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Rethinking George Floyd and Derek Chauvin


A groundbreaking documentary featuring extensive body cam footage that Minneapolis officials previously withheld in the wake of George Floyd’s death in the summer of 2020 adds critical context to what would become one of the most pivotal moments in recent American history. The footage and accompanying evidence strongly suggest that the facts were deliberately manipulated and that four cops are wrongfully imprisoned for the sake of politics rather than justice.

The Fall of Minneapolis is a 100-minute documentary focusing on 1. The events that led to Floyd’s death; 2. The trial of police veteran Derek Chauvin and three other Minneapolis police officers; and 3. The aftermath the city experienced. It relies primarily on nearly one hour of collective bodycam footage from officers on the scene, the one and only actual autopsy that was conducted (including its toxicology report), and testimony from the ensuing criminal trial. It also features the first and only interview that Chauvin has done, as well as Alex Kueng, the arresting officer, who was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison.

The very first takeaway is how much carnage very well may have been avoided had the City of Minneapolis immediately taken action to correct a dangerously false narrative that had emerged after cell phone footage that began well into the incident began going viral shortly after Floyd was pronounced dead. Like millions of Americans, I was appalled by what I saw, which appeared to be a handcuffed and helpless man suspected of passing a counterfeit bill being subdued under the knee of a police officer for several minutes as he complained about not being able to breathe before being pronounced dead shortly after.

Based on the only footage available, it looked like a summary execution, which is exactly what I called it. In light of the much more complete picture now available, I am confident that I was wrong. Having reviewed both the documentary and the accompanying court records the producers have made available on the film’s website, it also seems clear that had Chauvin received the fair and impartial trial he was entitled to, this would have been made clear to myself and anyone else whose mind was not already made up one way or another.

The primary takeaways from the new evidence are that Floyd was very clearly in a drug-induced state of delirium; he refused to comply with officers from the moment of their initial approach, despite admitting to passing the counterfeit bill; complained about not being able to breathe long before he was subdued on the ground, despite no evidence to that being the case; quite possibly ingested a large amount of fentanyl as police approached his vehicle in order to prevent its discovery; officers called EMS just 36 seconds after being forced to put the non-compliant suspect on the ground (a mistake by dispatch caused their delayed arrival); he was detained via an approved technique that was taught by the department; and while it appeared from the angle of cell phone footage that Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s neck, simultaneously captured angles from behind provided by the body cams show the point of pressure to be on the shoulder.

There was also a false narrative surrounding the autopsy findings. For starters, there was only one actual doctor who performed an autopsy on Floyd. The “independent autopsy” ordered by the attorney for Floyd’s family in the civil suit, as well as another by the Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner, were simply “reviews” of his findings. Little was made of the fact that Floyd had far beyond fatal levels of fentanyl in his system, along with meth and morphine, or that he had serious heart damage and untreated severe hypertension to boot.

Furthermore, the sworn testimony of one of the prosecutors involved in the case suggests that Dr. Andrew Baker felt tremendous political pressure to report a finding consistent with the viral narrative. Amy Sweasy testified that Dr. Baker told her “there were no medical findings that showed any injury to the vital structures of Mr. Floyd’s neck” and “there were no medical indications of asphyxia or strangulation.” Most chillingly, however—and remember, this is from testimony from someone involved in the prosecution—Sweasy said Dr. Baker asked, “What happens when the actual evidence doesn’t match up with the public narrative that everyone’s already decided on?” adding, “This is the kind of case that ends careers.”

Chauvin’s trial was problematic on many levels, from excluding the bodycam footage to the judge having previously worked for 10 years in the office that was prosecuting the case. Given the violent chaos that had overtaken the city in the wake of Floyd’s death and the onslaught of high-level political figures stoking unrest by demanding a guilty verdict ahead of the trial’s conclusion, it is also doubtful that Chauvin could have received a fair and impartial trial in that venue, as each juror (none of whom had been sequestered from outside media) knew full well that the city would most likely burn were Chauvin to be acquitted.

Chauvin was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison. His appeals have been denied on questionable grounds, and he was recently stabbed 22 times while incarcerated. Most recently, the US Supreme Court declined to hear his case. For doing his duty, as trained, it seems probable that it was ultimately decided by those in power that he would be the scapegoat sacrificed to the angry mob, while a lifelong criminal who almost certainly died because of personal choices he made both in his lifestyle and in the moment of the events would be martyred. What’s more, many of the figures directing the outcome can be seen to have benefited professionally and/or financially from it. This is not what justice looks like, folks.

One of the most frequent things I am asked when speaking in public is what journalists do when they get it wrong. My answer is that you attempt to learn what you can from your mistake and make it right in any way that is possible. Given the information available at the time, I’m not sure I would have ever gotten this one right. Still, like so many other journalists and citizens, I allowed the story to fade into the ether, convinced that justice had been served. I no longer believe that to be the case, and I feel obligated to share this with you, my readers. I hope you will take the time to examine the new evidence with an open mind.

Dennis "Mitch" Maley is an editor and columnist for The Bradenton Times and the host of our weekly podcast. With over two decades of experience as a journalist, he has covered Manatee County government since 2010. He is a graduate of Shippensburg University and later served as a Captain in the U.S. Army. Click here for his bio. His 2016 short story collection, Casting Shadows, was recently reissued and is available here.


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  • lib224

    Oh good grief, Mitch! The whole judge, jury, the justice system and our own eyes somehow got it wrong, but clever videographers got it right? Minnesotans who know the Minneapolis police know better. They've been known as thumpers forever. And they kill one every once in awhile. Justice has been served by the established legal system.

    Wednesday, December 20, 2023 Report this

  • rayfusco68

    Wow, my hats off to you Dennis. It takes an honest man with courage these days to admit they were wrong and then stand up for the truth. I like most people had no idea that these facts existed and still do.

    Wednesday, December 20, 2023 Report this

  • misty

    This is chilling and a reminder to always play devil’s advocate and seek to understand all angles. Always.

    Wednesday, December 20, 2023 Report this

  • CLEGma

    Why did the police department withhold this body cam evidence, that would’ve brought more clarity to the arrest and support their officers? How many other news outlets will rethink their coverage of this arrest? Thanks for sharing and admitting that we all may have gotten it wrong.

    Wednesday, December 20, 2023 Report this

  • David Daniels

    I'm sorry Mitch, but you lost me when you wrote Chauvin had Floyd's neck pinned for "several minutes" - it was 9 minutes and 29 seconds. The man was handcuffed, on his stomach with 2 armed police officers on top of him. He wasn't a threat to anyone. Police officers have a legal duty to care for the people they take into custody - no matter how much drugs in their body. They are trained that the position Floyd was in makes it difficult to breathe. It was unnecessary, excessive force resulting in death.

    Wednesday, December 20, 2023 Report this

  • David Daniels

    I'll try again, and write it differently...It wasn't "several minutes" that Chauvin pressed on Floyd's neck with his knee - it was 9min 29 seconds. And it wasn't just the video that made the case. I watched the trial from start to finish. The most damning evidence wasn't just the video alone, it was the lung expert medical witness describing, in layman's terms, minute by minute, the precise details of what happens to the windpipe, the ability to breathe, and the body's reaction to being restrained in that position. It was excessive force resulting in death. It would have killed anyone.

    Wednesday, December 20, 2023 Report this

  • sandy

    Floyd had trouble breathing when they tried to get him in the police car before Chauvin even arrived. I am not saying Chauvin who came after that didn't go overboard but why has no one who participated in the looting, riots, fires ever been charged? They burned the city. What about the fentanyl found in his system?

    Wednesday, December 20, 2023 Report this

  • san.gander

    I think you got it wrong Mitch. A man is pinned for over 9 minutes, after 3 minutes not able to cause a further problem... the cop was wrong - poor judgement, over zealous... brutal... perhaps even racially motivated?

    Wednesday, December 20, 2023 Report this