George Floyd memorial in Minneapolis set for when 3 cops appear in court to face new charges in 'I can't breathe' death

Key Points
  • A memorial for George Floyd, the black man whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police has sparked days of nationwide protests, is set for Thursday afternoon.
  • At the same time, three ex-cops are due to appear in court for the first time to face charges of aiding and abetting Floyd's alleged murder. J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao assisted Officer Derek Chauvin in arresting Floyd on Memorial Day.
  • Chauvin, who is charged with murder, knelt on Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes, despite Floyd's pleas saying "I can't breathe."
The remains of George Floyd await a memorial service in his honor on June 4, 2020, at North Central University's Frank J. Lindquist Sanctuary in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Kerem Yucel | AFP | Getty Images

A memorial for George Floyd, the black man whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police has sparked days of nationwide protests, is set to begin Thursday afternoon around the same time that three ex-cops are due to appear in court to face charges of aiding and abetting his alleged murder.

The memorial in Minneapolis, scheduled to start at 2 p.m. ET, is the first in several planned events to honor Floyd, which will conclude with his funeral in Houston on Tuesday.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, a New York civil rights activist and the president of the National Action Network, will deliver the eulogy at the memorial Thursday at North Central University in downtown Minneapolis. The service will be livestreamed, with in-person attendance limited to family and friends.

Fifteen minutes before the memorial is due to start, three former Minneapolis police officers will be arraigned on new charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

The three — 26-year-old J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, 37, and 34-year-old Tou Thao — assisted a fourth officer, Derek Chauvin, in Floyd's arrest May 25, on suspicion that Floyd used a counterfeit $20 bill to make a purchase. The murder-related charge they face carries a maximum possible prison sentence of 40 years if they are convicted.

Former Minneapolis police officers (L to R) Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, Alexander Kueng

Floyd, 46, died after Chauvin, who is white, knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes during the arrest. During the arrest, Floyd desperately said "I can't breathe" and pleaded for his mother, who died several years ago. Floyd was unarmed.

Chauvin, 44, was arrested and charged Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. His arrest came three days after he and the three other officers were fired by the Minneapolis Police Department when shocking video of their treatment of Floyd became public.

Booking photo of former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin
Photo provided by Ramsey County Jail

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed an upgraded charge of second-degree murder against Chauvin on Wednesday and kept in place the two lesser charges. He faces the possibility of spending many decades in prison if convicted.

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All four former cops are in custody.

In addition to the memorial in Minneapolis on Thursday, a second memorial for Floyd will be held Saturday in North Carolina, where he was born.

On Monday, Floyd's family is hosting a viewing in Houston, where Floyd grew up. His funeral is scheduled for the following day.

A lawyer for Floyd's family, Ben Crump, said earlier this week that apparent Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is expected to attend the funeral. The Biden campaign has not confirmed that.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office has ruled that Floyd was the victim of a homicide, with the cause of death being cardiopulmonary arrest complicated by police restraining him and compressing his neck.

The ME's autopsy noted that Floyd had "other significant conditions," including "arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease; fentanyl intoxication; recent methamphetamine use." The autopsy said Floyd also tested positive for the coronavirus in early April.

An independent autopsy performed at the request of Floyd's family also found that he died from a homicide. But unlike the ME's report, that other autopsy found that Floyd died as the result of asphyxiation from sustained pressure on his neck and back.

"Sustained pressure on the right side of Mr. Floyd's carotid artery impeded blood flow to the brain, and weight on his back impeded his ability to breathe," a statement from the family said.

"The independent examiners found that weight on the back, handcuffs and positioning were contributory factors because they impaired the ability of Mr. Floyd's diaphragm to function."