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Medical Examiner's Autopsy Reveals George Floyd Had Positive Test For Coronavirus

A demonstrator holds a sign with George Floyd's likeness on it as people gather to protest his death and police brutality this week near the White House in Washington.
Evan Vucci
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

A full autopsy report on George Floyd, the man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police last month, reveals that he was positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The 20-page report also indicates that Floyd had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system at the time of his death, although the drugs are not listed as the cause.

In video taken by bystanders, Floyd, 46, is shown repeatedly pleading that he cannot breathe as he is held down with a knee on his neck by former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, with three other officers present. The incident has sparked nationwide — and even worldwide — protests.

Floyd's death has been ruled a homicide.

The autopsy report from Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office concludes the cause of death was "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression." That conclusion, death due to heart failure, differs from the one reached by an independent examiner hired by the Floyd family; that report listed the cause of death as "asphyxiation from sustained pressure."

This medical examiner's report does not mention asphyxiation. However, according to prosecutors, in charging documents filed last week, early results "revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation."

The medical examiner's report also details blunt-force injuries to the skin of Floyd's head, face and upper lip, as well as the shoulders, hands and elbows and bruising of the wrists consistent with handcuffs.

Signed by Dr. Andrew M. Baker, it says Floyd had tested positive for the novel coronavirus on April 3. A post-mortem nasal swab confirmed that diagnosis. The report notes that because a positive result for coronavirus can persist for weeks after the disease has resolved, "the result most likely reflects asymptomatic but persistent ... positivity from previous infection."

In addition to fentanyl and methamphetamine, the toxicology report from the autopsy showed that Floyd also had cannabinoids in his system when he died.

Floyd also had heart disease, hypertension and sickle cell trait — a mostly asymptomatic form of the more serious sickle cell disease, an inherited blood disorder that primarily affects African Americans.

On Wednesday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced upgraded charges of second-degree unintentional murder against Chauvin. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.

"To the Floyd family, to our beloved community, and everyone that is watching, I say: George Floyd mattered. He was loved. His life was important. His life had value. We will seek justice for him and for you and we will find it," Ellison said in announcing the new charges on television.

Three other officers at the scene were charged for the first time on Wednesday with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

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Corrected: June 4, 2020 at 12:00 AM EDT
A previous version of this story incorrectly said the autopsy report from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office was dated May 25. The autopsy was not performed until May 26, per the report. The story also incorrectly suggested a preliminary report released Monday said the autopsy "revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation." Those words were cited last week but were not part of the report released Monday. In addition, the story incorrectly said the charge of second-degree murder against Derek Chauvin carries a maximum penalty of 12.5 years in prison. In fact, that charge carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.
Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.