Prosecutors filed a tougher charge Wednesday against the police officer at the center of the George Floyd case and charged three other officers, delivering a victory to protesters galvanized by a death that roused racial tensions and unleashed coast-to-coast unrest.
The most serious charge was filed against Derek Chauvin, who was caught on video pressing his knee to Floyd’s neck and now must defend himself against an accusation of second-degree murder.
The three other officers at the scene — Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao — were charged for the first time with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. All four were fired last week.
A medical examiner ruled Floyd's death a homicide on Monday. Here are the latest developments in the unrest sparked by his death:
U.S. & World
Huge Crowd Protests in Seattle as Criticism of Police Mounts
A sea of protesters packed streets in Seattle on Wednesday in a sixth straight day of demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd, amid increasing criticism of the police department's repeated use of tear gas and flash-bangs to disperse mostly peaceful crowds.
By mid-afternoon thousands had descended upon City Hall, where police holding batons formed lines behind metal barricades.
The demonstrators carried “Black Lives Matter” signs, called for cutting the department's budget and shifting the money to social programs, chanted for officers to remove their riot gear, and knelt or sat together as they surrounded the building.
Floyd Tested Positive for COVID-19 in April
A full autopsy of George Floyd, the handcuffed black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police, was released Wednesday and provides several clinical details, including that Floyd had tested positive for COVID-19.
The 20-page report released by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office came with the family’s permission and after the coroner’s office released summary findings Monday that Floyd had a heart attack while being restrained by officers, and classified his May 25 death as a homicide.
The report by Chief Medical Examiner Andrew Baker spelled out clinical details, including that Floyd tested positive for COVID-19 on April 3 but appeared asymptomatic. The report also noted Floyd’s lungs appeared healthy but he had some narrowing of arteries in the heart.
The county’s earlier summary report listed fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use under “other significant conditions” but not under “cause of death.” The full report’s footnotes noted that signs of fentanyl toxicity can include “severe respiratory depression” and seizures.
Prosecutors: 3 Arrested on Terrorism Charges in Las Vegas
Three Nevada men with ties to a loose movement of right-wing extremists advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government have been arrested on terrorism-related charges in what authorities say was a conspiracy to spark violence during recent protests in Las Vegas.
Federal prosecutors say the three white men with U.S. military experience are accused of conspiring to carry out a plan that began in April in conjunction with protests to reopen businesses closed because of the coronavirus and later sought to capitalize on protests over the death of a Minneapolis man in police custody.
They were arrested Saturday on the way to a protest in downtown Las Vegas after filling gas cans at a parking lot and making Molotov cocktails in glass bottles, according to a copy of the criminal complaint obtained by The Associated Press.
The complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas on Wednesday said they self-identified as part of the “boogaloo” movement, which U.S. prosecutors said in the document is “a term used by extremists to signify coming civil war and/or fall of civilization.”
Stephen T. Parshall, 35, Andrew T. Lynam Jr., 23, and William L. Loomis, 40, were being held on $1 million bond each in the Clark County jail Wednesday, according to court records.
Hearse-Led Caravan Makes 10-Mile Journey During Florida Protest
It was a symbolic death to racism. A hearse and a caravan of cars with the names of people whose deaths were rooted in bigotry made the 10-mile journey Wednesday from Hallandale Beach to Miramar to protest the death of George Floyd.
The procession was one of the latest demonstrations across South Florida to call attention to police brutality and systemic racism, NBC South Florida reported.
“To the families of the countless names on all these cars, we grieve with you. And there are so many names we don’t even know,” said one protester at the Miramar Police Department, the final destination of the demonstration.
Protesters Circle Boston Common
Hundreds of protesters calling for justice following the death of George Floyd circled Boston Common Wednesday in the city's latest event to denounce police brutality and call for the end of structural racism.
The "Justice for George" event aimed to honor the life of Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. That's how long some participants lay down on the grass of the Common in a "die-in" held in solidarity with Floyd.
It comes as the murder charge brought against the ex-police officer in Floyd's death was upgraded while three other officers were charged. Many of the participants learned of the new charges while they were there.
Organizers called for the event to remain peaceful, NBC Boston reported.
Denver Mayor Marches With Protesters After Floyd's Death
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in downtown Denver on Wednesday for another round of demonstrations following the death of George Floyd. The protesters lay on their stomachs with their hands behind their backs for nearly nine minutes outside the Colorado Capitol.
Mayor Michael Hancock joined the group and clapped as protesters chanted, “Black lives matter.”
Hancock, who is black, thanked those who have been demonstrating peacefully and locked arms with protesters during a march through downtown.
Man Charged With Impersonating Deputy US Marshal at Protest
A Florida man has been charged with pretending to be a deputy U.S. marshal after his vehicle was blocked by demonstrators protesting against police brutality, authorities said Wednesday.
John Wesley Mobley Jr., 36, of Orlando, faces one count of false impersonation of a federal officer, according to a criminal complaint. If convicted, he faces up to three years in federal prison.
New Jersey to Overhaul Police Use-of-Force Guidelines for 1st Time in 20 Years, AG Says
Citing George Floyd’s death, New Jersey’s attorney general said the state will update its police use-of-force guidelines for the first time in two decades and will move to require a statewide licensing program for all officers.
“To the thousands of New Jerseyans that assembled peacefully this week let me be clear: We hear you, we see you, we respect you, we share your anger and we share your commitment to change,” Gurbir Grewal said at a news conference Tuesday alongside the state’s Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.
At least 43 states require some licensing requirement for officers, Grewal said, adding he wants to bring law enforcement inline with other professions that require licensing, like doctors and lawyers.
The changes Grewal announced won’t require the Legislature to act and instead will happen through regulations and directives through the attorney general’s office, Grewal said, though he stressed that there would be stakeholder input particularly on the new use-of-force guidelines.
Grewal said his office has been weighing changes since he took office in 2018. The issues have been building for a while and the timing was clearly “ripe,” he said.
ACLU Files Suit on Behalf of Journalists Targeted by Police in Minnesota
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the Minneapolis Police Department and the Minnesota State Patrol, alleging police have "targeted and attacked" journalists covering the protests in response to the death of George Floyd, in violation of their rights.
The lawsuit, filed by the ACLU of Minnesota on Wednesday, alleges a “pattern and practice of conduct by law enforcement,” which the organization says, “tramples on the Constitution.” The ACLU is seeking class-action status for the suit, which was filed in Federal District Court in Minnesota and names Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, police union head Lt. Bob Kroll, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington and Minnesota State Patrol Colonel Matthew Langer as defendants.
The lawsuit’s lead plaintiff is Jared Goyette, a freelance journalist who says he was shot in the face by a rubber bullet fired by police. The suit outlines the number of journalists who have been arrested or injured by police since the demonstrations began last week.
The lawsuit also alleges police have interfered with news coverage and have continued to “target and intimidate the press by firing less-lethal ballistics designed for riot control directly at members of the media.”
The ACLU has also vowed to bring lawsuits against police departments across the U.S. who arrest, target or attack journalists.
Protesters, Enraged by Black Americans Killed, Gather Nationwide
Police Chiefs in New Jersey, Houston Describe Engagement With Protesters
Police chiefs working in Camden, New Jersey, and Houston, Texas, in separate interviews with NBC News talked about why they joined protests over the killing of George Floyd.
Joseph Wysocki, chief of police for Camden County in New Jersey, joined a march in Camden on Saturday afternoon and was invited to carry a solidarity banner in the majority-minority city.
"All the people there, we were one and somebody actually told me that and it's a symbol of peace," he said.
Camden has experienced a 50-year low and in 1991 was considered the most violent city in the country, per capita, he said. The city's police force was disbanded and reformed in 2013 as a county agency. It has become a model of community policing.
"1,000 percent," he said of the role community policing has made in lowering crime.
When local protest organizer Yolanda Deaver reached out and asked him to hold a banner, Wysocki said he knew "once she smiled, the way that she did, we were in for a good day."
Meanwhile, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo appeared on TODAY Wednesday, after having also made headlines for marching in Floyd protests and speaking out about his death.
Over the weekend, Acevedo said he understood why the protests were occurring and was outraged by Americans who "don't see a problem," NBC News reported.
Still, Acevedo has been confronted over the department's handling of six fatal police shootings in Houston since April and faced calls for the release of body cam footage.
Acevedo said the release of at least one tape was forthcoming and called for a "national standard" over the release of those videos.
Acevedo has offered Floyd's family a special police escort for when his body returns home to Houston.
"This is a homegrown young man, whose life was taken without excuse or justification," he said.
Acevedo said that "together through love were going to overcome the hate."
Esper Says He Opposes Using Military Against Protesters
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Wednesday he opposes use of the Insurrection Act, which would allow President Donald Trump to use active-duty military forces for law enforcement duties in containing street protests.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Esper said active-duty troops in a law enforcement role should be used in the United States “only in the most urgent and dire of situations,” adding, “We are not in one of those situations now.”
Use of the Insurrection Act has been discussed as Trump has talked about using the military to quell violent protests in U.S. cities. Esper has authorized the movement of several active-duty Army units to military bases just outside the nation's capital, but they have not been called to action.
In his Pentagon remarks, Esper strongly criticized the actions of the Minneapolis police, in whose custody George Floyd died after an officer held his knee to Floyd's neck for several minutes. Esper called the act “murder” and “a horrible crime.”
He also said he has asked the army secretary to investigate the use of National Guard helicopters that were captured on video making a "show of force" against protesters in Washington, D.C. on Monday in an apparent effort to disperse demonstrators defying a 7 p.m curfew.
Videos shared on social media showed the military helicopters hovering low over protesters, with strong winds from its rotors kicking up debris on the crowds.
Esper said he only learned it they were National Guard helicopters on Tuesday and that he ordered the inquiry within an hour of confirming it. It wasn't clear yet, he said, who had directed the flyover or what it was intended to accomplish. But military experts say their aim is "to intimidate the enemy."
“I want to make sure I understand why,” Esper said. “What happened? Who was involved? What orders were they given or not given? Was there a safety issue involved with an aircraft. hovering that low? So there’s a lot of questions that need to be answered.”
Defense Official Resigns From Pentagon Over Esper's Role in Trump Photo-op
James Miller, a former undersecretary of defense for policy, resigned Tuesday from his post at the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board citing Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s participation in President Donald Trump’s Monday night photo op in front of St. John’s Church, CNBC reports.
In an extraordinary resignation letter, provided to The Washington Post, Miller pointed to the oath he and Esper took to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States" and accused Esper of violating that oath when he accompanied the president from the White House to the church after "law-abiding" protesters "were dispersed using tear gas and rubber bullets — not for the sake of safety, but to clear a path for a presidential photo op."
"You may not have been able to stop President Trump from directing this appalling use of force, but you could have chosen to oppose it. Instead, you visibly supported it," Miller wrote. "Anyone who takes the oath of office must decide where he or she will draw the line: What are the things that they will refuse to do?"
Then posing, "If last night’s blatant violations do not cross the line for you, what will?"
Esper told NBC News in an exclusive interview Tuesday that he didn't have advance notice of Trump's photo opportunity, saying he thought they were going to "see some damage and to talk to the troops." A Pentagon spokesman later told NBC News that Esper was aware the church was one of the locations where he would be viewing damage.
At a news conference Wednesday, Esper acknowledged that he knew they were going to the historic church but claimed it was to "survey the damage" there and at Lafayette Park nearby. He also said he and General Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, had planned to thank National Guard members who were on duty when accompanied Trump to St. John's church.
Esper said the path they took to and from the church didn't "afford us that opportunity."
"What I was not aware of was exactly where we were going, when we arrived at the church and what the plans were once we got there," Esper said, adding that he also wasn't briefed on how protesters would be cleared out of the area because "it was a law enforcement action" and "not a military decision or action."
Asked if he regrets participating in the photo op, Esper didn't answer the question directly, only saying "he tries everything to stay apolitical" and out of situations that may appear political.
Statue of Controversial Ex-Mayor Frank Rizzo Taken Down in Philly
The bronze statue of polarizing Philadelphia mayor and former police commissioner Frank Rizzo was removed overnight from its prominent location in the city’s municipal core.
About a dozen crew members arrived shortly after midnight Wednesday and began loosening the statue from where it stood on the steps of the Municipal Services Building across from City Hall. Members of the National Guard surrounded the area as they worked to remove it.
Rizzo has a divided history among Philadelphians. Some see him as a devoted public servant while to others he represents systemic racism and brutality against minority communities.
The statue had been defaced amid protests on Saturday and Sunday, NBC Philadelphia reported.
Police Shove, Make AP Journalists Stop Covering Protest
New York City police officers surrounded, shoved and yelled expletives at two Associated Press journalists covering protests Tuesday in the latest aggression against members of the media during a week of unrest around the country.
Portions of the incident were captured on video by videojournalist Robert Bumsted, who was working with photographer Maye-E Wong to document the protests in lower Manhattan over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The video shows more than a half-dozen officers confronting the journalists as they filmed and took photographs of police ordering protesters to leave the area near Fulton and Broadway shortly after an 8 p.m. curfew took effect.
An officer, using an expletive, orders them to go home. Bumsted is heard on video explaining the press are considered “essential workers" and are allowed to be on the streets. An officer responds “I don't give a s—-.” Another tells Bumsted “get the f—- out of here you piece of s—-."
Bumsted and Wong said officers shoved them, separating them from each other and pushing them toward Bumsted's car, which was parked nearby. At one point Bumsted said he was pinned against his car. He is heard on video telling the officer that Wong has his keys and he needs them to leave the area. Officers then allowed Wong to approach and the two got in the vehicle and left.
Footage Shows Milwaukee Police Disperse Peaceful Protesters With Tear Gas
Video footage from Milwaukee on Tuesday showed authorities using tear gas on protesters moments after many were kneeling or had their hands up.
The Milwaukee Police Department said officers dispersed the crowd after people threw rocks, glass and Molotov cocktails at officers. The department added that someone in the crowd with a gun was taken into custody.
The footage, captured by NBC affiliate WTMJ, did not show this. The station reported that tear gas was used minutes after the demonstration was declared unlawful.
Arkansas Declares State of Emergency
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared a state of emergency Tuesday in response to continued demonstrations to protest the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police.
A statement from the governor’s spokeswoman said the action will unify command of local and state police, the Arkansas National Guard and the state Department of Emergency Management.
The spokeswoman minimized the significance of the move, however. “This is a normal executive order issued when the National Guard is activated under state control in regard to civil disturbance. Under this executive order, sheriff offices and police departments maintain command and operational control of their respective jurisdictions,” Katie Beck said in her statement.