A Hennepin County judge has dropped a third-degree murder charge against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd.
Chauvin still faces charges of second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death on May 25, which sparked nationwide protests and a reckoning over race and policing this summer.
Chauvin, who was released on $1 million bond earlier this month, was seen in videos of the incident kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost eight minutes, while the Black man told Chauvin and three other officers — Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng — that he couldn’t breathe.
In the ruling issued Wednesday, Judge Peter Cahill also denied motions to dismiss charges against the other now-former Minneapolis police officers, who have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
Cahill’s ruling states the jury should decide if the state of Minnesota has proven the guilt of the former officers, writing in his summary that the state has met the burden of probable cause in the charges against Thao, Lane and Kueng.
The exception was the third-degree murder charge against Chauvin. Cahill wrote the charge can “be sustained only in situations in which the defendant’s actions were ’eminently dangerous to other persons’ and were not specifically directed at the particular person whose death occurred.”
But the evidence presented by the state does not show that Chauvin’s actions were “eminently dangerous” to anyone but Floyd, the ruling says.
In a statement, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is leading the prosecution of Floyd’s death, called the ruling a “positive step forward in the path toward justice for George Floyd, his family, our community, and Minnesota.”
“The court has sustained eight out of nine charges against the defendants in the murder of George Floyd, including the most serious charges against all four defendants,” Ellison said.
“We look forward to presenting the prosecution’s case to a jury in Hennepin County,” he added.
An attorney for Chauvin declined to comment Thursday. Kueng’s attorney said the ruling “reflects considerable scholarship, integrity and work ethic — which is appreciated.” The attorney, Thomas C. Plunkett declined to comment further, saying he was still in the process of reviewing the order.
Attorneys for the other officers did not immediately respond to CNN’s requests for comment Thursday morning. CNN has reached out to an attorney representing Floyd’s family.