil rights crimes in connection with the death of George Floyd, the Justice Department announced on May 7, 2021. — AFP

Four former Minneapolis police officers face federal civil rights charges for their role in the arrest and murder of George Floyd, according to federal court documents unsealed on Friday, demonstrating the US Justice Department's tougher stance in such cases.

A grand jury issued a three-count indictment charging Derek Chauvin — the white former officer convicted of murdering Floyd — and three fellow former officers of violating his constitutional rights, including his right to not have his medical needs ignored.

"The defendants saw George Floyd lying on the ground in clear need of medical care, and willfully failed to aid Floyd," the indictment says.

Also charged were Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane.

Lawyers for the four men did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment on the charges.

The charges were the latest sign the Department of Justice under new Democratic President Joe Biden is taking a harder line against police abuses, a role that civil rights advocates say the department neglected during Republican Donald Trump's administration.

In a confrontation captured on video, Chauvin pushed his knee into Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes on May 25, 2020, as he and the three other officers arrested the 46-year-old Black man. Floyd, who was in handcuffs, had been accused of using a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes at a grocery store.

His death prompted protests against racism and police brutality last year in many cities across the United States and around the world.

Chauvin was convicted of Minnesota state murder charges last month. His lawyers have requested a new trial, saying there was prosecutorial and jury misconduct and errors of law at trial and that the verdict was contrary to the law.

The federal indictment charges Chauvin, Thao, Lane and Kueng with depriving Floyd of his liberty and showing "deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs."

Thao, Kueng and Lane, all of whom were fired and arrested days after Floyd's death, face state charges at a trial set for Aug. 23 that they aided and abetted the second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter of Floyd.

In a separate federal indictment unsealed on Friday, Chauvin was also charged with violating the rights of a 14-year-old boy during an arrest in September 2017. Chauvin is accused of holding the teen by the neck and hitting him with a flashlight.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland has prioritized cracking down on police misconduct since being confirmed as the nation's top law enforcement official in March, launching investigations into policing practices in Minneapolis and Louisville, Kentucky.