According to the ruling of the Hennepin County District Court, Derek Chauvin, an officer of the Minneapolis Police Department, murdered George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, on May 25, 2020, in an excessive use of force. According to the opinions of Americans who defended Chauvin's actions, the police officer played no role in Floyd's death. They claim instead that Floyd died of a drug overdose.
Most recently, this has taken the form of a video on X, formerly known as Twitter, posted by conservative news host Tucker Carlson on Dec. 28, 2023. The video was liked over 53,000 times and reposted by U.S. Rep Majorie Taylor Greene:
(@mtgreenee on X)
Floyd's toxicology report was not clean — he did have levels of fentanyl, methamphetamine and THC in his blood at the time of his death. However, two separate autopsies found that Floyd did not die of a drug overdose.
On June 6, 2020, Scientific American published an opinion article by 12 doctors called "George Floyd’s Autopsy and the Structural Gaslighting of America." The authors argued that Black people killed by police will have their entire life, character and body, examined and scrutinized to justify the exoneration of the police officers involved in their deaths. We referenced the article in our 2020 coverage of Floyd's criminal history. In our coverage, we also examined the details of Floyd's autopsies. We will do so again here.
Floyd received two different autopsies after his death. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office released its autopsy on June 3, 2020. It found that Floyd died of "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression." In more standard English, he died of heart and lung failure caused by the way police restrained and subdued him.
Floyd's family asked experts to conduct an independent autopsy around the same time. While the full report is not available publicly, the summary is. It said he died from "asphyxiation from sustained pressure."
The two causes of death are more similar than they might initially appear — the functioning of the heart and lungs is quite interlinked. If one of the two organs stops, it's not long until the other does.
Two, independent autopsies confirm Floyd did not die of a drug overdose. We therefore rate this claim as false.