The family of George Floyd will be awarded $27 million after the settlement of a civil suit brought against the city of Minneapolis and the four police officers present at the time of Floyd's killing.
The settlement, which was approved Friday by the Minneapolis City Council, will not impact the just-begun murder trial of Derek Chauvin, who is charged with murder in Floyd's death.
Floyd family attorney Ben Crump said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE that the settlement "sends a powerful message that Black lives do matter and police brutality against people of color must end."
Floyd, 46, who was Black, died May 25 with a knee pressed to his neck for nearly nine minutes by white former officer Derek Chauvin, who kept Floyd pinned to the pavement during his detention after a report that Floyd allegedly spent a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store.
The incident was caught on bystander video that went viral and sent millions into the streets across the country and globe as it reinvigorated the Black Lives Matter movement for racial equity and against police brutality. That video — with Floyd repeatedly crying out "I can't breathe" — looms as a centerpiece of Chauvin's trial, which opened Monday with the start of jury selection. Testimony is expected to begin March 29.
Prosecutors had charged Chauvin with second-degree murder and manslaughter, but after an appellate court ruling last week, they were allowed to include an additional charge of third-degree murder.
The three other now-former officers on the scene – J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — each were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. They will be tried apart from Chauvin this summer.
All four have pleaded not guilty.
"Our family is grateful for all those who care so deeply about George's life and our loss, and this agreement is a necessary step for all of us to begin to get some closure," Floyd's brother, Rodney Floyd, said in a statement after the settlement released through the family's legal team.
"George's legacy for those who loved him will always be his spirit of optimism that things can get better, and we hope this agreement does just that – that it makes things a little better in Minneapolis and holds up a light for communities around the country," Rodney Floyd said.
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In his statement, Crump said: "George Floyd's horrific death, witnessed by millions of people around the world, unleashed a deep longing and undeniable demand for justice and change. That the largest pre-trial settlement in a wrongful death case ever would be for the life of a Black man sends a powerful message that Black lives do matter and police brutality against people of color must end."
Included in the settlement is $500,000 to enhance the neighborhood where Floyd was killed and where the resulting protests, which at times turned violent, erupted.
Crump's statement applauded police reforms put in place by Minneapolis after Floyd's death, as well as the city's commitment to further reforms.
Among the cited changes were a requirement for the city's police officers to keep body-worn cameras on all the time, "a policy for officers to de-escalate non-threatening encounters with citizens by disengaging or walking away," and recruitment of officers "that favors those who live in the areas they would police and who have social service experience," according to the statement.
Another attorney for the family, Antonio Romanucci, said: "We are encouraged both by the progressive police reforms already adopted and the ambitious changes city of Minneapolis leaders still hope to create. After being identified with George Floyd for tragic reasons, Minneapolis will be remembered for progressive changes that can lead the nation in how to reform and reframe the relationship between police and communities of color."
A third Floyd family attorney, L. Chris Stewart, said: "Even as the trial against former officer Derek Chauvin moves forward and the family waits for justice in the criminal courts, this settlement imparts a measure of justice that is meaningful, important and necessary. It provides a path forward for our clients and ensures that George Floyd's death will result in substantive, positive change."
The federal lawsuit was filed last July on behalf of attorney Kaarin Nelson Schaffer, who was named trustee for the Floyd family. Named as defendants were the City of Minneapolis, which oversees the municipal police department, and all four officers.
According to the attorneys' statement Friday, the complaint argued that Floyd "was deprived, under color of state law, of his clearly established rights as secured by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution."
Earlier this month in Washington, D.C., the House of Representatives passed and sent for Senate consideration the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a wide-ranging bill that aims to "hold law enforcement accountable for misconduct in court, improve transparency through data collection, and reform police training and policies," according to the document.
Among other provisions, that proposed legislation would ban chokeholds by federal law enforcement and create a national registry of reported police misconduct to be maintained by the Justice Department.
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