George Floyd's Death a Homicide by Mechanical Asphyxiation, Independent Autopsy Finds

(Kerem Yucel/Afp Via Getty Images)

The family of George Floyd, the Minnesota man who died after an officer arresting him pressed his knee onto his neck, released the results of an independent autopsy Monday afternoon. Dr. Allecia Wilson, one of the forensic pathologists who conducted the independent autopsy, said Floyd died as a result of mechanical asphyxiation and called the death a homicide. 

Floyd's death has led to widespread outrage, protests and unrest across the nation.

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The independent autopsy was conducted by Wilson and Dr. Michael Baden. Baden is the former chief medical examiner of New York City and was hired in 2014 to conduct the autopsy of Eric Garner, a black man who died when an NYPD officer used a banned chokehold during his arrest. Both Garner and Floyd pleaded with officers that they couldn't breathe before their deaths seen on disturbing videos, and "I can't breathe" has become a rallying cry among those protesting police brutality.

Baden said Floyd died as a result of compression on his neck and back, which interfered with blood flow and his breathing.

The Minneapolis officer seen kneeling on Floyd's neck, Derek Chauvin, was last week charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. In a criminal complaint charging Chauvin, prosecutors cited results of the Hennepin County medical examiner's preliminary autopsy, which they said: "revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation." They said Floyd had "underlying health conditions including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease" that combined with the officers' restraint and "any potential intoxicants" likely contributed to his death.

George Floyd, left, and former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with third-degree murder for Floyd's death.

But Floyd's family has disputed those findings. In the same complaint, Hennepin County prosecutors said Chauvin "had his knee on Mr. Floyd's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. Two minutes and 53 seconds of this was after Mr. Floyd was "non-responsive."

"The family and I reject this notion... that the knee from the police officer on George's neck for almost nine minutes was not the proximate cause of his death," civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump said in a statement to CBS News before the independent autopsy results were released.
The Hennepin County medical examiner's office has said their official findings are pending toxicology reports and further information from investigators and could take at least three weeks to be released.
"The Medical Examiner recognizes the public expectation for timely, accurate, and transparent information release, within the confines of Minnesota law," the medical examiner's office said in a statement last week. "However, the autopsy alone cannot answer all questions germane to the cause and manner of death and must be interpreted in the context of the pertinent investigative information and informed by the results of laboratory studies.

Wilson said she agreed that further tests would provide more information. Baden said that he could find no underlying conditions that contributed to Floyd's death, saying he was in good health.

This article was originally published to CBS News on June 1, 2020, at 2:58 p.m.


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