MINNEAPOLIS — The city of Minneapolis on Friday agreed to pay $27 million to settle a civil lawsuit with George Floyd's family just weeks before the trial is scheduled to begin for the former officer charged with murder in his death. The settlement surpasses the previous $20 million record for Minneapolis, a city spokesperson said.
The City Council unanimously approved the settlement Friday after meeting in private. It includes a $500,000 donation to the community around the intersection of 38th and Chicago Avenue — now known as George Floyd Square — where police confronted Floyd last May 25 after a convenience store clerk claimed that he had tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes.
A bystander video recorded a police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Floyd's neck for about nine minutes. Floyd was Black, and Chauvin is white. The video brought worldwide attention to Floyd's death and prompted global racial justice protests.
"I hope that today will center the voices of the family and anything that they would like to share," Council President Lisa Bender said. "But I do want to, on behalf of the entire City Council, offer my deepest condolences to the family of George Floyd, his friends and all of our community who are mourning his loss."
Benjamin Crump, one of the attorneys representing the Floyd family, said it was the largest pretrial settlement in a civil rights wrongful death lawsuit, and said it "sends a powerful message that Black lives do matter and police brutality against people of color must end."
Crump praised Mayor Jacob Frey and the Minneapolis City Council at a news conference and said Floyd's death "was a watershed moment for America."
"It's going to be a long journey to justice. This is but one step on the journey to justice," Crump said. "This makes a statement that George Floyd deserved better than what we witnessed on May 25, 2020, that George Floyd’s life matters, and that by extension, Black lives matter."
One of Floyd's sisters, Bridgett Floyd, attended jury selection in Chauvin's trial this week, and said Friday that she and her family were pleased that the lawsuit had been resolved before the start of the trial.
"Our family suffered an irreplaceable loss May 25 when George's life was senselessly taken by a Minneapolis police officer," she said in a statement. "While we will never get our beloved George back, we will continue to work tirelessly to make this world a better, and safer, place for all."
Floyd's family filed a federal lawsuit in July against the city and the four officers involved in the arrest that led to his death. The lawsuit took issue with neck restraints and police policies and training, among other things. It sought compensatory and special damages in an amount to be determined by a jury.
The settlement is among the largest in a case of police misconduct. In 2019, Minneapolis agreed to pay $20 million to settle a civil rights lawsuit brought by the family of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a white woman, who was shot by Mohamed Noor, a Black Minneapolis police officer, after she called 911 to report hearing what she thought was a sexual assault happening behind her home.
Breonna Taylor's family reached a $12 million settlement with the city of Louisville, Kentucky, in September — six months after she was killed in her home during a police drug raid.
Crump, who also represented Taylor's family, noted at Friday's news conference that Saturday will be one year since Taylor, who was Black, was killed.
Chauvin, the first of the four former officers set to stand trial in Floyd's death, is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter, as well as third-degree murder. The settlement was announced a short distance from where he sat in a courtroom while jury selection continued. Seven of 12 jurors have been seated as of Friday afternoon — five men and two women.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill, who is overseeing the trial, on Thursday granted prosecutors' request to reinstate a third-degree murder charge against Chauvin. He had rejected the charge last fall on the grounds it was not warranted by the circumstances of Floyd's death. But an appellate court ruling last month in Noor's case established new grounds.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals ordered Cahill to reconsider whether to add the third-degree murder charge a week ago. Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, appealed that ruling, but the state Supreme Court said this week it would not intervene.
The three other officers involved — Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng — are charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter. They are expected to go to trial in August. All four officers were fired the day after Floyd's death.
Shaquille Brewster reported from Minneapolis, and Janelle Griffith from New York.