Who was George Floyd?

George Floyd died after being arrested by Minneapolis police on Memorial Day in 2020. (FOX 9)

The death of George Floyd sparked a movement for police accountability in the summer of 2020 when he died in custody of Minneapolis police after an officer held a knee to his neck for nearly nine minutes.

His death is now the focus of the trials for four former Minneapolis police officers charged in his death. The trial for Derek Chauvin, who used the knee restraint on Floyd, begins on March 8.

Early life

George Floyd was born in North Carolina, but later moved to Houston, Texas where he grew up in the Third Ward, a predominantly Black neighborhood in the city. At 6 feet, 6 inches, Floyd emerged as a star tight end for Jack Yates High School and played in the 1992 state championship game in the Houston Astrodome. Yates lost to Temple, 38-20. 

"Twin" of NBA player

In Houston, he also formed a friendship with Stephen Jackson, who would later become a professional basketball player and win an NBA championship with the San Antonio Spurs.

Jackson said they became so close, people would call them "twins" because they looked alike.

"He was one of those guys who tried his best to be a protector and provider for everybody," said Jackson.

Criminal history in Texas

Between 1997 and 2005, Floyd was arrested several times on drug and theft charges and spent months in jail.

In 2007, Floyd was charged with aggravated robbery in which he allegedly placed a gun on a woman’s abdomen and demanded drugs and money. In 2009, he pleaded guilty and received a five-year prison sentence. He got out on parole in 2013.

Trial Judge Peter Cahill ruled the 2007 incident cannot be admitted as evidence in the trials of the former officers charged in Floyd's death.

Move to Minneapolis

Several years before his death, Floyd moved to Minneapolis for a fresh start, according to Jackson.

In Minneapolis, Floyd worked as a security guard for at a Salvation Army shelter in 2017 as well as various bars, including the Conga Latin Bistro, where the owners said he "got along with everyone."

2019 arrest

On May 6, 2019, Floyd was arrested. According to officers in the body camera video, Floyd appeared to be in possession of pills.

The defense for the upcoming trials claimed the body camera video from this arrest captured similar behavior from Floyd seen in his 2020 police encounter such as crying, pleading for his mom and evasive drug tactics.

Trial Judge Cahill ruled part of the video will be admitted as evidence in the trial of Derek Chauvin. He said some of the body camera video from when an officer walks up to the vehicle to when Floyd is out of the car and handcuffed is admissible because it shows delay in compliance, Floyd digesting drugs and subsequent stressful medical condition. 

Floyd worked security with Chauvin

Floyd also worked security at El Nuevo Rodeo Club, where he was remembered as a charismatic personality.

"I remember him saying, 'Hey, boss lady,' and being real nice to me and being real respectful and super charismatic...a really nice guy who smiled at everybody," she said.

The former owner Maya Santamaria said Floyd and former officer Chauvin actually worked together at the club up to the end of 2019. Both worked security, but Chauvin would stay outside in his patrol car and help when needed.

"I don't think that they recognized each other that day," Santamaria said when speaking of Floyd's death in May 2020.

Death on Memorial Day at 38th & Chicago

Floyd was 46 years old when he died while in police custody outside of Cup Foods at E 38th St and Chicago Ave in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. The police were called to Cup Foods because Floyd had allegedly used a counterfeit $20 at the store.

A teenager captured his arrest on video, which showed then-Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin holding his knee on Floyd’s neck. In the video, Floyd calls for his mother and repeatedly states he can’t breathe before appearing to lose consciousness.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner ruled Floyd’s death as a homicide, citing the cause of death as cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression. Other significant conditions listed included heart disease, fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use. 

The autopsy report also revealed Floyd had tested positive for COVID-19 in April 2020, but did not experience any lung damage and was likely an asymptomatic carrier of the virus. 

George Floyd's children

Floyd had five children, according to Reverend Al Sharpton’s eulogy. They came from different relationships and range in age from young children to young adults. 

Shortly after Floyd’s death, his son Quincy Mason Floyd was among family members who visited 38th and Chicago. 

"I'm here reuniting with my family, trying to get justice for my father," said Quincy at the time. "No man or woman should be without their father."

Floyd’s youngest child, Gianna, was six years old when he died. In a video widely shared, Gianna proclaimed that "Daddy changed the world" while sitting atop Jackson’s shoulders following her father’s death.

Gianna’s mother Roxie Washington called for justice for Floyd in an emotional press conference.

"This is what those officers took from me. At the end of the day, they get to go home and be with their families," Washington said. "He will never see her grow up, graduate. He will never watch her walk down the aisle. If there's a problem and she needs a dad, she does not have that anymore."

George Floyd memorials

Following his death, funeral services were held in Minneapolis, Houston and Raeford, North Carolina.

In Minneapolis, a two-hour memorial service took place at North Central University's Trask Worship Center. Hundreds gathered in a nearby park to hear the service over loudspeakers. Celebrities, civil rights activists, family as well as city and state leaders attended the memorial.

Floyd was buried at the Houston Memorial Gardens cemetery in Pearland, next to his mother. 

Future of 38th & Chicago

The intersection of 38th and Chicago became known as George Floyd Square, where community members can honor his memory through art and gatherings. The area has been closed with barricades since his death and will remain closed to traffic throughout the Chauvin trial. 

City plans are in the works to eventually reopen the intersection with a permanent memorial for Floyd.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.