What Happened to George Floyd? What was His Cause of Death?

What happened to George Floyd? Discover the shocking events surrounding his tragic death and the subsequent movement for justice, and delve into the circumstances surrounding George Floyd's cause of death.
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by Rubaditsha | Updated May 26, 2023

What Happened to George Floyd? What was His Cause of Death?

Who Was George Floyd?

George Perry Floyd Jr., an African-American man born on October 14, 1973, tragically lost his life on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The incident occurred during an arrest made by police officers who were called to the scene after a store clerk suspected Floyd of using a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill. One of the officers, Derek Chauvin, knelt on Floyd's neck and back for a prolonged period of 9 minutes and 29 seconds, leading to a lack of oxygen and ultimately causing his death.

These events sparked widespread protests both in the United States and around the world, highlighting the issue of police brutality, particularly towards black individuals. The phrase "I can't breathe," uttered by Floyd as he struggled for breath, became a powerful rallying cry for justice. Floyd spent his early years in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and later moved to Houston, Texas, where he actively participated in American football and basketball during his time in high school and college.

However, he also faced a troubled past, with convictions for eight crimes between 1997 and 2005. One significant incident involved a 2007 aggravated robbery in a home invasion, resulting in a prison sentence of four years after accepting a plea bargain. Following his release on parole in 2013, Floyd became involved in his religious community as a mentor and expressed his anti-violence views through social media platforms.

In 2014, he relocated to the Minneapolis area, specifically residing in St. Louis Park, where he worked as a truck driver and bouncer. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic led to the loss of his job as a truck driver and later as a security guard. The City of Minneapolis reached a settlement of $27 million in a wrongful death lawsuit with Floyd's family.

In a highly publicized trial, Derek Chauvin was found guilty on two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter on April 20, 2021. Subsequently, on June 25, 2021, Chauvin was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison for his role in Floyd's death. The other three officers present at the scene were also later convicted for violating Floyd's civil rights.

The tragic death of George Floyd and the subsequent legal proceedings have brought attention to the issues of racial injustice, police misconduct, and the need for systemic reforms. The impact of his death continues to resonate, prompting a collective call for accountability, equality, and meaningful change within society.

What Happened to George Floyd?

Three years ago, the murder of George Floyd sent shockwaves through the United States and the world. This tragic event ignited a series of protests against police brutality, not only within the US but also across the globe. The Black Lives Matter movement, which had originally emerged in 2013, gained renewed momentum in the aftermath of these protests.

George Floyd, a 46-year-old man, was captured on video repeatedly uttering the words "I can't breathe" as Derek Chauvin, a police officer, knelt on his neck for a prolonged period of nine minutes on May 25, 2020. Despite the desperate pleas, Floyd lost consciousness and was pronounced dead at a hospital approximately an hour later. It is important to note that George Floyd had been arrested for a non-violent offense prior to his untimely death.

Derek Chauvin, the former police officer responsible for George Floyd's death, has since been convicted and is currently serving a prison sentence for violating Floyd's civil rights, as well as for murder and manslaughter. During a trial in Minneapolis held in April 2021, Chauvin was found guilty of Floyd's murder.

Additionally, three other officers were involved in the incident. Tou Thao, aged 36, J Alexander Kueng, aged 28, and Thomas Lane, aged 38, claimed that they were unaware of the urgent need for medical attention for Mr. Floyd. Kueng and Lane pleaded guilty to charges of aiding and abetting manslaughter, receiving sentences of three years and 42 months respectively. Thao, who was found guilty of the same charge in May 2023, is awaiting sentencing in August 2023.

The events surrounding George Floyd's arrest and subsequent death began when a teenage shop assistant at Cup Foods grocery store accused him of using a counterfeit $20 bill to purchase cigarettes. When Floyd refused to return the cigarettes, the police were called to the scene. A transcript of the call to the police revealed that the shop assistant described Floyd as "drunk" and "not in control of himself."

Upon the officers' arrival, George Floyd was inside a car with two other individuals near the shop. Officer Thomas Lane drew his gun when approaching the vehicle, although the reason for his decision has not been explained. Prosecutors stated that Officer Lane "put his hands on Mr. Floyd and pulled him out of the car," after which Floyd "actively resisted being handcuffed." Once arrested by Officer Lane, Floyd complied with the officers.

According to the police report, George Floyd resisted arrest when the officers attempted to place him in a squad car, claiming he was claustrophobic. After a struggle, Officer Derek Chauvin restrained Floyd, with three additional officers assisting in the process. Bystander footage captured Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes.

Following the loss of consciousness, Floyd was transported to the hospital by the officers, where he was pronounced dead. Throughout the ordeal, George Floyd pleaded "I can't breathe" on twenty separate occasions, further highlighting the distressing nature of the incident.

What was George Floyd Cause of Death?

According to the medical examiner's testimony, George Floyd's cause of death was determined to be cardiopulmonary arrest, which resulted from the actions of law enforcement, including the restraint of his body and the compression of his neck. Dr. Andrew Baker, the chief medical examiner, noted that Floyd had underlying heart disease and an enlarged heart, which required more oxygen than normal to function properly. He also mentioned the narrowing of Floyd's coronary arteries.

Dr. Baker did not attribute Floyd's death to asphyxia, despite other expert witnesses for the prosecution explicitly stating that asphyxia was the primary mechanism of death. Baker explained that he deliberately avoided watching videos of Floyd's death, including the widely circulated bystander footage, until after conducting the autopsy to maintain an unbiased assessment.

Although Floyd's heart disease and drug use were mentioned as contributing factors, the medical examiner emphasized that they did not directly cause his death. Baker confirmed that Floyd's use of fentanyl and his heart disease did not lead to his subdual or the neck restraint applied by the officers. Instead, he concluded that Floyd's death was a homicide caused by cardiopulmonary arrest resulting from law enforcement's actions.

This testimony aligns with the prosecution's argument that Derek Chauvin, the former police officer, killed Floyd by kneeling on him for an extended period. Several medical experts testified that Floyd's breathing was severely restricted during the restraint, leading to a lack of oxygen, brain damage, and cardiac arrest.

They also dismissed the defense's claims that Floyd's pre-existing conditions or drug use played a significant role in his death, asserting that even a healthy individual subjected to the same circumstances would not have survived. It's important to note that the trial is ongoing, and the final determination of Floyd's cause of death will be made by the jury based on the evidence and testimonies presented.

George Floyd Autopsy Released

The full autopsy report on George Floyd, who died while being restrained by Minneapolis police, provides additional details about his death. The report reveals that Floyd had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and that he had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system at the time of his death. However, these substances are not listed as the direct cause of his death.

Videos captured by bystanders showed Floyd pleading that he couldn't breathe as former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin pinned him down with his knee on Floyd's neck. Three other officers were also present during the incident, which led to widespread protests across the country and around the world. The official cause of George Floyd's death has been determined to be a homicide.

According to the autopsy report from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office, Floyd's cause of death was "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression." This conclusion, pointing to heart failure as the cause of death, differs from the findings of an independent examiner hired by Floyd's family, who concluded that Floyd died from "asphyxiation from sustained pressure."

It's important to note that the medical examiner's report does not explicitly mention asphyxiation. Prosecutors stated in the charging documents that there was no physical evidence to support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation. The autopsy report also notes blunt-force injuries to Floyd's head, face, upper lip, shoulders, hands, and elbows, along with bruising on his wrists consistent with handcuff use.

Dr. Andrew M. Baker, who signed the report, stated that Floyd had tested positive for COVID-19 on April 3. A post-mortem nasal swab confirmed the presence of the virus. The report explains that a positive result for COVID-19 can persist even after the disease has resolved, suggesting that Floyd may have had a previous asymptomatic infection.

In addition to fentanyl and methamphetamine, the toxicology report from the autopsy shows the presence of cannabinoids in Floyd's system at the time of his death. Floyd also had pre-existing conditions, including heart disease, hypertension, and sickle cell trait. Sickle cell trait is a mostly asymptomatic form of sickle cell disease that primarily affects African Americans.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced upgraded charges of second-degree unintentional murder against Derek Chauvin, with a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison. Additionally, the three other officers present at the scene were charged for the first time with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Ellison, in his announcement, emphasized that George Floyd's life mattered and that justice would be sought for him and the community.

George Floyd Vigil

On the second anniversary of George Floyd's death, various events and remembrances were planned to honor his memory. Among these was a candlelight vigil held at the intersection of 38th and Chicago streets in Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed. This intersection, known as George Floyd Square, became a symbolic site for memorials and activism, featuring a prominent sculpture of a clenched fist.

The city of Minneapolis intended to officially designate the corner as George Perry Floyd Square by unveiling a street sign during the vigil, with Floyd's brother Terrence in attendance. George Floyd, a Black man, was murdered by Derek Chauvin, a white former Minneapolis police officer, on May 25, 2020. The case of Floyd's killing, which involved police brutality, sparked widespread protests in Minneapolis and worldwide, drawing attention to issues of racial justice.

Other anniversary events included a gathering on Thursday for families who have lost loved ones in encounters with the police and a fundraising gala on Friday to support the preservation of offerings left by protesters and mourners at the intersection where Floyd was killed.

Additionally, an all-day festival and a concert were planned for Saturday at the same intersection.Floyd, aged 46, died when Chauvin pinned his knee on Floyd's neck for 9½ minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and pleading for breath. Chauvin was convicted last year on state charges of murder and manslaughter and is currently serving a prison sentence of 22½ years. He also pleaded guilty to violating Floyd's civil rights in a federal case, which may result in a sentence of 20 to 25 years.

Former officers J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao are scheduled to face trial on state charges in June. Thomas Lane, another former officer, recently pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter related to Floyd's death. All three former officers were previously convicted in February on federal charges of willfully violating Floyd's rights.

George Floyd Remembrance Day

Yesterday marks the third anniversary of the tragic murder of George Floyd at the hands of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. In recognition of this solemn occasion, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has declared today as "George Floyd Remembrance Day."

The incident that led to Floyd's death occurred during an attempted arrest when Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for a horrifying nine and a half minutes. This act of excessive force and disregard for Floyd's life was captured on video and sparked widespread outrage and protests against systemic racial injustice.

In the aftermath of Floyd's death, the four police officers involved in the incident faced legal consequences for their actions. Derek Chauvin, who was directly responsible for Floyd's murder, was convicted and sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison.

The other three former officers, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Keung, and Thomas Lane, were found guilty by a jury for their involvement in violating Floyd's civil rights and aiding and abetting manslaughter. They received lesser sentences, reflecting their varying degrees of participation in the tragic events of that day.

George Floyd's murder was a catalyst for a global movement demanding justice and an end to racial discrimination and police brutality. His tragic death continues to serve as a stark reminder of the urgent need for comprehensive reform within law enforcement agencies and the pursuit of true equality and justice for all.

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What Happened to George Floyd:FAQs

1. When and where was George Floyd born?

George Floyd was born on October 14, 1973, in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

2. How did George Floyd die?

George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on Floyd's neck and back for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, leading to a lack of oxygen and causing his death.

3. What led to the protests after George Floyd's death? 

The protests were sparked by George Floyd's killing and served as a response to police brutality, particularly against black individuals. The incident gained global attention through video footage showing Floyd's final moments and his plea of "I can't breathe."

4. What were George Floyd's dying words?

George Floyd's dying words were "I can't breathe," which became a powerful rallying slogan for protests against racial injustice and police violence.

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