Department of Justice takes new action in the probe, which languished under the Trump administration.
A federal US investigation into the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, has shown signs of reinvigoration with the empanelling of a new grand jury and the calling of new witnesses, according to a report by The New York Times.
The actions indicate a renewed emphasis on the investigation by the Department of Justice under the administration of President Joe Biden after the federal probe into Floyd’s death languished under the leadership of former President Donald Trump, according to the newspaper, citing two people with direct knowledge of the investigation.
Floyd died after police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for more than nine minutes during a stop in Minneapolis, Minnesota in May 2020. Video footage of the incident, in which Floyd can be heard pleading “I can’t breath”, helped to prompt national racial justice protests across the country.
The federal probe focuses on whether Chauvin violated Floyd’s civil rights during the deadly encounter. It was launched just three days after Floyd’s death, but then-Attorney General William Barr later indicated the Department of Justice would hold off until after Chauvin faces criminal charges in state court. Those proceedings are set to begin on March 8.
A federal grand jury empanelled last year that began to hear evidence in the case has since expired.
The lawyer for Floyd’s family, Ben Crump, in a statement to the Times, said it was “appropriate and gratifying that the Department of Justice under President Biden is taking racial justice seriously”.
Biden’s presidential run coincided with the high-profile death of Floyd and other unarmed Black people in the US, with racial justice becoming a pillar of his campaign.
During his inaugural address, the president said: “A cry for racial justice, some 400 years in the making, moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer.”
Still, Biden has promised not to exert control over the Department of Justice, which critics say Trump sought to use for his political gain. Biden has said the department must be able to act independently as it investigates and prosecutes cases.
Chauvin was fired by the Minneapolis Police Department a day after Floyd’s death, and currently faces state charges of second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Three other officers also face charges related to Floyd’s death.