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Police watch as demonstrators block a roadway while protesting the death of George Floyd in Miami. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Preliminary results from an independent autopsy commissioned by George Floyd's family found that his death in the custody of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was "homicide caused by asphyxia due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain," according to a statement from the family's attorney.

The latest: An updated official autopsy released by the Hennepin County medical examiner also determined that the manner of Floyd's death was "homicide," ruling it was caused by "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdued, restraint, and neck compression."

Why it matters: Both the independent autopsy and the updated official autopsy contradicted preliminary findings from the Hennepin County medical examiner, who found “no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxiation or strangulation,” according to charging documents against Chauvin.

  • “Mr. Floyd had underlying health conditions including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease,” the complaint from the Hennepin County attorney said.
  • “The combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death.”

A spokesperson for the Hennepin County medical examiner declined to comment when asked why the preliminary findings of the autopsy differed from the official report.

  • The report notes that manner of death is a “statutory function of the medical examiner” for the purposes of statistics and public health, and is “not a legal determination of culpability or intent” that can be applied in judicial proceedings.

Details:

World renowned medical examiner Dr. Michael Baden and Dr. Allecia Wilson found the manner of Mr. Floyd’s death was homicide caused by asphyxia due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain. Sustained pressure on the right side of Mr. Floyd’s carotid artery impeded blood flow to the brain, and weight on his back impeded his ability to breathe. The independent examiners found that weight on the back, handcuffs and positioning were contributory factors because they impaired the ability of Mr. Floyd’s diaphragm to function. From all the evidence, the doctors said it now appears Mr. Floyd died at the scene.
— Attorney Ben Crump on the independent autopsy

What they're saying:

  • "For George Floyd, the ambulance was his hearse," Crump said in a statement. "Beyond question, he would be alive today if not for the pressure applied to his neck by fired officer Derek Chauvin and the strain on his body from two additional officers kneeling on him.
  • "Mr. Floyd’s death was a homicide by officers who taunted him while holding him down for more than eight minutes. And the officer who stood by doing nothing was a physical blue shield — a living symbol of the code of silence."

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

Go deeper

Updated Sep 7, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Rochester mayor vows to reform police after Daniel Prude's death

Demonstrators in Rochester, New York. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Lovely Warren, mayor of Rochester, New York, pledged reforms to the city's police as protests continued Sunday over the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man who was experiencing mental health issues when he was detained.

Driving the news: Prude died seven days after being hooded and held down by Rochester police. Police Chief La’Ron Singletary said at a news conference with Warren that he supported the changes and he was "dedicated to taking the necessary actions to prevent this from ever happening again."

Study: Common antidepressant guards against COVID hospitalization

A COVID-19 intensive Care Unit in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil on May 27, 2021. Photo: Fabio Teixeira/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The readily available antidepressant fluvoxamine significantly reduced COVID-related hospitalizations, according to a large study published Wednesday.

Why it matters: The clinical trial suggests that a cheap, readily available drug could dramatically reduce serious illness and death when prescribed early.

By the numbers: Catholics, Biden and abortion

Expand chart
Reproduced from Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals

President Biden — the second Catholic U.S. president — will meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Friday, as some church leaders debate whether to deny Holy Communion to politicians who support abortion rights.

By the numbers: Overall, two in three U.S. Catholics believe Biden should be allowed to take Communion despite his stance on abortion, according to polling by Pew Research Center.