A viral story shared on social media is falsely claiming that Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with killing George Floyd, committed suicide in his prison cell.
As national tensions surged over the death of George Floyd in police custody, a dubious website published a story on May 31 falsely claiming that the former Minneapolis police officer charged with killing Floyd had committed suicide.
“Minneapolis Police Officer who killed George Floyd, Derek Chauvin commits suicide in prison cell,” reads the erroneous headline on w24n.com.
The website sources the story to WCCO in Minneapolis, but that station has not reported as much, and the story also claims the information had been “reported” by “U.S media.” There have been no such credible news reports.
Instead, news coverage has tracked Chauvin’s whereabouts: After he was arrested on May 29, he was initially held in the Ramsey County Jail, then Hennepin County Jail, and then transferred to a maximum-security state prison, the Minnesota Correctional Facility – Oak Park Heights. A TMZ story, citing an unnamed source, said Chauvin was “effectively” on suicide watch while in Ramsey County.
Regardless, the false w24n.com story about Chauvin racked up nearly 100,000 Facebook engagements, according to CrowdTangle analytics data. It was also spread separately through screenshots of the headline.
The website is registered to someone in Kenya and describes itself as a “world leader in online news and information” and claims that it has “almost 200 journalists” around the world, even though there is no staff list on the website.
The site has previously pushed an unsubstantiated claim that former President Barack Obama tested positive for the novel coronavirus; we’ve seen no evidence to support that assertion. It has also republished content from other outlets without attribution, such as a story about the COVID-19 death toll in Italy that was reported by Reuters and a story taken from TMZ about a tornado in Arkansas.
Chauvin, a 44-year-old white police officer, was arrested on May 29 on charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin was seen in a viral video kneeling on Floyd’s neck, while the 46-year-old black man repeatedly said he could not breathe. Three other officers involved in the May 25 arrest have also been fired.
According to the criminal complaint, Chauvin had his “knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in total. Two minutes and 53 seconds of this was after Mr. Floyd was non-responsive.”
“Police are trained that this type of restraint with a subject in a prone position is inherently dangerous,” the complaint said.
Gottfried, Mara H. “Ex-Minneapolis officer charged in George Floyd’s death held in Ramsey County Jail.” Pioneer Press. 30 May 2020.
Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. “County Attorney Mike Freeman to announce new developments in Floyd death.” Facebook Live video. 29 May 2020.
State of Minnesota vs. Derek Michael Chauvin | Complaint. Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. 29 May 2020.
Thiede, Dana. “Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin transferred to Oak Park Heights state prison.” KARE 11. 1 Jun 2020.
“Whois Record for w24n.com.” whois.domaintools.com. Accessed 1 Jun 2020.