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Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Photo: Hennepin County Sheriff's Office

A Minnesota judge on Thursday dropped the third-degree murder charge against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, but kept the higher charge, KARE 11 reports.

Driving the news: Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill wrote that he was dropping the third-degree murder charge because Chauvin's actions did not put others in danger. Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd's neck for several minutes as the Black man cried out, "I can't breathe," still faces the higher second-degree murder charge, as well as a second-degree manslaughter charge.

  • Three other former police officers — Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng — are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Cahill ruled against their request to dismiss their charges.

What they're saying: Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is handling the prosecution, praised the judge's decision to keep all but one charge in the case.

  • "This is an important, positive step in the path toward justice for George Floyd, his family, our community, and Minnesota," he said in a statement.
  • "This means that all four defendants will stand trial for murder and manslaughter, both in the second degree," he added.
  • Lawyer Ben Crump, who has represented victims of police shootings and their families, and co-counsels released a statement on the judge's decision: “We are gratified that the court preserved eight of the nine charges against Derek Chauvin, including the more serious second-degree murder charge for which we expect a conviction, based on the clear and evident use of excessive force that we all saw on video."
  • "We will continue to fight for justice in the civil courts and will advocate both for justice in the criminal system and for meaningful police reforms. The family of George Floyd has confidence that Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison will make sure that the officers are held accountable to the full extent of the law based on the evidence that we witnessed on that videotape.”

What's next: The trial for all four former officers is tentatively set for March, but the judge is weighing a motion to try the cases separately, per AP.

Go deeper

The cities that are already defunding the police

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

"Defund the police" became a rallying cry for many people on the left almost overnight — but it's also having a real impact as cities move quickly to slash their police department budgets.

Driving the news: In the aftermath of the protests over the killing of George Floyd, city leaders are calling to cut law enforcement budgets or reallocate funds in at least 19 U.S. cities, according to Local Progress, which pushes for racial and economic justice and is tracking the issue in real-time.

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden adviser Cedric Richmond sees first-term progress on reparations

Illustration: "Axios on HBO"

White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond told "Axios on HBO" that it's "doable" for President Biden to make first-term progress on breaking down barriers for people of color, while Congress studies reparations for slavery.

Why it matters: Biden said on the campaign trail that he supports creation of a commission to study and develop proposals for reparations — direct payments for African-Americans.

Cyber CEO: Next war will hit regular Americans online

Any future real-world conflict between the United States and an adversary like China or Russia will have direct impacts on regular Americans because of the risk of cyber attack, Kevin Mandia, CEO of cybersecurity company FireEye, tells "Axios on HBO."

What they're saying: "The next conflict where the gloves come off in cyber, the American citizen will be dragged into it, whether they want to be or not. Period."