Officer Chauvin, I am sorry for rushing to judgment. Like the rest of America I recoiled in horror as I watched the video taken by a bystander of you with your knee on the back of Mr. Floyd’s neck. He died in front of us. It was brutal to watch. And like the rest of America, I jumped to conclusions based on information I didn’t have.
I didn’t know what led up to those last moments. I didn’t know that Mr. Floyd had been out of his mind, incoherent, sweating profusely, not making any sense, struggling, resisting, kicking. He complained he couldn’t breathe while he was standing up outside the patrol car, and also inside the patrol car. But he was able to keep talking without any difficulty whatsoever.
I didn’t know that Mr. Floyd, as the toxicology report would show, had in his blood more than three times the level of fentanyl known to cause death. The toxicologist also found meth and morphine in Mr. Floyd’s blood. I hadn’t known that.
I didn’t know that Mr. Floyd did not die of asphyxiation. Your neck on his knee–he must have suffocated him, is what I and tens of millions believed. But we didn’t know that the autopsy would find there was no injury to his neck. His windpipe had not been constricted, there were no bruises, no sign that his carotid artery had been impinged and his brain denied blood.
I didn’t know, until I read the autopsy, that Mr. Floyd was a very, very sick man, with a terribly bad heart weakened further by a recent attack from the COVID-19 virus.
I didn’t know that there were no life threatening injuries that could explain his death. In other words, I didn’t know that there is no physical evidence that anything you did stopped his heart from beating.
I didn’t know that the officers on the scene had called for an ambulance not once, but twice, requesting that it hurry with lights flashing and siren wailing. I didn’t know that you and the other officers wanted the ambulance because you were concerned Mr. Floyd was suffering excited delirium. Even when I heard this discussion on the officers’ tape recordings, I didn’t know until I looked into it that excited delirium can be fatal, and it kills by a sudden stopping of the heart. I know now that Mr. Floyd’s behavior fit precisely the symptoms of this fatal, drug-induced syndrome.
I didn’t know that your putting a knee on the back of his neck was precisely what you and other Minneapolis police officers had been trained to do to restrain someone showing the signs of excited delirium. You were taught to do this to prevent such a person from harming himself and others and to secure him until the ambulance arrived. The page from your training manual, reproduced at the top of this article, shows you were doing exactly what you had been instructed to do. Placing a knee on the back of the neck is taught as a way to hold someone undergoing Mr. Floyd’s distress and alleviate the risk of asphyxiation.
I didn’t know that there is no reported instance of the method you used to restrain Mr. Floyd having caused death in any other case. I didn’t know that this method of restraint had been reviewed and approved by physicians before becoming part of your training manual.
I have previously said that, when I described Mr. Floyd as a good man in another article, I hadn’t known of his long criminal record, and that he had led a violent home invasion. I didn’t know he had disguised himself as a utility worker to gain entrance into the home then shoved a handgun in a woman’s stomach, and ransacked the house while the woman and her friend screamed as they were being viciously beaten.
I corrected myself then. I want now to correct myself for ever saying you were “a bad apple,” or things like “just because one policeman acted wrongly doesn’t mean we judge others by his misconduct.” With what I know now, from watching all those body cams, the interview of Officer Thao, listening to and reading the transcripts of the audio recordings, and the official autopsy and full toxicology report–I can’t see where you did anything wrong.
I didn’t even realize until last week that the autopsy does not use the word homicide. It does not declare a cause of death but is entitled “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression.”
I had to read that case title twice to understand. It does not say that the actions of law enforcement officers caused cardiopulmonary arrest. Cardiopulmonary arrest is what complicated the way Mr. Floyd was held under control. The autopsy found Mr. Floyd had severe arteriosclerosis and hypertensive heart disease. He had ingested drugs in potentially lethal quantities that stress the heart tremendously. His heart stopped. That is what killed him.
Now that I know better, now that I have actual facts instead of my imagination to fill in the blank spaces, when I watch again the horrible video of Mr. Floyd on the ground and hear him saying, “I can’t breathe,” I realize he is exhibiting no trouble breathing. He is talking the whole time. At no point does he gasp or gulp for air. And now I know that it was Mr. Floyd who asked to lay on the ground when he wanted out of the patrol car, not that you dragged him to the ground for no reason. And I know that he suffered no physical injuries from your actions that in any way jeopardized his life.
I study the video closely and force myself to calm my emotions: it does not appear you ever put your full weight into the knee upon the back of Mr. Floyd’s neck. If you were trying to kill him, as is alleged, you would have tried a lot harder.
I know you will get a trial, but how could anyone be sure it will be a fair trial? So much of the nation instantly hated you–because we didn’t know, well, anything really. We recoiled in horror at a scene police officers and EMTs see far too often in this nation. We can’t relate one bit to having to hold onto someone suffering fentanyl, meth and morphine induced mania, let alone someone weighing over 300 pounds and standing six feet seven inches tall. We don’t put ourselves in the position of trying to arrest or help people like Mr. Floyd. We leave those people and their problems to you. Then from the comfort of our living room couch we judge you with all the time in the world to criticize every step you took under the pressure of the moment.
Our rush to judgment — based on our feelings in watching just a fraction of the encounter — was more about us than anything you did.
I know now that the evidence shows you are innocent of the charge of intentionally killing Mr. Floyd. I know now that the evidence shows you did not negligently cause his death. You and the other officers are going to be acquitted, but only after you have survived prison until March 2021 or later. You’ll be released, but you’ll never get your life back. Just like the officer in the Ferguson case, instantly reviled, but never guilty of anything. Three separate investigations found he had acted in self-defense against repeated attacks from a larger, more powerful Michael Brown who had tried to seize that officer’s weapon. The last two of those investigations were led by liberal, progressive Black prosecutors, including President Obama’s attorney general.
Though that officer was completely cleared of wrongdoing, he and his family remain in hiding and will probably spend decades fearing for their lives….
…because he did his job, just as you did yours.
Officer Chauvin, I am so very, very sorry.
[For the information upon which this apology is based, please see the following:
George Floyd autopsy and toxicology report.
Interview of Tou Thao by Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
George Parry, former Philadelphia prosecutor of police misconduct, Who Killed George Floyd? and Chauvin, Lane, Keung and Thao: The George Floyd Fall Guys (the image at the top from the Minneapolis Police Department training manual is reproduced from this article)
John Paul Leonard, Or Did George Floyd Die of a Drug Overdose?
Court-approved body cam release