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Judge Sets A Bail For Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin appeared in court today. He is the white police officer who held his knee on George Floyd's neck exactly two weeks ago today. He now faces charges that include second-degree murder. Floyd's death triggered mass protests from coast to coast over the police killings of African Americans, as well as calls for police departments to be defunded. NPR's Leila Fadel was at the courthouse in Minneapolis. She joins me now.

Hey, Leila.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Hi.

KELLY: Walk us through what exactly happened in that courtroom today.

FADEL: Right. So Chauvin appeared by video link in an orange jumpsuit, handcuffs and a mask, as most people wear now in the midst of the pandemic. And there was a case worker in the room with him as well. Bail was set at $1.25 million with no conditions and $1 million with conditions, and those conditions being he can't work in security or law enforcement. He has to turn in any firearm or license or permit for a firearm and can't contact the Floyd family in any way. His lawyer Eric Nelson didn't argue bail but reserved the right to do so at a later date. And he also really didn't hint at what Chauvin's defense might be. The next hearing is scheduled for June 29. And all in all, the hearing took about 11 minutes.

KELLY: OK, so about 11 minutes. No real hints yet at what the defense might be. But just step back and remind us, what does the prosecution say happened?

FADEL: Right. So as you mentioned, his charges include second-degree murder. And the criminal complaint describes what we saw in horrific videos of the killing of George Floyd, that Floyd didn't resist when police responded to a report of the use of a possible counterfeit bill, that Floyd said he was claustrophobic and didn't want to get into the squad car, that he stiffened. He fell to the ground on his stomach, his hands cuffed behind his back. And Chauvin put his knee to Floyd's neck. Floyd called out that he couldn't breathe. He called for his late mother. And finally, almost six minutes after Chauvin pinned his neck with his knee, Floyd said, I'm about to die.

Two of the other officers, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane held Floyd's back and his legs while another officer, Tou Thao, stood by and did nothing. And one of those officers, according to the complaint, asked Chauvin if they should move Floyd onto his side. The complaint says Chauvin said no. And when Kueng checked for Floyd's pulse, he couldn't find one. No one moved. And Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly three more minutes.

KELLY: You mentioned the other officers. There were other officers involved and on the scene. What's the latest with their cases?

FADEL: So those officers appeared in court last week on charges of aiding and abetting. And they're currently being held on $1 million bail without conditions or $750,000 bail with conditions. And those are the same conditions I described that Chauvin got. Kueng and Lane are the officers that were holding Floyd's legs in his back. And their attorney during that hearing says they're rookies, that Chauvin was the senior officer on scene, and they were following orders from him. The conviction of these officers and Chauvin is a key demand of protesters across the country. But the protesters are no longer just about this case. They're about the culture of policing and about the long list of black people who've been killed in encounters with the police.

KELLY: Yes although, as you mentioned, people are going to be watching, is there a conviction? What happens to these officers? - watching so closely as an indicator of whether things might really change, whether we really are at a tipping point.

FADEL: Right. And that's what they're looking for. They're looking for accountability. For so long, black America has watched one police officer after the next not be held accountable. And what protesters have told me is that what's so tragic about the Floyd video is that it's not shocking, that it's all too familiar.

KELLY: That is Leila Fadel reporting there from Minneapolis.

Thank you, Leila.

FADEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.