MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The trial of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for several minutes before his death, begins March 8.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. Three other officers who were at the scene on May 25, 2020 — Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane — are charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.
Floyd’s death was the match that lit a long fuse unfurled by a series of high-profile killings of Black men by police in the Twin Cities, including Jamar Clark, Philando Castile and Thurman Blevins. The consequences were not only felt in Minneapolis, but around the world. Nine months later, the United States remains in the midst of a reckoning on race, police brutality and social justice.
May 25, 2020: A nine-minute video posted to Facebook by Darnella Frazier shows a white officer (later identified as Derek Chauvin) pressing his knee into George Floyd’s neck behind a squad car outside a south Minneapolis convenience store. While lying facedown on the road, Floyd repeatedly groans and says he can’t breathe.
The initial statement from the Minneapolis Police Department, which said Floyd was resisting arrest, seemed to differ from what was seen in the video.
May 26: MPD Chief Medaria Arradondo announces the firing of the four officers involved in Floyd’s death — Chauvin, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane.
Later that day, thousands flood the streets near where Floyd was killed in protest. They marched toward the 3rd Precinct. A much smaller group than the initial protest began vandalizing the building, shattering a window and spray painting squad cars. Police responded by firing tear gas and flash grenades as protesters hurled rocks, water bottles and other objects towards the officers.
May 27: Protests erupt in cities across the U.S., from New York City to Los Angeles. Along with demonstrating against Floyd’s killing, the protests also focused on the recent deaths of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was fatally shot when officers forced entry into her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment, and Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black man who was fatally shot while jogging in Georgia.
May 28: Gov. Tim Walz signs an executive order activating the Minnesota National Guard “to help protect Minnesotans’ safety and maintain peace in the wake of George Floyd’s death.” The executive order also declares a peacetime emergency, activating the State Emergency Operations Center.
The move came after protests in south Minneapolis turned violent and destructive near the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct, in which rioters set several fires after officers evacuated the building.
May 29: Four days after Floyd’s fatal arrest, Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. The charges would later be amended, removing the third-degree charge and adding a second-degree murder charge.
In his personal life, Derek Chauvin’s wife, Kellie Chauvin, filed for divorce. A statement from a lawyer said she was “devastated by Mr. Floyd’s death.”
Meanwhile, following three straight nights of widespread protests and rioting, with hundreds of businesses ransacked, damaged or destroyed by fire, Minneapolis, St. Paul and several other cities imposed mandatory nighttime curfews.
President Donald Trump also tweeted about the unrest, saying “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” He also criticized Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and suggested the military would be ready to step in to stop the rioting.
May 31: Walz announces he has asked Attorney General Keith Ellison to assist Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman in the forthcoming case surrounding Floyd’s death.
Also that day, a tanker truck driver is arrested after driving into marchers protesting on the Interstate 35W Bridge in Minneapolis.
June 1: The results of two autopsies of Floyd’s body are released — one from independent medical examiners Dr. Michael Baden and Dr. Allecia Wilson, the other from the Hennepin County medical examiner.
The independent autopsy determined that Floyd died of asphyxiation from sustained pressure. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office said the manner of death is homicide, and listed as the cause of death cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression. Their report also listed other significant conditions, including arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease, fentanyl intoxication and recent use of methamphetamine.
June 2: Minneapolis Public Schools severs ties with the Minneapolis Police Department. The school board voted unanimously to terminate their contract for school resources officers.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights announces an investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department. This is the first such investigation in state history.
June 3: The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office releases its final autopsy report on Floyd’s death, noting that he had tested positive for COVID-19, but it was not a contributing factor in his death.
Several organizations cut ties with the Minneapolis Police Department, including the Minneapolis Park Board, First Avenue and the Walker Art Center.
Also on June 3, all four officers involved in Floyd’s death are charged and in custody. Thao, Lane and Kueng all face aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder, as well as aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
June 5: The Minneapolis City Council votes to ban the use of chokeholds and neck restraints by police officers. The unanimous vote also requires officers who witness unauthorized force to report the action and intervene, regardless of rank or tenure.
June 7: The majority of the Minneapolis City Council announce their intent to defund and dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department. Nine of 13 councilmembers took to an outdoor stage in Powderhorn Park and pledged to bring a new model of public safety to Minneapolis.
This led to a push for a charter amendment to replace the police department with a “Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention.” However, the city’s charter commission later said that it needed more time to review the amendment before putting it to voters in the 2020 election.
June 8: Chauvin makes his first court appearance in Hennepin County. His bail was set at $1.25 million without conditions or $1 million with conditions.
June 9: Floyd is buried after a funeral service in Houston, the city where he grew up. At the service, then-presidential candidate Joe Biden said, “Why in this nation are too many black people losing their lives in the course of living their lives?”
In Minneapolis, hundreds gather at the site of Floyd’s death, blanketing the ground in flowers and holding a moment of silence.
June 10: CBS News confirms there were plea negotiations underway between Chauvin’s attorney and the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office prior to the initial charges.
Lane, one of the other officers charged, posts bond and leaves jail.
Arradondo announces the Minneapolis police force will immediately withdraw from contract negotiations with the police union as part of a push to reform the department in the wake of Floyd’s death. The Minneapolis Police Officers Federation said that Arradondo and Mayor Jacob Frey blindsided them with their announcement.
June 12: The Minneapolis City Council votes unanimously to begin the process of finding a new model for public safety in the city. The council’s resolution calls for community engagement and research over the span of a year.
June 19: Another officer charged in Floyd’s death, Keung, is released from jail after posting bond.
July 4: A third officer, Thao, also is released from jail. All three officers released posted $750,000 bail.
July 8: Transcripts from body camera footage of Floyd’s death are released.
“You’re going to kill me, man,” Floyd said, according to a transcript of Lane’s body camera video.
“Then stop talking, stop yelling. It takes a heck of a lot of oxygen to talk,” said Chauvin.
July 9: The Hennepin County judge in the case against all four officers issues a gag order, meaning officers, attorneys and anyone involved in the case cannot talk about the case or disclose evidence.
In the gag order, the court says “continuing pretrial publicity in this case by the attorneys involved will increase the risk of tainting a potential jury pool and will impair all parties’ right to a fair trial.”
July 10: Medical experts tell WCCO that even though George Floyd was talking in the first few minutes that Chauvin was kneeling on his neck, it doesn’t mean that Floyd could adequately breathe.
“The ability to speak does not mean the patient is without danger,” said Dr. Mariell Jessup, chief science and medical officer of the American Heart Association.
Also on that day, attorney Ron Meuser, Jr. announces that about 20% of Minneapolis police officers — more than 150 of them — are filing disability claims, most for post-traumatic stress disorder, in the aftermath of Floyd’s death and subsequent unrest.
“They did not feel like they were going to be able to come home because they did not feel they were going to come out alive,” Meuser said.
July 14: Attorneys for Lane and Thao accuse Attorney General Ellison of breaking the gag order, asking Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill to hold him in contempt of court for releasing a statement that said four “seasoned attorneys” are helping his office with the case, pro bono.
Earl Gray, Lane’s attorney, said Ellison’s move was “an obvious statement to the public that these ‘super stars’ believe that our clients are guilty.”
July 15: Footage from body cameras worn by Kueng and Lane are made public, showing Floyd pleading with police in the moments before he died. Officers first approach the parked car Floyd is sitting in, and within seconds, Lane pulls out his gun.
“I’m not a bad guy!” Floyd said, as officers tried to put him into a squad car. Chauvin eventually kneels on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes beside the squad car on Chicago Avenue, with Floyd occasionally saying “I can’t breathe,” until he goes quiet, and limp.
Also on that day, attorney Ben Crump announces a lawsuit on behalf of Floyd’s family against the four officers involved.
“Mr. Floyd died because the weight of the entire Minneapolis Police Department was on his neck,” Crump said.
July 19: Kueng posts bond and is released from Hennepin County Jail.
July 21: Exactly eight weeks after Floyd’s death, Minnesota lawmakers pass a historic police reform bill, which includes a ban on chokeholds and “warrior-style” training officers, incentives for officers to live in the communities they serve, and the creation of a POST board database of public peace officer data.
“We sensed the urgency of doing something now,” Republican Sen. Paul Gazelka said.
Meanwhile, Judge Cahill ends the gag order, citing among other things that it’s unfair to gag the defense team in light of negative publicity leveled at the former officers.
July 22: Chauvin and his wife, Kellie, are charged with several felony tax crimes in Washington County. They’re accused of not filing tax returns for three consecutive years, and for severely underreporting income for two other years.
In a recorded jail phone call between Chauvin and his wife, she is heard saying, “Yeah, well we don’t want to get your dad involved because he will just be mad at me, I mean us for not doing them from years.”
July 23: The Minneapolis City Council passes a motion to eliminate both of the police department’s public information officer positions, and instead give city hall authority over communications. The move comes mostly in response to the press release sent out the night of May 25 by MPD PIO John Elder, who wrote that Floyd died while suffering from “medical distress.”
“While I appreciate the challenges of getting information out in a fast-evolving situation, accuracy is paramount,” Council Member Jeremy Schroeder said. “The world knows exactly what happened to Mr. Floyd. The world saw it.”
July 27: Prosecutors file a letter with the court that says the state “does not consent to audio or video coverage of any trials in these matters, with Attorney General Ellison stating earlier that cameras in the courtroom “will create more problems than it would solve.”
July 28: The ACLU of Minnesota files a class-action lawsuit that alleges excessive force was used by law enforcement against peaceful protesters in the aftermath of Floyd’s death. The defendants include the City of Minneapolis, Chief Arradondo, police union president Bob Kroll, DPS Commissioner John Harrington and the Minnesota State Patrol’s Col. Matthew Langer.
“That law enforcement here followed their typical pattern of using indiscriminate force rather than respecting the First Amendment, especially following the brutal murder of George Floyd by four of their own, is disgraceful and an affront to our Constitution,” said ACLU-MN legal director Teresa Nelson.
Aug. 26: Unrest is sparked in downtown Minneapolis after rumor spreads that police fatally shot a Black man on Nicollet Mall. Later, police release a video showing that a homicide suspect fatally shot himself.
Several businesses were damaged along Nicollet Mall. Some were looted. Hundreds of law enforcement officers were deployed to deal with the unrest.
Oct. 7: Chauvin is released from custody after posting a $1 million bond.
According to Rachel Moran, a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, Chauvin posted bond via a bond insurance company in California.
Oct. 14: People across the world remember George Floyd on what would have been his 47th birthday. Then-candidate Kamala Harris tweeted that Floyd “should still be alive today celebrating another year with his family and friends.”
Oct. 22: The judge in the George Floyd case drops the third-degree murder charge against Derek Chauvin, citing probable cause. The judge decided that state law is clear that in third-degree murder the actions must put others at risk, and that because Chauvin’s actions only focused on Floyd, the charge doesn’t apply.
The former Minneapolis police officer is still charged with second-degree unintentional murder and manslaughter.
Jan. 12: The trial judge orders that Derek Chauvin is to be tried separately from the other three officers. Chauvin’s trial is set for March while the other three officers are scheduled to stand trial in August.
Later, the court ruled that Chauvin’s trial will be in held in person, not virtually.
Feb. 4: Prosecutors motion to reinstate a third-degree murder charge against Chauvin as well as the other three officers. This comes after the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled to uphold the third-degree murder conviction of Mohamed Noor, the former Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot Justine Ruszczyk Damond in 2017.
Feb. 5: Walz signs an executive order to activate the Minnesota National Guard to prepare for the “potential of civil unrest” during Chauvin’s trial.
Walz’s executive order says that National Guard will work in conjunction with local law enforcement to “keep the peace, ensure public safety, and allow for peaceful demonstrations.”
Feb. 8: Chauvin’s attorneys file an opposition to the prosecution’s motion to reinstate a third-degree murder charge in the case.
Feb. 11: The judge in the Chauvin case rules against the prosecution’s attempts to reinstate third-degree murder charges against Chauvin and aiding and abetting third-degree murder for the other three former officers involved.
Feb. 12: The Minnesota Court of Appeals dismisses the state’s request to delay Chauvin’s trial, solidifying the March 8 start date.
The state argued to delay the trial due to the COVID-19 pandemic and public safety issues. The appeals court said that, while the concerns are important, “the judicial branch has implemented significant, tested safeguards and conditions on court operations and the conduct of jury trials during the pandemic.”
March 5: The Minnesota Court of Appeals rules that the trial judge in the Chauvin case erred in not reinstating the third-degree murder charge against the former officer.
This sets the stage for Chauvin to face an additional murder charge in his trial, which is slated to start March 8 with jury selection. It’s yet unknown if Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill will immediately move to reinstate the third-degree murder charge per the appellate court’s ruling or wait to hear additional arguments from Chauvin’s defense team.
This development could result in a delay in the trial.
March 8: Jury selection in Chauvin’s trial is set to begin.