George Floyd's death sparked unrest because many believed he was killed for being black. A breakdown of the event shows otherwise.
Jan 4, 2021
The Incident, Resisting Arrest
Two officers, Lane and Keung, were informed that the man in a blue Mercedes Benz was parked in front of Cup Foods had used fake bills. Officers saw suspicious movements from the occupant in the Mercedes; Floyd was reaching between the seats of the vehicle. It was later learned the suspicious movements were Floyd, high on fentanyl, shoving counterfeit bills into the side of the seat.
Officer Lane drew his sidearm and ordered Floyd approximately seven times to show his hands after noting the suspicious behavior, which they thought was Floyd reaching for a weapon. Once Floyd finally placed his hands on the steering wheel, Lane holstered his weapon. Floyd continued to plead with Lane not to shoot him despite Lane’s repeated assurances that he was not going to shoot. After exiting the car, Floyd resisted until he was handcuffed and seated on the sidewalk.
Video shows that officers handcuffed Floyd and walked him toward the curb as he staggered. Officers asked him if he was “on something,” and noted that he was acting erratic and was foaming around the mouth. Floyd said that he’d been “hooping earlier”.
3:57, in Footage
A bystander tells an officer that Floyd had mental problems. The officer again asks if Floyd is under the influence, Floyd responding no. We now know this was a lie. The autopsy revealed that Floyd had lethal amounts of fentanyl and smaller amounts of methamphetamine in his system at the time of his death.
Officers then directed him to a police car and ordered him to get inside. He resisted, repeatedly saying he was claustrophobic and couldn’t breathe even though he was just behind the wheel of his own car. Officers attempted to shove him into the backseat, with Officer Lane offering to stay with him, roll down the windows, and turn on the air conditioning.
4:38, in Footage
An officer has Floyd against the police SUV telling him to “Stop falling down. Stay on your feet and face the car door.” Floyd is again not complying with their orders. “Please, I want to talk with you man,” he shrieks at the police.
5:26 in Footage
At 5:26, Floyd again tells the police officers that he won't get into the police SUV because he's claustrophobic. The officers repeatedly ask him to get into the SUV. Finally, Floyd says “I’m gonna go in!”.
6:18 in Footage
Floyd continues to resist. They order him multiple more times to get into the SUV. Officers continue their efforts to get Floyd into the car, but he resists again claiming himself claustrophobic. Floyd hit his head on the car’s window and suffered a minor cut. Consequently, the police placed a “Code 2” call for Emergency Medical Services to tend to the wound.
Officer Kueng (to Floyd): "Take a seat"
George Floyd: “I can’t choke, I can’t breathe Mr. Officer! Please! Please!” (this was before any obstruction was placed on or near his neck)
George Floyd: “I want to lay on the ground. I want to lay on the ground. I want to lay on the ground!”
Officer Lane: “You’re getting in the squad [car].”
George Floyd: “I want to lay on the ground! I’m going down, I’m going down, I’m going down.”
Before he was restrained on the ground, Floyd complained that he couldn't breathe seven times.
Floyd was incoherent, non-compliant, and foaming at the mouth. He was having trouble standing and wanted to lie on the ground. Even while standing, he complained that he was “claustrophobic,” that he “can’t breathe,” and that he was “going to die.” A bystander even said that Floyd looked like he was about to have a “heart attack”, urging him to go with the police. This was before he was on the ground. While on the ground, he continued to say that he couldn’t breathe. Officer Lane was near Floyd’s feet, Kueng at the middle of Floyd’s body, and Chauvin at his back and head with his knee on Floyd’s neck.
"I can’t breathe"
George Floyd: “I’m through, I’m through. I’m claustrophobic. My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Everything hurts. I need some water or something, please. Please? I can’t breathe officer.”
Officer Chauvin: “Then stop talking, stop yelling.”
George Floyd: “You’re going to kill me, man.”
Officer Chauvin: “Then stop talking, stop yelling, it takes a heck of a lot of oxygen to talk.”
George Floyd: “Come on, man. Oh, oh. [crosstalk] I cannot breathe. I cannot breathe. Ah! They’ll kill me. They’ll kill me. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. Oh!”
Lane asks if they should “roll him on his side,”
Officer Chauvin: “No, he’s staying where we’ve got him.”
Office Lane: “I just worry about the excited delirium or whatever,”
Officer Chauvin says, “Well, that’s why we got the ambulance coming.”
Seventeen minutes after the first squad car arrived at the scene, Floyd was unconscious and pinned by three police officers, showing no signs of life. Officer Chauvin did not remove his knee even after Floyd lost consciousness and for 1 minute and 20 seconds after paramedics arrived. Floyd was “unresponsive” and “pulseless” in the ambulance before he was pronounced dead at Hennepin County Medical Center.
The Autopsy Report
Large Amount Of Drugs In Floyd's System
George Floyd's autopsy and toxicology reports revealed large amounts of drugs in his system, all of which affected his encounters with officers. His body contained:
Floyd's blood volatiles were negative for: ethanol, methanol, isopropanol, or acetone. His urine drug screen revealed he was presumptive positive for cannabinoids, amphetamines, and fentanyl/metabolite and confirmed: morphine (free) 86 ng/mL.
Many Pre-Existing Conditions
Floyd's autopsy also revealed a number of natural diseases which further exacerbated his encounters with officers:
Arteriosclerotic Heart Disease
Hypertensive Heart Disease
Cardiomegaly with Mild Biventricular Dilatation
Clinical History of Hypertension
Handwritten notes of a law enforcement interview with Dr. Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, say Floyd had 11 ng/mL of fentanyl in his system. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s autopsy report said Floyd experienced “fentanyl intoxication” and “recent methamphetamine use” these were “significant conditions” leading to his death.
The report ultimately deemed his death a homicide due to law enforcement restraint and “neck compression” which contributed to a heart attack. Ruling the death a homicide is not proof of guilt, the medical examiner said.
In another document, Baker said, “That is a fatal level of fentanyl under normal circumstances.” In a memo filed May 26, Dr. Baker concluded, “The autopsy revealed no physical evidence suggesting that Mr. Floyd died of asphyxiation.”
“If he were found dead at home alone and no other apparent causes, this could be acceptable to call an OD. Deaths have been certified with levels of 3,” - Dr. Anthony Baker
Prior to issuing the autopsy report, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner preliminarily found that the “Autopsy revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation. Mr. Floyd had underlying health conditions including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease. The combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death.”
Dissatisfied with the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s findings, the Floyd’s family attorney had a re-autopsy performed by Dr. Michael Baden, the former Chief Medical Examiner of New York City, and Dr. Allecia Wilson of the University of Michigan.
In announcing the re-autopsy findings, Dr. Wilson stated that she and Dr. Baden “have seen accounts from the complaint and based on that, yes our findings do differ [from those of the Hennepin County Medical Examiner]. Some of the information that I read from that complaint states that there was no evidence of traumatic asphyxia. This is the point in which we do disagree. There is evidence in this case of mechanical or traumatic asphyxia.” However, Dr. Wilson admitted that they did not have access to toxicology results, tissue samples, or some organs, but added that those items “are not likely to change” the results of the re-autopsy.
The toxicology report also disclosed the presence of methamphetamine, which it states is “capable of causing hallucinations, aggressive behavior and irrational reactions” as well as “restlessness, confusion, hallucinations, circulatory collapse and convulsions.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among the most common characteristics of a fentanyl overdose is “foaming at the mouth... and confusion or strange behavior before the person became unresponsive.” In short, Floyd’s foaming at the mouth, incoherence, physical incapacity, non-compliant behavior, breathing difficulty, and rapid downward spiral into unconsciousness and death can be explained by the toxicological evidence; he had ingested a massively lethal overdose of fentanyl mixed with a smaller dose of similarly dangerous and debilitating methamphetamine.
Floyd was possibly dying before he encountered the police.
Chauvin's Neck Restraint Was Standard Procedure
Minnesota police are trained to use the following neck restraint procedure.
“Compressing one or both sides of a person’s neck with an arm or leg, without applying direct pressure to the trachea or airway (front of the neck).”
The video of Chauvin kneeling on the side of Floyd’s neck appears to be a textbook application of this officially approved technique. The police defendants would have no reason to believe that Chauvin’s kneeling on Floyd’s neck was either causing serious harm or causing anything other than what is intended by the standard restraint procedure.
Minneapolis Police Department Policy & Procedure Manual
A neck restraint is listed as a “non-deadly force option” in the Minneapolis Police Department Policy & Procedure Manual. The Unconscious Neck Restraint shall only be applied in the following circumstances:
“On a subject who is exhibiting active aggression, or; For life saving purposes, or; On a subject who is exhibiting active resistance in order to gain control of the subject; and if lesser attempts at control have been or would likely be ineffective. Neck restraints shall not be used against subjects who are passively resisting as defined by policy.”
Excited delirium poses a serious risk of sudden death. This is particularly true for people who have severe coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease, like George Floyd. Floyd had a “heavy heart” and “at least one artery was approximately 75% blocked.” This condition is made even worse when the person is intoxicated with fentanyl, excited by methamphetamine, and agitated. These factors, unknown to the Officers, put George Floyd at great risk of suffering a sudden and fatal cardiac rhythm disturbance.
According to a 2011 overview in the West Journal of Emergency Medicine, excited delirium is characterized as:
“Delirium with agitation (fear, panic, shouting, violence, and hyperactivity), sudden cessation of struggle, and respiratory arrest,”
Death might also be at the end of that sequence, according to the overview. “The condition is controversial in the medical community because,” as Dr. Bisaga says, “it's not listed in the DSM-5, nor is it an accepted diagnosis or syndrome by the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, or the World Health Organization.”
Excited delirium is more than just being panicked and fearful.
“The critical issue here is it's a delirious state of disorientation and confusion as opposed to someone who is violent and agitated or paranoid. They're afraid for their lives, which is somewhat different,” “With this delirious syndrome, we know something major is happening with the patient. You have high heart rate, your heart might stop pumping, you have overheating, you have rigidity, your muscles break apart, they clog their kidneys. This is a medical emergency.” - Dr. Bisaga
Approximately two-thirds of people diagnosed with excited delirium die at the scene or during police or paramedic transport to a hospital, according to Health.com.
“By the time the patient gets to the hospital, the patient often is already dead—because during the course of this delirium you have this massive stimulation of the system,” says Dr. Bisaga. “The symptoms by themselves or in combination can lead to acute death. You have to stabilize the patient very quickly or they might die.”