Justice Department Plans 'Robust' Inquiry Into George Floyd Death, Says It's 'Top Priority'

The Justice Department plans to open a "robust inquiry" into the death of George Floyd and said the investigation would be a "top priority," NPR News reported.

On Monday, Floyd -- a 46-year-old unarmed African American man -- died in police custody after a Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officer, Derek Chauvin -- who is white -- knelt on Floyd's neck for at least seven minutes. Two other officers, identified as Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, also helped restrain Floyd. Officer Tou Thao stood nearby and watched, according to The Minneapolis Star Tribune.

All four officers have been fired from their jobs with the MPD. However, as of this writing, none of them have been criminally charged in Floyd's death.

On Thursday, the Justice Department announced it would be looking into the matter.

"The federal investigation will determine whether the actions by the involved former Minneapolis Police Department officers violated federal law," said U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota Erica MacDonald. The statement was corroborated by FBI Special Agent In Charge, Rainer Drolshagen, who leads the FBI's Minneapolis field office.

"It is a violation of federal law for an individual acting under color of law to willfully deprive another person of any right protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States," the statement continued.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 26: Protesters demonstrate against the death of George Floyd outside the 3rd Precinct Police Precinct on May 26, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Four Minneapolis police officers have been fired after a video taken by a bystander was posted on social media showing Floyd's neck being pinned to the ground by an officer as he repeatedly said,
Getty Images | Stephen Maturen

They concluded by noting that if the evidence points to a crime having been committed, the federal agency will seek criminal charges.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Minnesota, the Justice Department's civil rights division, and the FBI's Minneapolis field office will conduct the investigation, according to Reuters.

That the Justice Department is carrying out a criminal investigation into the incident comes as welcome news to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who has been clear that he doesn't believe the firing of the officers is enough and has asked for criminal charges to be brought against Chauvin.

"If most people, particularly people of color, had done what a police officer did late Monday, they'd already be behind bars. That's why today I'm calling on Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman to charge the arresting officer in this case," Frey tweeted on Wednesday.

Similarly, Floyd's family is also calling for the four officers to be charged with murder.

Minneapolis has been the scene of sometimes-violent protests over Floyd's death, as The Inquisitr reported earlier this week. Police have fired rubber bullets and deployed tear gas canisters against the protesters as businesses have been vandalized and looted.