George Perry Floyd Jr. (October 14, 1973 – May 25, 2020) was an African American
man killed during an arrest
after a store clerk alleged he had passed a counterfeit $20 bill in Minneapolis
. Derek Chauvin
, one of four police officers who arrived on the scene, knelt on Floyd's neck and back for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. After his death, protests
against police brutality
, especially towards black people, quickly spread across the United States and internationally.
Floyd grew up in Houston
, playing football
throughout high school and college. He was a hip hop
artist and served as a mentor in his religious community. Between 1997 and 2005, he was convicted of eight crimes. He served four years in prison after accepting a plea bargain
for a 2007 aggravated robbery
in a home invasion.
In 2014, he moved to the Minneapolis area, residing in the nearby suburb of St. Louis Park
, and worked as a truck driver and bouncer
. In 2020, he lost his job as a truck driver, and then his security job during the COVID-19 pandemic
The City of Minneapolis settled a wrongful death lawsuit
with Floyd's family for $27 million. The trial of Derek Chauvin
, the police officer who knelt on Floyd's neck and back, began on March 8, 2021. The trial of the other three officers at the scene of his death is scheduled for August 2021.
Early life and education
Floyd was born on October 14, 1973, in Fayetteville, North Carolina
, to George Perry and Larcenia "Cissy" Jones Floyd.
[ He had four siblings.] [
When he was two, after Floyd's parents separated, his mother moved with the children to the Cuney Homes public housing,] known as Bricks, in Houston's Third Ward, a historically African-American neighborhood. Floyd was called Perry as a child, but also Big Floyd; being over tall in middle school, he saw sports as a vehicle for improving his life.
Floyd attended Ryan Middle School, and graduated from Yates High School in 1993. While at Yates, he was co-captain of the basketball team playing as a power forward. He was also on the football team as a tight end, and in 1992, his team went to the Texas state championships.
The first of his siblings to go to college, Floyd attended South Florida Community College for two years on a football scholarship, and also played on the basketball team. He transferred to Texas A&M University–Kingsville in 1995, where he also played basketball before dropping out. At his tallest he was though by the time of his autopsy he was tall and weighed .
Floyd returned to Houston from college in Kingsville, Texas, in 1995 and became an automotive customizer and played club basketball.
[ Beginning in 1994, he performed as a rapper using the stage name Big Floyd in the hip-hop group Screwed Up Click.] ''The New York Times'' described his deep-voiced rhymes as "purposeful", delivered in a slow-motion clip about choppin' blades'driving cars with oversize rimsand his Third Ward pride." [ The second rap group he was involved in was "Presidential Playas" and he worked on their album ''Block Party'' released in 2000. An influential member of his community, Floyd was respected for his ability to relate with others in his environment based on a shared experience of hardships and setbacks, having served time in prison and living in a poverty-struck project in Houston.] In a video addressing the youth in his neighborhood, Floyd reminds his audience that he has his own "shortcomings" and "flaws" and that he isn't better than anyone else, but also expresses his disdain for the violence that was taking place in the community, and advises his neighbors to put down their weapons and remember that they are loved by him and God.
Between 1997 and 2005, Floyd served eight jail terms on various minor charges, including drug possession, theft, and trespass. [ In 2007, Floyd faced charges for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon; according to investigators, he had entered an apartment by impersonating a water department worker and barging in with five other men, then held a pistol to a woman's stomach and searched for items to steal.] Floyd was arrested three months later during a traffic stop and victims of the robbery identified him from a photo array. In 2009, he was sentenced to five years in prison as part of a plea deal and was paroled in January 2013. [ After Floyd's release, he became more involved with Resurrection Houston, a Christian church and ministry, where he mentored young men and posted anti-violence videos to social media.] He delivered meals to senior citizens and volunteered with other projects, such as the Angel By Nature Foundation, a charity founded by rapper Trae tha Truth. Later he became involved with a ministry that brought men from the Third Ward to Minnesota in a church-work program with drug rehabilitation and job placement services. [ A friend of Floyd acknowledged that Floyd "had made some mistakes that cost him some years of his life," but that he had been turning his life around through religion.]
In 2014, Floyd moved to Minneapolis to help rebuild his life and find work. Soon after his arrival, he completed a 90-day rehabilitation program at the Turning Point program in north Minneapolis. Floyd expressed the need for a job and took up security work at Harbor Light Center, a Salvation Army homeless shelter. He lost the job at Harbor Light and took up several other jobs. Floyd hoped to earn a commercial driver's license to operate trucks. He passed the required drug test and administrators of the program felt his criminal past did not pose a problem, but he dropped out as his job at a nightclub made it difficult to attend morning classes, and he felt pressure to earn money. Floyd later moved to St. Louis Park and lived with former colleagues. Floyd continued to battle drug addiction and went through periods of use and sobriety.
In May 2019, Floyd was detained by Minneapolis police when an unlicensed car he was a passenger in was pulled over in a traffic stop. Floyd was found with a bottle of pain pills. Officers handcuffed Floyd and took him to the city's third police precinct station. Floyd told police he did not sell the pills and that they were related to his own addiction. When Floyd appeared agitated, officers encouraged him to relax and helped calm him down, and they later called an ambulance as they grew worried about his condition. No charges were filed in connection with the incident.
In 2019, George Floyd worked security at the El Nuevo Rodeo club, where police officer Derek Chauvin also worked off-duty as a security guard.
In 2020, Floyd was working part time as a security guard at the Conga Latin Bistro club, and began another job as a delivery driver. Floyd lost the delivery driver job in January after being cited for driving without a valid commercial license and for being involved in a minor crash. He was looking for another job when the COVID-pandemic hit Minnesota, and his personal financial situation worsened when the club closed in mid March due to pandemic rules. In April of that year, Floyd contracted COVID-19 himself, but recovered a few weeks later.
On May 25, 2020, Floyd was arrested after allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a grocery store in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood of Minneapolis.
He died after Derek Chauvin, a White police officer, pressed his knee to Floyd's neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds during the arrest. Floyd was handcuffed face down in the street, while two other officers further restrained Floyd and a fourth prevented onlookers from intervening. Floyd's restraint and death were captured on a cellphone camera and sparked global protests. Seventeen minutes into the arrest, Floyd was unconscious. Repeatedly while pinned under Chauvin's knee, he stated that he couldn't breathe. During the final two minutes, Floyd was motionless and had no pulse. Onlookers repeatedly called out for help upon realization of Floyd's struggling. Though the officers called for medical assistance, they took no action to treat him. Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd's neck and back as emergency medical technicians arrived. The incident was captured on video. [
The medical examiner's final findings,] [''Press Release Report: Floyd George Perry''] issued June 1,
, Case No: 2020–3700. Hennepin County Medical Examiner. June 1, 2020.
found that Floyd's heart stopped while he was being restrained and that his death was a homicide caused by "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression". Fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use may have increased the likelihood of death. Other significant conditions were arteriosclerotic heart disease and hypertensive heart disease. [ The report states that on April 3 Floyd had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, but does not list it as a fatal or other significant condition.]
Floyd's family commissioned a second autopsy, carried out by Michael Baden, a pathologist and former New York City chief medical examiner who had previously autopsied Eric Garner, and attended by Allecia Wilson, director of autopsy and forensic services at the University of Michigan Medical School. From the evidence available to them, which did not include a toxicology report or unspecified bodily samples, Baden and Wilson announced on June 1 their finding that Floyd's death was a homicide caused by asphyxia due to neck and back compression. Also, Floyd had no underlying medical problem that contributed to his death. Baden said neck compression affected blood flow to the brain [ and being able to speak does not mean that someone is able to breathe.] [
On March 12, 2021, the Minneapolis city council approved a settlement of $27 million to the Floyd family following a wrongful death lawsuit.
According to ''The New York Times,'' actions taken by the officers during the arrest directly violated Minneapolis Police Department policies. After Floyd's death, Derek Chauvin was fired and charged with second-degree murder. The charge was altered to second-degree murder after Chauvin was initially charged with third-degree murder, as the second-degree charge essentially claims that Floyd's death was "without intent" on Chauvin's part.] According to the Associated Press, the decisive points for the trial will be the questions of whether Chauvin caused George Floyd's death and if what Chauvin did in the situation could be considered reasonable. Much of the trial's attention is being focused on how exactly Floyd died. Chauvin is being represented by attorney Eric Nelson, who is claiming the likely cause of death is a fentanyl overdose or a possible combination of fentanyl, methamphetamine, and underlying conditions. For this reason, according to the ''Associated Press,'' legal experts say the case will not be a simple one. One such expert made the statement that, "Although he had him pinned under his knee and he's yelling 'I can't breathe! I can't breathe!' there's an argument that (Chauvin) wasn't exerting pressure and his inability to breathe was due to the drugs in his system or something to that effect, or his anxiety". Chauvin has denied the charges of murder and manslaughter, which carry sentences of up to 40 years in prison.
Memorials and legacy
After Floyd's death, protests were held globally against the use of excessive force by police officers against black suspects and lack of police accountability. Protests began in Minneapolis the day after his death and developed in cities throughout all 50 U.S. states and internationally.
The day after his death, all four officers involved in Floyd's death were also fired and, on May 29, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges were brought against Chauvin.
Several memorial services were held. On June 4, 2020, a memorial service for Floyd took place in Minneapolis with Al Sharpton delivering the eulogy. Services were planned in North Carolina with a public viewing and private service on June 6 and in Houston on June 8 and 9.
Floyd was buried next to his mother in Pearland, Texas.
Colleges and universities which have created scholarships in Floyd's name included North Central University (which hosted a memorial service for Floyd), Alabama State, Oakwood University, Missouri State University, Southeast Missouri State, Ohio University, Buffalo State College, Copper Mountain College, and others. Amid nationwide protests over Floyd's killing, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and his wife Patty Quillin made a $120 million donation to be split equally among Morehouse College, Spelman College and the United Negro College Fund. The donation was the largest ever made to historically black colleges and universities.
Street artists globally created murals honoring Floyd. Depictions included Floyd as a ghost in Minneapolis, as an angel in Houston, and as a saint weeping blood in Naples. A mural on the International Wall in Belfast commissioned by Festival of the People (''Féile an Phobail'') and Visit West Belfast (''Fáilte Feirste Thiar'') featured a large portrait of Floyd above a tableau showing Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck while the three other officers turn their backs and each covers his eyes, ears, or mouth in the manner of the Three Wise Monkeys ("See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil"). One Houston mural is on the side of Scott Food Mart in the Third Ward, while the other is on the property of The Breakfast Klub restaurant in Midtown. A childhood friend of Floyd's said that Floyd would never "have imagined that this is the tragic way people would know his name."
A GoFundMe account to support Floyd's funeral costs and benefit his family broke the site's record for number of individual donations.
By June 6, murals had been created in many cities, including Manchester, Dallas, Miami, Idlib, Los Angeles, Nairobi, Oakland, Strombeek-Bever, Berlin, Pensacola, and La Mesa. The mural in Manchester was defaced with graffiti. Manchester Police investigated the incident.
A bill proposed by US Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, the George Floyd Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act, was designed to reduce police brutality and establish national policing standards and accreditations. In addition to the work of lawmakers, there has been an outcry from leaders in varieties of fields. Researcher Temitope Oriola, author of "How police departments can identify and oust killer cops," wrote the piece intending to prevent more deaths mirroring Floyd's. Oxiris Barbot, former Commissioner of Health of the City of New York, wrote in an article addressing COVID-19 and the death of George Floyd that Floyd's death was "a cumulative injury on top of the sustained acuity of health inequities playing out in horrifying details through the COVID-19 pandemic."
The length of time that Chauvin was initially believed to have had his knee on Floyd's neck, eight minutes 46 seconds, was widely commemorated as a "moment of silence" to honor Floyd.
Floyd's death was featured prominently in ''The Economist'', with the magazine running an obituary, multiple articles, and numerous reader letters, ultimately making the legacy of his death its June 13 cover story. It wrote that his legacy "sthe rich promise of social reform." [
On September 18, 2020, the Minneapolis City Council approved designating the section of Chicago Avenue between 37th and 39th Streets as George Perry Floyd Jr. Place, with a marker at the intersection with 38th Street where the incident took place. The intersection had been the location of a makeshift memorial that emerged the day after his death.
On October 6, 2020, Amnesty International delivered a letter with one million signatures from around the world to the US Attorney General William Barr to demand justice for George Floyd. The human rights advocacy group demanded that the police officers involved in the killing of George Floyd be held accountable. The NAACP, which has already published a criminal justice fact sheet, wrote in response to Floyd's death a statement voicing their support for the protests taking place demanding justice for George Floyd.]
Floyd had four siblings and five children, including two daughters (aged 6 and 22 at the time of his death) and an adult son.
He also had two grandchildren.
*Lists of killings by law enforcement officers in the United States
Category:20th-century American singers
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Category:Deaths from asphyxiation
Category:Deaths in police custody in the United States
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Category:Victims of police brutality in the United States