Video recorded by a bystander showed the world George Floyd’s horrifying last minutes, capturing his cries and pleas for air as a Minneapolis officer used his knee to pin down Floyd’s neck.
But the footage recorded by body cameras that officers wore on their chests as they were arresting Floyd is expected to show even more about what the officers and Floyd were doing and saying during that fateful encounter, and it could shape how the officers’ cases play out in court.
“A video camera, when properly authenticated, is an eye witness. It can testify,” said Michael Primeau, an audio and video forensics expert at Michigan-based Primeau Forensics.
Floyd, a black man who was handcuffed, died May 25 after Derek Chauvin, a white officer, used his knee to pin Floyd to the ground. Chauvin, who kept his knee on Floyd’s neck even after Floyd stopped moving, has been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.
The three other officers, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao, have been charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter. All four officers were fired.
The widely seen video recorded by a bystander shows Chauvin’s actions and Floyd’s anguish as he gasps for air. It also shows Thao, who was facing the bystanders. Some surveillance videos that have been released show bits and pieces of what happened before Floyd ended up on the ground, but a complete video picture of what happened from start to finish hasn’t emerged. Body camera videos are not expected to be made public until a trial or until the cases are otherwise resolved.
Police spokesman John Elder said he was told that all four officers had their body cameras on, which is department policy. Minneapolis police officers are required to activate their body cameras well before they arrive to a scene under rules put in place after the 2017 fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, an Australian native who called 911 to report hearing a possible sexual assault behind her home. The two officers who responded to her call didn’t activate their body cameras until after one of them shot her.
In the Floyd case, Bruce Gordon, a spokesman for the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, confirmed that body camera video captured portions of the incident. He said there is no squad car video that shows what happened.
John Stiles, a spokesman for Attorney General Keith Ellison, the lead prosecutor in the case, said prosecutors are reviewing all available evidence. He said he couldn’t comment further.
Mel Reeves, a longtime community activist in Minneapolis, said he doesn’t think the body camera video will matter because the bystander video should be enough to convict the officers.
“We saw what we saw,” Reeves said. “We don’t need any more evidence. We saw a man murdered. ? If the system that we live under — if this so-called democracy — can’t find a way to punish people that caused a human being’s death, we will have to pack up our bags and try something else.”
But body camera videos are expected to give a more complete picture, particularly in the cases of Kueng and Lane, whose actions are not seen in the bystander video because they are obscured by a squad car.
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