The Minneapolis officer who was seen on video kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died in custody after pleading that he could not breathe, has been arrested and charged with murder.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Derek Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
Mr Freeman did not provide immediate details, but said a criminal complaint would be made available later and that more charges were possible.
Mr Freeman highlighted the “extraordinary speed” in charging the case just four days after Floyd’s death, but also defended himself against questions about why it did not happen sooner.
He said his office needed time to put together evidence, including what he called the “horrible” video by a bystander. He said he would not bring a case unless he had enough evidence to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
News of the arrest and charges came moments after Minnesota Gov Tim Walz acknowledged the “abject failure” of the response to this week’s protests and called for swift justice for officers involved.
Mr Walz said the state would take over the response to the protests and that it is time to show respect and dignity to those who are suffering.
“Minneapolis and St. Paul are on fire. The fire is still smouldering in our streets. The ashes are symbolic of decades and generations of pain, of anguish unheard,” Mr Walz said, adding. “Now generations of pain is manifesting itself in front of the world — and the world is watching.”
The governor cited a call he received from a state senator who described her district “on fire, no police, no firefighters, no social control, constituents locked in houses wondering what they were going to do. That is an abject failure that cannot happen”.
His comments came the morning after protesters torched a police station that officers abandoned during a third night of violence.
Livestream video showed protesters entering the building, where intentionally set fires activated smoke alarms and sprinklers. President Donald Trump threatened action, tweeting “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” which prompted a warning from Twitter for “glorifying violence”.
The governor faced tough questions after National Guard leader Major General Jon Jensen blamed a lack of clarity about the Guard’s mission for a slow response.
Mr Walz said the state was in a supporting role and that it was up to city leaders to run the situation. Mr Walz said it became apparent as the third Precinct was lost that the state had to step in, which happened at 12:05am. Requests from the cities for resources “never came,” he said.
On Friday morning, nearly every building in the shopping district around the abandoned police station had been vandalised, burned or looted. National Guard members were in the area, with several of them lined up, keeping people away from the police station.
Dozens of fires were also set in nearby St Paul, where nearly 200 businesses were damaged or looted. Protests spread across the US, fuelled by outrage over Mr Floyd’s death, and years of violence against African Americans at the hands of police. Demonstrators clashed with officers in New York and blocked traffic in Columbus, Ohio, and Denver.
President Trump threatened to bring Minneapolis “under control,” calling the protesters “thugs” and tweeting that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”.
The tweet drew another warning from Twitter, which said the comment violated the platform’s rules, but the company did not remove it.
President Trump also blasted the “total lack of leadership” in Minneapolis.
The Minnesota State Patrol arrested a CNN television crew early on Friday as the journalists reported on the unrest. While live on air, CNN reporter Omar Jimenez was handcuffed and led away. A producer and a photojournalist for CNN were also taken away in handcuffs.
Protests first erupted on Tuesday, a day after Mr Floyd’s death in a confrontation with police captured on widely seen citizen video.
In the footage, Mr Floyd can be seen pleading as officer Derek Chauvin presses his knee against him. As minutes pass, Floyd slowly stops talking and moving.
Attorney Ben Crump, who is representing members of Mr Floyd’s family, called for an independent investigation, and said he asked to take custody of Mr Floyd’s body to have an independent autopsy performed.
Mr Crump said that talk of a heart condition or asthma are irrelevant because Mr Floyd was walking and breathing before his contact with police.