George Floyd had drugs in his system and severe heart disease when a Minneapolis police officer put a knee to his neck, but independent experts said the medical problems revealed in the full autopsy report don’t change the conclusion that the handcuffed man’s death was a homicide.
“He has some underlying conditions” that made it more likely he would not fare well under stress, said Dr. Gregory Davis, medical examiner for Jefferson County, Alabama, and a pathology professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. But the circumstances of Floyd’s May 25 death are not ignored in Wednesday’s report, which said “restraint and neck compression are part of why he died,” Davis said.
Dr. Stephen Nelson, chairman of Florida’s medical examiners commission, agreed. Even if someone with severe heart disease died of a heart attack during a purse-snatching, “we’d still call it a homicide,” he said.
“Is this stress associated with his interaction with law enforcement enough to put him over the edge? Yes, it is,” Nelson said.
Floyd’s death has sparked international protests about mistreatment of black people by police. Bystander video showed officer Derek Chauvin pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck, ignoring Floyd’s “I can’t breathe” cries and staying on him even after he stopped moving.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison on Wednesday upgraded charges against Chauvin to second-degree murder, and also charged the three other officers on the scene with aiding and abetting.
A lawyer for Floyd’s family earlier decried the official autopsy — as described in the original complaint against Chauvin — for ruling out asphyxia. An autopsy commissioned by the Floyd family concluded that he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression.
The experts who spoke with The Associated Press read the full government autopsy report but had no involvement with Floyd’s case.
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Here are some of the key findings.
The report by Hennepin County Chief Medical Examiner Andrew Baker says Floyd, 46, died of “cardiopulmonary arrest, complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”
A previous statement by the examiner’s office says Floyd had “a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained” by police.