A medical examiner’s finding that George Floyd had drugs in his system when he died is a “red herring” designed to draw attention away from the responsibility of a Minneapolis police officer who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes, even after he stopped moving, an attorney for Floyd’s family said Tuesday.
Attorney Ben Crump also disputed an official autopsy that found Floyd’s death was caused by cardiac arrest as police restrained him and compressed his neck in a widely seen video that has sparked worldwide protests. The medical examiner also listed fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use, but not as the cause of death.
A separate autopsy commissioned for Floyd’s family concluded that that he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression.
“The cause of death was that he was starving for air. It was lack of oxygen. And so everything else is a red herring to try to throw us off,” Crump said Tuesday. He said the Hennepin County medical examiner went to great lengths to try to convince the public that what was shown on bystander video didn’t cause Floyd to die.
“It is an attempt to assassinate his character, after they assassinated him right then on the video,” he said.
Floyd, a black man who was in handcuffs at the time, died May 25 after Derek Chauvin, who is white, ignored bystander shouts to get off Floyd and Floyd’s cries that he couldn’t breathe.
Chauvin and the three other officers at the scene were fired, and Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Floyd’s family and many others have called for more serious charges against Chauvin and for the other officers to be charged.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, recently appointed lead prosecutor on the case, said Tuesday that prosecutors are working as fast as they can to determine whether more charges will be filed, but they also have to work carefully and methodically.
Ellison told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Tuesday that despite the widely viewed bystander video of Floyd’s final moments, cases against police officers are hard. He pointed to the deaths of Freddie Gray and Philando Castile, and the beating of Rodney King, as examples of cases where striking video of an incident did not lead to officers being convicted.
Ellison did not give a timeline for any new charges.
“We’re making sure that every link in the prosecutorial chain will be tight and we are proceeding forward with justice in mind,” he said, adding: “There is nobody who has culpability who will not be held accountable.”