Washington — Benjamin Crump, the attorney representing the family of George Floyd, called Sunday for the charges against the police officer who pressed his knee on Floyd's neck for several minutes, rendering him unresponsive, to be upgraded to first-degree murder, saying the two were believed to have known each other.
Floyd, 46, died last week following the encounter with Minneapolis police, during which one officer, identified as Derek Chauvin, held him down and pressed his knee to Floyd's neck as he pleaded that he couldn't breath. On Friday, Chauvin was arrested and charged with second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder. The three other officers involved were fired from the police force but have not been charged.
"We think that [Chauvin] had intent, based on not the one minute, two minute, but over eight minutes, almost nine minutes he kept his knee in a man's neck that was begging and pleading for breath," Crump, a longtime civil rights attorney, told "Face the Nation." "At what point does it not be about detaining a man who is face-down with handcuffs, not posing any threat, to an intentional will to cause bodily harm? And if that results in death, every prosecutor in America will show that that is first-degree murder."
Prosecutors say Chauvin had his left knee on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes. Floyd was unresponsive for the last two minutes and 53 seconds, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday.
During the incident, one of the other officers on the scene suggested rolling Floyd to his side, but Chauvin allegedly rejected the suggestion, saying, "No, staying put where we got him," according to the complaint.
Crump said the owner of a nightclub where Floyd worked as a security guard notified the family that Chauvin was an off-duty officer there.
"They had to overlap," he said. "And so that is going to be an interesting aspect to this case and hopefully upgrading these charges to first-degree murder because we believe he knew who George Floyd was."
Crump also said that the information presented thus far indicates that Chauvin acted with intent to kill Floyd, including that the officer kept his knee on Floyd's neck even after he was unconscious.
"You can imagine after seeing the police have his knee on his neck, not for one minute, not for two minutes, not for three minutes, but for over eight minutes while George pleaded, 'I can't breathe, I can't breathe,' called for his mother," he said. "We now have the audio from the police body cam and we hear where one officer says he doesn't have a pulse, maybe we should turn him on his side. But yet, Officer Chauvin says no, we're going to keep him in this position. That's intent."
Floyd's death led to an eruption of protests nationwide that in some cities have turned violent. The National Guard has been activated in 15 states and mayors of more than two dozen cities issued curfews in an effort to curb the violence.
On Saturday, Attorney General William Barr blamed violent episodes that have occurred on "far-left extremist groups," while President Trump said the incidents were sparked by "Antifa and the Radical left."
Crump said neither he nor Floyd's family support the violence that has taken place, but said the demonstrations are an "outward sign of righteous anger that Americans, especially black Americans, are feeling over the death of George Floyd."
"He's just the latest tipping point in a string of killings of unarmed black people at the hands, or should I say in his case, the knee of the police," he said. "Many elected officials have to understand that it is not these protesters that started these fires across America. It is police brutality and a racist criminal justice system. And the only thing that can put out these fires are police accountability and equal justice."