Members of George Floyd's family filed a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday against the city of Minneapolis and the four police officers involved in his fatal arrest in May.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, alleges that the officers violated Floyd's constitutional rights. It claims that the city "caused officers [to] act with impunity and without fear of retribution" and failed to properly train police.
The family is seeking unspecified financial damages in addition to the appointment of a "receiver or similar authority" to ensure that the city "properly trains and supervises its police officers."
Video of Floyd's Memorial Day arrest shows former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on Floyd's neck while Floyd, who was Black, cries out that he cannot breathe. According to charging documents, Chauvin held his knee on Floyd's neck for about eight minutes.
Floyd's death while in police custody sparked weeks of protests against police violence around the globe.
Ben Crump, an attorney for the family, said at a press conference announcing the lawsuit that the case was "unprecedented."
"With this lawsuit, we seek to set a precedent to make it financially prohibitive" for police to "wrongfully kill marginalized people, especially Black people, in the future," Crump said.
"The city of Minneapolis has a history of policies and procedures and deliberate indifference when it comes to the treatment of arrestees, especially Black men, that cries out for training and discipline," he said.
The four officers involved in Floyd's arrest are facing charges, and Minnesota is pursuing an investigation into the "policies, procedures, and practices" of the Minneapolis Police Department over the past decade. A separate federal investigation into the arrest is also underway.
The suit names Chauvin as well as the other former officers involved in the arrest, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng. The lawsuit claims that Chauvin's actions were unreasonable and that each of the other former officers had a duty to intervene to stop him.
"Every reasonable officer would have known that using force against a compliant, handcuffed individual who is not resisting arrest constitutes excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment," the suit says. The suit also alleges that each of the former officers "had a duty to intervene on behalf of a citizen whose constitutional rights were being violated in their presence by another officer."
Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The other former officers were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. All four were fired from the police department.
The suit claims that Minneapolis "frequently fails to terminate or discipline officers who demonstrate patterns of misconduct." It alleges that the Minneapolis Police Department "has observed unlawful or otherwise improper conduct by Chauvin throughout his career but has tolerated it and refused to remedy or mitigate it."
The suit says that the Minneapolis Police Department characterized neck restraints as "non-deadly" force "and did not warn it can cause death" from 2012 until June.
"Training materials offered to officers in 2014, including Defendants Chauvin and Thao, depict an officer placing a knee on the neck of an arrestee who is handcuffed in a prone position," the suit says.
Attorneys for the former officers either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment. A judge last week imposed a gag order barring the attorneys from discussing the cases against the officers with the media.
Minneapolis interim City Attorney Erik Nilsson said in a statement that the city was reviewing the lawsuit and that Floyd's death was a "tragedy."
"Criminal charges are pending against four Minneapolis police officers and it's very important that the criminal case proceed without interference," Nilsson said.