By Tim Sullivan and Matt Sedensky
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The three other police officers on the scene when a Minneapolis officer pressed his knee on George Floyd’s neck are being charged with aiding and abetting a murder, and the case against the main officer is being upgraded to second-degree murder, a newspaper reported Wednesday.
The Star Tribune, citing multiple unnamed law enforcement sources, said Derek Chauvin would face the more serious charge in the death of George Floyd, who was handcuffed on the ground.
Three other officers at the scene — Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao — were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder, the newspaper reported, again citing sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. All four of the officers had already been fired.
The new charges were to be filed by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who planned an announcement later Wednesday. His office did not respond to questions about the report.
Earl Gray, who represents Lane, told The Associated Press that the Star Tribune report was accurate. Before news of the new charges, an attorney for Chauvin said he was not making any statements. Attorneys for Thao and Kueng did not return messages seeking comment on the charges.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Floyd’s family, called it “a bittersweet moment” and “a significant step forward on the road to justice.” Crump said Elison had told the family he would continue his investigation into Floyd’s death and upgrade the charge to first-degree murder if warranted.
The move powerfully punctuated an unprecedented week in modern American history, in which largely peaceful protests took place in communities of all sizes but were rocked by bouts of violence, including deadly attacks on officers, rampant thefts and arson in some places.
Earlier Wednesday, in a visit to a makeshift shrine at the street corner where Floyd died, his family had again called for the arrests of Lane, Kueng and Thao, a demand echoed by their attorney.
“We are demanding justice,” Crump said.
Some of the rockiness of the days since Floyd’s death May 25 dissipated on Tuesday night, with demonstrations continuing around the country, but without major reports of violence.
Curfews and efforts by protesters to contain earlier flare-ups of lawlessness were credited with preventing more widespread damage to businesses in New York and other cities overnight.
“Last night we took a step forward in moving out of this difficult period we’ve had the last few days and moving to a better time,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
New York police said about 280 people were arrested on protest-related charges Tuesday night, compared with 700 a day earlier. Nationwide, more than 9,000 have been arrested in connection with unrest.
At least 12 deaths have been reported, though the circumstances in many cases are still being sorted out.
Some tense incidents continued Tuesday night, but were far less prevalent than in preceding days. Police and National Guard troops used tear gas, flash-bang grenades, nonlethal rounds and other means of dispersing crowds near a police precinct in Seattle, near Centennial Park in Atlanta and at demonstrations in Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida.
Minnesota has opened a civil rights investigation into whether the Minneapolis Police Department has a pattern of discrimination against minorities.
Floyd’s death has spurred protests around the world.
Pope Francis called for national reconciliation and peace, saying he has ’’witnessed with great concern the disturbing social unrest” in the U.S.
“My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life,” he said Wednesday.
President Donald Trump has pushed the nation’s governors to take a hard line against the violence, saying Tuesday that “lowlifes and losers” were taking over New York’s streets.
He again tweeted Wednesday: “LAW & ORDER!”
More than 20,000 National Guard members have been called up in 29 states to deal with the violence.
In Philadelphia, a statue of former Mayor Frank Rizzo was removed by the city early Wednesday after repeatedly being targeted by vandals. Rizzo presided over a police force widely accused of racism and brutality in the 1970s.
Some protesters framed the burgeoning movement as a necessity after a long list of killings by police.
“It feels like it’s just been an endless cascade of hashtags of black people dying, and it feels like nothing’s really being done by our political leaders to actually enact real change,” said Christine Ohenzuwa, 19, who attended a peaceful protest at the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul.
“There’s always going to be a breaking point. I think right now, we’re seeing the breaking point around the country.”
Sedensky reported from Philadelphia. Associated Press journalists across the U.S. contributed to this report.