MINNEAPOLIS – City leaders approved a $27 million settlement Friday with the family of George Floyd in a wrongful death lawsuit over his death in police custodythat spurred protests worldwide and a national reckoning on racial justice.
The Minneapolis City Council unanimously voted to approve the settlement Friday, and Mayor Jacob Frey was expected to sign it, according to city officials. The settlement includes $500,000 to be directed to enhance the 38th Street and Chicago Avenue business district where Floyd died, according to the city and a statement from Ben Crump, lead attorney for the family.
“George Floyd’s horrific death, witnessed by millions of people around the world, unleashed a deep longing and undeniable demand for justice and change,” Crump said in a statement Friday.
He called it the largest pre-trial settlement in a wrongful death case ever. It being awarded for the wrongful death case of a Black man “sends a powerful message that Black lives do matter and police brutality against people of color must end,” Crump said.
Floyd’s brothers Rodney and Philonise addressed the settlement at a press conference Friday afternoon alongside family members, lawyers and local officials. The brothers thanked supporters and city leadership. Philonise Floyd said that while he was “relieved” the settlement had been reached, he missed his brother. “If I could get him back, I would give all of this back,” he said.
Frey, the mayor, said he was grateful to the Floyd family for their commitment to police reform policies, calling this moment a “once in a generation opportunity to truly effectuate change.”
“Today’s settlement reflects our shared commitment to advancing racial justice our sustaining push for progress our commitment to Minneapolis and our commitment and compassion to one another,” Frey said at the press conference.
Crump,speaking at the press conference, urged people in Minneapolis and around the world to “remain calm” and protest peacefully, noting that Floyd had made a similar plea on social media during the unrest in Ferguson following the death of Michael Brown.
Lawyers for the Floyd family also urged the Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House earlier this month, and committed to help local leaders push through additional police reforms to hold officers accountable for misconduct.
Family lawyer Antonio Romanucci said the legal team is working with the city to establish a use of force review board and an early intervention system to take officers with disciplinary histories off the streets. Romanucci also challenged corporations to match the $500,000 donation to businesses in the community near George Floyd Square.
“We will see that that money gets spent in the right businesses, the right areas of that community,” Romanucci said.
Lisa Bender, president of City Council, said that “no amount of money can ever address the intense pain and trauma” caused by Floyd’s death. Bender got emotional as she spoke about her own family and the conversations they’ve had about Floyd’s death.
“We talk about Mr. Floyd all the time in our house, and we talk about our responsibility to step up,” Bender said. “I just want you to know we are with you to go to the Senate to fight for change. We are with you to support our mayor and chief in implementing change.”
Floyd died in police custody on May 25, 2020, when former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. As he lay on the ground under Chauvin, Floyd, who was Black, cried out “I can’t breathe” more than 20 times. The incident sparked protests worldwide.
Floyd’s family filed the federal civil rights lawsuit in July against the city, Chauvin and three other officers charged in his death. It alleged the officers violated Floyd’s rights when they restrained him, and that the city allowed a culture of excessive force, racism and impunity to flourish in its police force.
In 2019, Minneapolis agreed to pay $20 million to the family of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, an unarmed woman who was shot by an officer after she called 911 to report hearing a possible crime happening behind her home. Damond was white.
Meanwhile, jury selection was underway Friday in Chauvin’s trial. Chauvin, 44, is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. Prosecutors contend Floyd, 46, was killed by Chauvin’s knee, compressed against Floyd’s neck while he was handcuffed and pinned to the pavement.
Three other officers involved in the incident, J. Alexander Keung, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, are charged with aiding and abetting. They were all fired last year.
So far, seven jurors have been seated in Chauvin’s trial, five of whom are men. Four of the jurors identify as white, one as multiracial, one as Hispanic and one as Black, according Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill, who is presiding over the case. Six jurors are in their 20s or 30s, and one is in her 50s, according to court records.
Chauvin’s attorneys have struck at least three jurors who are Hispanic throughout the week, something that spurred prosecutors to twice use Batson challenges. Such challenges claim that a potential juror was eliminated on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity or religion. The judge denied both challenges and denied there was any pattern of striking potential jurors on the basis of race.
Contributing: The Associated Press