The length of time prosecutors said a Minneapolis police officer planted his knee into George Floyd’s neck — 8 minutes and 46 seconds — has become a rallying cry for those seeking justice across the country.
The symbolism of 8:46 has been held up and embraced throughout the country in ways big and small. It has echoed in sanctuaries where Floyd has been memorialized, is starkly displayed on T-shirts and street art and is the length of moments of silence in Floyd’s name.
But now, nearly three weeks after those charges were filed with 8:46 emphasized, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office on Wednesday acknowledged that the length of time is off by one minute. Now-fired officer Derek Chauvin had Floyd pinned to the pavement for 7 minutes and 46 seconds.
The publicized 8:46 comes down to a math error in the complaints signed by Matthew Frank, the assistant attorney general under Keith Ellison, who is heading the prosecution of the former officers. As of now, the County Attorney’s Office has no plans to change any of the complaints.
“These kinds of technical matters can be handled in future amendments to the criminal complaint if other reasons make it necessary to amend the complaint between now and any trials,” said office spokesman Chuck Laszewski.
Laszewski also made it clear that “the one-minute error made no difference in the decision to charge nor in the continuing legal hearings.”
The complaints say that Chauvin “pulled Mr. Floyd out of the passenger side of the squad car at 8:19:38 p.m., and Mr. Floyd went to the ground face down and still handcuffed. … The defendant placed his left knee in the area of Mr. Floyd’s head and neck.”
Later, the complaint read, “At 8:27:24, the defendant removed his knee from Mr. Floyd’s neck.”
The discrepancy was brought to the attention of the Star Tribune after a Seattle Times inquiry. A reporter first asked the County Attorney’s Office about the time conflict on June 3, five days after the charges were filed.
“There is way too much stuff going on for anyone to look into this,” Laszewski said at the time. “Ultimately, as this case moves along, if there is a discrepancy, it will have to be dealt with.”
Star Tribune inquiries continued until the error was acknowledged Wednesday. Laszewski declined to say why the office took so long to confirm the error.
Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, declined to comment.
Earl Gray represents Thomas Lane, who was pinning Floyd’s legs. Gray was unaware of the incorrect calculation but doesn’t believe it changes the cases as they go forward for his client or the others.
“Who signs the criminal complaint isn’t the person who testifies,” Gray said.
Still, the change in time is unlikely to affect the widespread impact of 8:46.
It’s the title of a Netflix commentary on police brutality by comedian Dave Chappelle that has been viewed by millions. From Boston to Tacoma, Wash., demonstrators held “die-ins” for precisely 8 minutes, 46 seconds.
In the U.S. Capitol’s Emancipation Hall, Democratic senators gathered, some standing, some kneeling on the marbled floor in silence for that length of time.
Mourners at the memorial service for Floyd in Minneapolis stood in silence for 8 minutes, 46 seconds, asked by the Rev. Al Sharpton to “think about what George was going through, laying there for those eight minutes, begging for his life.”
On Wednesday, high school athletes jogged and walked 8.46 miles on the Nine Mile Creek Regional Trail in Floyd’s memory and with the goal of raising $8,460 to aid businesses along a devastated stretch of Lake Street as they rebuild from unrest late last month.
Regardless of the mistake, “my initial reaction, 8:46 or 7:46 is too long and should not have happened,” said Kelsey Hans, the girls’ head soccer coach at Blake School who helped organize the event and got the idea from the UCLA women’s soccer team, which ran 8.46 miles on June 8 to raise money for Black Lives Matter.
“The number is symbolic [and] more just about raising awareness of issues that have been happening for a long time and have gone unchecked,” Hans said. “Whatever the minutes he was on the ground and held there is too long.”
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482