The police officer charged with killing George Floyd, the African American whose death sparked a mass protest movement, was released from a Minnesota jail on Wednesday on $1 million bail.
Derek Chauvin, who was filmed pressing his knee to handcuffed Floyd’s neck until he went limp during an arrest in May, is charged with second and third degree murder and manslaughter.
The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office posted a notice of his release after more than four months in jail, after Chauvin was able to post the hefty bond, which came with conditions that he remain in Minneapolis until the trial.
Neither Chauvin nor his lawyer had any comment Wednesday.
But Ben Crump, attorney for Floyd’s family, blasted his release.
“Derek Chauvin posted a $1M bail today – buying his freedom after robbing George Floyd of his life over $20,” he said in a tweeted statement.
“His release on bond is a painful reminder to George’s family that we are still far from achieving justice.”
The 44-year-old former Minneapolis police officer, who has since been sacked, is to face trial in March 2021 along with three other now ex-police officers over Floyd’s death, which triggered the largest US anti-racism movement since the 1960s.
The other three, Thomas Lane, Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, who either stood by or participated in holding Floyd down when he was killed, are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.
All three were released earlier on bail.
Floyd’s death on May 25 became a symbol of what many say is systemic racism and abuse of African Americans by police, and sparked protests across the country that continue under the banner of “Black Lives Matter.”
Prosecutors called the death, which came after Floyd was detained for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill, “vicious, brutal, and dehumanizing.”
All four defendants say the decision to restrain Floyd was reasonably justified, and have also cited coroner evidence that drugs found in his system may have been the primary cause of death.
The officers were all fired one day after Floyd’s death, reflecting the growing seriousness with which US cities are beginning to take police abuse allegations.
The killing sparked weeks of protests around the country, with the shootings and deaths of other African Americans — including Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky — contributing evidence to the claim that Blacks are disproportionately victims of police shootings when compared to other races.
Online a number of groups were calling for new protests over the coming days over Chauvin’s release, but it was not clear whether large numbers were expected.