The former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder in the death of George Floyd has been released on bail, prompting Minnesota's governor to ready the National Guard in the event of any protests.
According to court documents, Derek Chauvin posted a $1 million (€849,000) bond and was released from the state's facility in Oak Park Heights, where he had been detained. Hennepin County jail records show he was released shortly before 11:30 am on Wednesday.
Floyd, a Black man in handcuffs, died May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for several minutes as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe. Floyd’s death was captured in widely seen bystander video that set off protests around the world. Chauvin and three other officers were fired. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter; Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao are charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Upon news of Chauvin's release, Governor Tim Walz activated the National Guard to help local law enforcement. Walz said the Guard was mobilising 100 soldiers and providing equipment and facilities “out of an abundance of caution" in light of public safety concerns. Walz said 100 state troopers and 75 Department of Natural Resources conservation officers were also mobilised to help local authorities.
As darkness fell Wednesday evening, hundreds of people took to the streets in south Minneapolis where protests were centred in the days after George Floyd's death. They marched several blocks and blocked an intersection for a time, with chants including, “No Justice, No Peace — Prosecute the Police.”
Floyd family lawyers Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci released a statement saying Chauvin's release “is a painful reminder" that the family is far from getting justice.
"The system of due process worked for Chauvin and afforded him his freedom while he awaits trial. In contrast, George Floyd was denied due process, when his life was ended over a $20 bill. There was no charge, no arrest, no hearing, no bail. Just execution," the lawyers wrote.
Floyd's aunt, Angela Harrelson, told FOX-9 that she was still trying to process the news.
“It’s something that I’m not happy with. I’m not pleased with it. But I know I have to accept it because this is what the judge allowed to happen. ... I know our family is not happy with this decision," Harrelson said.
It was not immediately clear where Chauvin got the money to pay his bond. In Minnesota, someone who posts bond is required to pay 10%, in this case $100,000 (€84,000), to the bail bond company. Then, the company and the defendant work out an arrangement for collateral to back all or part of the rest of the bond amount, said Mike Brandt, a criminal defence attorney who is not connected to the case.
A message left with the company that posted the bond, Allegheny Casualty Company, was not immediately returned.
The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, which has a legal defence fund, did not provide any money for bail, a spokeswoman said. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Officers Federation, said his union was not involved.
The website GiveSendGo.com, which says it is a free Christian crowdfunding site, has a Derek Chauvin Bail Fund that says it was created by his family. According to the site, as of midday Wednesday that fund raised $4,198 (€3,500) of its $125,000 (€106,000) goal, with donations from more than 35 people. A posting on the site dated Sept. 12 said it took time to set up a fundraising effort due to the high-profile nature of the case.
Chauvin had the option of posting bail for $1.25 million (€1m) without conditions or $1 million (€849,000) with conditions. Under the conditions of his release, he must attend all court appearances, cannot have any direct or indirect contact — including social media contact — with any members of Floyd's family, cannot work in law enforcement or security, and must not possess any firearms or ammunition.
Chauvin's attorney had no comment Wednesday.
Chauvin's wife, Kellie Chauvin, filed for divorce shortly after Floyd's death. The records in that case have since been sealed and Kellie Chauvin's divorce attorney didn't immediately reply to a message seeking comment.
In July, the Chauvins were charged with multiple felony counts of tax evasion for allegedly failing to report income from various jobs, including more than $95,000 (€80,000) from Derek Chauvin's off-duty security work. The criminal complaints in that case allege that from 2014 through 2019, the Chauvins under-reported their joint income by $464,433 (€394,000) and owe the state $37,868 (€32,000) in unpaid taxes, interest and fees.
The tax evasion case also listed other assets, including the couple's second home in Florida and a $100,000 (€84,000) BMW.
The Chauvin home in the St. Paul suburb of Oakdale was sold on August 28 for $279,000 (€237,000), which was $26,000 (€22,000) less than the price it was listed at a month after Floyd's death, according to online real estate records. It was not clear where Chauvin was staying after his release, but one of the conditions of his bail was that he not leave Minnesota without permission.
The other three officers charged in Floyd's death had previously posted bond amounts of $750,000 (€637,000) and have been free pending trial. Currently, all four men are scheduled to face trial together in March, but the judge is weighing a request to have them tried separately.