MINNEAPOLIS: The Minnesota city of Minneapolis reached a $27 million “wrongful death” settlement on Friday with the family of George Floyd, the black man who died while being arrested by a white police officer, sparking mass protests for racial justice across the United States.
Lawyers for the Floyd family said it is the “largest pre-trial settlement in a civil rights wrongful death case in US history”.
Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, 44, is currently on trial facing murder and manslaughter charges for Floyd’s death, which was captured on video by bystanders and laid bare racial wounds in the United States.
Chauvin, 44, was seen in the video kneeling on the neck of the 46-year-old handcuffed Floyd for nearly nine minutes.
Three other police officers — Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng — also face charges in connection with Floyd’s May 25, 2020 death.
“George Floyd’s horrific death, witnessed by millions of people around the world, unleashed a deep longing and undeniable demand for justice and change,” said Ben Crump, a Floyd family lawyer.
“That the largest pre-trial settlement in a wrongful death case ever would be for the life of a black man sends a powerful message that black lives do matter and police brutality against people of colour must end,” Crump said.
The settlement, which was unanimously approved by the city council, results from a federal lawsuit the Floyd family filed in US District Court in July against the city of Minneapolis.
“Our black community has endured deep and profound trauma,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said at a press conference. “Today’s settlement reflects our shared commitment to advancing racial justice.”
Another Floyd family attorney, L. Chris Stewart, said the settlement “ensures that George Floyd’s death will result in substantive, positive change” and prompt police forces around the country to enact reforms.
“They have 27 million reasons now why they should,” Stewart said.
“Even as the trial against former officer Derek Chauvin moves forward and the family waits for justice in the criminal courts, this settlement imparts a measure of justice that is meaningful, important and necessary,” he said.
Floyd’s brother Rodney said the agreement is “a necessary step for all of us to begin to get some closure”. “George’s legacy for those who loved him will always be his spirit of optimism that things can get better, and we hope this agreement does just that,” he said.
The $27 million settlement includes $500,000 to improve the historically African-American business district in Minneapolis where Floyd died.
In a statement, the legal team for the Floyd family praised police reforms adopted by the city of Minneapolis after Floyd’s death and pledged support for further reforms.
Following Floyd’s death, the Minneapolis Police Department agreed to keep body-worn cameras on at all times, to de-escalate non-threatening encounters with citizens by disengaging or walking away, and other measures.
“We are encouraged both by the progressive police reforms already adopted and the ambitious changes city of Minneapolis leaders still hope to create,” said Antonio Romanucci, another Floyd family lawyer.
Jury selection is currently taking place in Chauvin’s trial in a heavily guarded Minneapolis courtroom.
Seven jurors have been selected so far for the case and seven more need to be chosen in upcoming days.
Opening arguments are expected to begin on March 29.