ST. PAUL -- A team of civil rights lawyers is filing a federal civil lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis and four former officers in the death of George Floyd, on behalf of Floyd and his family.
Floyd died May 25 after former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, during which Floyd cried out that he couldn't breathe. Chauvin, along with three other officers, who did not intervene to stop Chauvin's restraint -- Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng -- responded to the scene after a store clerk reported Floyd using a suspected counterfeit bill.
Filed on Wednesday, July 15, in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, the civil suit argues that Chauvin, Thao, Lane and Kueng violated Floyd's Fourth Amendment Constitutional rights barring unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. The lawsuit also argues that the City of Minneapolis is liable for Floyd's death because of the city's "deliberate indifference to the rights of arrestees, detainees, and the like."
The plaintiffs continue to argue that the City of Minneapolis tolerated and permitted excessive and deadly use of force in police encounters through its police training protocols and union contracts, and failed to correct dangerous patterns in police uses of force.
Florida-based civil rights attorney Ben Crump called Wednesday's lawsuit the "tipping point" for police brutality not just in Minneapolis, but the country.
"This is a teachable moment for America," Crump said. "This is an opportunity for police officers to bridge that divide of mistrust with communities of color. When we have transparency, plus accountability, equals trust."
He went on to say that, by challenging the constitutionality of Floyd's death, the lawsuit gets at the "crux of the matter": Does America believe in the words of the Declaration of Independence, that "all men are created equal?"
"Does America really believe it, or does it just sound good?" Crump asked. "We know you can quote it, but America, do you believe it?"
The attorneys did not specify how much money Floyd's family is seeking from the lawsuit, but Crump asked the crowd of reporters and cameras Wednesday: "If this was your father or your brother or your sister or your husband or your wife, what amount would it take to say justice? What amount? That is what we intend to put before the city of Minneapolis."
Chris Stewart, another attorney representing the Floyd family, added at the news conference that a civil lawsuit is "not just a money grab. (...) It is about accountability." He said that "cities and companies only talk in dollar bills, sadly," and that seeking damages in civil court will send a message throughout the country that police officers' excessive or lethal force is a financial liability.
"You will not walk away from these situations anymore in this country with a simple arrest and get over it," Stewart said. "You will feel the pain and understanding of having to account for the actions of your officers and the only way that’s done is with financial responsibility."