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As members of the Minnesota State Police and National Guard move into Minneapolis to quell looting and rioting following the death of 46-year-old George Floyd during an arrest earlier this week, prosecutors are already saying there is no evidence as of yet to charge officers with murder.
As reported by the UK’s Daily Mail, prosecutors say there is “evidence that does not support criminal charges” because police are allowed to use a “certain amount of force – but not excessive.”
During a Thursday press conference, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman criticized the actions of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin as “horrific and terrible.”
However, he added that prosecutors would have to make a determination that Chauvin, who is white, was using “excessive” force as he used a knee to pin Floyd, who is black, to the pavement for several minutes until he eventually passed out and died.
“That video is graphic and horrific and terrible and no person should do that,” Freeman added.
“But my job, in the end, is to prove he violated a criminal statute – but there is other evidence that does not support a criminal charge,” he noted further, without elaborating.
The county prosecutor asked residents of Minneapolis to be patient while his office examined all evidence, noting that the investigation “can’t be rushed” over fears of a repeat of the Freddie Gray case in Baltimore in 2015, where all charges against officers who may have played a role in his death were eventually dismissed.
In that case, “prosecutors presented little or no evidence to support their broader theory in the case – that the officers acted unreasonably, and willfully disregarded their training and general orders,” the Baltimore Sun reported at the time.
Cops are allowed to use what is generally described as ‘reasonable force’ against citizens in order to restrain them during an arrest, but are prohibited from using “excessive” force.
Police One magazine noted in a 2012 explainer that the term “objectively reasonable” “is the true — and most accurate — legal standard when both teaching use of force, and/or evaluating an officer’s past use of force.”
The explainer notes further:
An officer will make his/her force-option decision based on the actions of the suspect. If the suspect is non-resistive and compliant, the officer will have no reason to have to resort to a force response. So in essence, it is the suspect who forces an officer to choose a force response.
The force option chosen and how it is deployed and used against the suspect can have a subjective component. The officer may have a choice of reasonable options but based on personal preference may lean toward one more than the other. This is where the subjectivity comes into play. The decision made must still be made based on objective facts known to the officer at the time of the force application.
So, under that guidance, “excessive force” would consist of any actions outside or beyond those necessary to effectively restrain a suspect. And at this point, Freeman’s office will have to make a determination that Chauvin’s actions went beyond reasonable for his particular situation.
“My business is ‘is it criminal?’ and that’s what we have to prove,” Freeman noted.
The prosecutor compared Floyd’s death to that of Gray, who was also black. Gray slipped into a coma and died of a spinal injury while being transported in a police van.
Six officers — three of whom were black — were suspended from the force with pay pending an investigation. Eventually, the cases against all of them were dropped.
“It was a rush to charge and a rush to justice and all those people were found not guilty,” Freeman said. “We have to do this right, we have to prove it in a court of law. We can’t rush justice as justice cant be rushed.”
At the same press conference, U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota Erica MacDonald noted that no charges had yet been filed against Chauvin or any of the four officers who’ve been fired.
“We thought we would have another development to tell you about… but we don’t,” she said, adding that a “police officer in the nature of the job has within their scope of duty the ability to use the right amount of force but not excessive force.”
“That’s what we’re looking at – the issue of excessive force,” she added.
Thus far, no video footage showing Floyd resisting arrest has surfaced. It’s not clear if officers were wearing body cams, though none can be seen in still photos of the arrest.
Police were called by the owner of Cup Foods deli after Floyd allegedly paid for his items with a phony $20 bill.
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