A Private Autopsy Found George Floyd’s Death Was A Homicide

The new findings contradict a preliminary autopsy report cited in the criminal complaint against ex-officer Derek Chauvin.

George Floyd, 46, a former bouncer who died in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. | Attorney Benjamin Crump
George Floyd, 46, a former bouncer who died in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. | Attorney Benjamin Crump

An independent autopsy on George Floyd that was requested by his family has ruled his death a homicide, with asphyxiation as his cause of death — directly contradicting a preliminary autopsy report cited by local officials last week. 

Hours after the independent autopsy was released on Monday, the local medical examiner updated its findings to also rule Floyd’s death a homicide — though the two sets of findings differ. The examiner’s earlier findings said a combination of force, pre-existing health conditions, and “any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death,” according to a criminal complaint against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

The independent report by Dr. Michael Baden and Dr. Allecia Wilson released on Monday found that sustained pressure on Floyd’s neck and back led to asphyxiation. Floyd’s family has cited the findings and called for Chauvin to face first-degree murder charges, according to attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing them. (He currently faces charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter.)

Floyd, 46, died on Memorial Day after Chauvin, a white cop, handcuffed him and appeared in video footage kneeling on his neck for nearly 9 minutes. During those minutes, Floyd, a Black man who was unarmed, can repeatedly be heard saying “I can’t breathe.”

“What we found is consistent with what people saw,” said Dr. Baden, a forensic pathologist who also conducted an autopsy on Eric Garner in 2014, in a release. “There is no other health issue that could cause or contribute to the death. Police have this false impression that if you can talk, you can breathe. That’s not true.”

Chauvin, who is one of four officers who were fired for their involvement in Floyd’s death, was charged on May 29 with third-degree murder and manslaughter. The three other officers have not been charged as of Tuesday, and Floyd’s family and Crump are also calling for their arrests.

Chauvin’s criminal complaint cited the findings of the examiner’s preliminary autopsy, which  stated the “autopsy revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation.” The complaint, released May 29, claimed Chauvin “had his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in total. Two minutes and 53 seconds of this was after Mr. Floyd was non-responsive.” 

On Monday, the local medical examiner ruled that “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression” led to Floyd’s death. It has now ruled the manner of death was a homicide, though said this finding “is not a legal determination of culpability or intent.” The examiner also cites in its report conditions including “arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease; fentanyl intoxication; recent methamphetamine use.” 

But the independent examiners dispute that underlying conditions played a role in Floyd’s death.

“Mr. Floyd had no underlying medical problems that caused or contributed to his death,” Baden said at a news conference on Monday.

Since the footage of Floyd’s violent arrest was released, protesters who are fed up with systemic racism have taken to the streets in cities across the U.S. demanding justice and an end to police brutality. Crump and Floyd’s family said they support the protests, but discouraged people from engaging in violence or looting.

“The scar tissue of George Floyd’s death will be permanent scar tissue on the subconscious of America,” Crump said on Monday. “Let’s all take a breath — not just for justice, not just for peace — but take a breath to heal our communities all across America. Most importantly, let’s take a breath for George in peace, because that’s what George would have wanted.”​​​​​​​