Two autopsies on George Floyd find homicide but differ on key details of death

Protesters with supplies near the state Capitol in Tallahassee on May 31, 2020. Groups were demonstrating over George Floyd's death.

Two autopsies performed on George Floyd, who died in the custody of the Minneapolis police on May 25, concluded that the manner of death was homicide but differed on key details.

After the independent autopsy was released Monday, showing that Floyd died because of “asphyxia due to neck and back pressure,” the Hennepin County Medical Examiner released the results of its own autopsy.

It reached similar findings but highlighted that Floyd was intoxicated and said that may have played a role.

Ben Crump, the Tallahassee-based lawyer to the Floyd family, argues the bottom line is really very simple:

“Beyond question, he would be alive today if not for the pressure applied to his neck, by firing officer Derek Chauvin, and the strain on his body from the two additional officers kneeing him in his back,” Crump said.

“What you are going to hear from these renowned pathologists is, essentially, George died because he needed a breath. He needed a breath of air, so I implore you all to join his family, in taking a breath, taking a breath for justice,” he said.

The autopsy results came as the nation grappled with outrage over police brutality and injustices against people of color, with protests and demonstrations erupting in several Florida cities, from Tallahassee to Tampa and Miami.

Here is a previous Florida Phoenix report on those protests.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, meanwhile, reported that “demonstrations across the state of Florida have remained largely peaceful over the past 24 hours and no significant law enforcement or civilian injuries or deaths have been reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). Additionally, FDLE has not received reports of widespread property damage, commercial or residential.”

The independent autopsy, performed by Dr. Michael Baden and Dr. Allecia Wilson on Sunday, showed that pressure on Floyd’s back and neck “interfered with his breathing and blood flow to the brain” and caused his death.

That report also concluded that the “weight on the back, handcuffs and positioning were contributory factors because they impaired the ability to breathe.”

Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes during an arrest, and the other officers involved were responsible for his death, said Crump, who maintains a national practice from Florida’s capital.

The county’s report said the cause of death was due to “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdural restraint and neck compression,” while noting Floyd’s underlying medical conditions and certain drugs in his system at the time of death.

Toxicology results show “fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use” were potential contributing factors, according to the county report. And the report said Floyd suffered “arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease,” which it also considered significant.

But the doctors who conducted the independent autopsy and attorneys for his family argued that the toxicology findings were insignificant details.

“Whether he has drugs or alcohol in his body, for example, is not a cause of death. It would be a circumstance,” Baden said.

“We still would implore people across America, who are protesting for justice, who are standing with the family of George Floyd, to follow the example of George,” Crump said. “He proclaimed peace.”