Three police officers have officially been charged with aiding and abetting a murder over George Floyd's death.
Minnesota's attorney general, Keith Ellison, announced the charges during a press conference on Wednesday (June 3) afternoon local time.
The charges have been given to police officers Thomas Lane, 37, J. Alexander Kueng, 26, and Tou Thao, 34, who were present during Floyd's arrest in Minneapolis last week. If convicted, the three face a potential maximum sentence of 40 years.
The African American man was heard yelling 'I can't breathe' several times as another officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Chauvin was initially charged with two offences, however one of those has been upgraded from third to second-degree murder. This means that the maximum possible sentence for Chauvin has increased from 25 to 40 years.
All four officers were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department after video footage emerged of Floyd's arrest last week. Police were called to investigate the 46-year-old over an accusation of using a fake $20 note.
Kueng, Thao and Lane are now in custody.
Ben Crump, a lawyer for Mr. Floyd's family, said in a statement: "This is a bittersweet moment.
"This is a significant step forward on the road toward justice, and we are gratified that this important action was brought before George Floyd's body was laid to rest. That is a source of peace for George's family in this painful time."
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz added: "We must also recognise that the anguish driving protests around the world is about more than one tragic incident."
Floyd's death has sparked protests around the world, but particularly in the United States where violence has broken out between police and protesters, leading US President Donald Trump to call in assistance from the military and the National Guard in some cases.
It also speaks to a wider concern regarding systematic discrimination and police brutality that is felt by many members of minority communities - and beyond - in the United States.
An independent autopsy revealed that Floyd had died from 'asphyxiation from sustained pressure'.
Dr Michael Baden, who performed the independent autopsy, said: "What we found is consistent with what people saw.
"There is no other health issue that could cause or contribute to the death. Police have this false impression that if you can talk, you can breathe. That's not true."
However, the results of the preliminary medical exam in the criminal complaint against Chauvin found 'no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation' and added that 'underlying health conditions ... likely contributed to his death'.
Floyd's death was officially ruled as a homicide on Monday by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner.
Featured Image Credit: Ben Crump Law