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In this image, captured from police body camera video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin stands outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis, on May 25, 2020, with a crowd of onlookers behind him. (AP) In this image, captured from police body camera video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin stands outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis, on May 25, 2020, with a crowd of onlookers behind him. (AP)

In this image, captured from police body camera video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin stands outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis, on May 25, 2020, with a crowd of onlookers behind him. (AP)

Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy April 19, 2021

Did Derek Chauvin have his hand in his pocket as he restrained George Floyd?

If Your Time is short

  • Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin wore black gloves and dark pants as he pinned George Floyd to the ground with his knee. As a result, some screen grabs from a bystander’s video of the incident show the color of his gloves blended in with that of his pants.

  • The screen grabs circulating on social media gave the false impression that Chauvin’s left hand was in his pocket. He was actually holding his knuckles to his thigh.

  • USA Today enhanced the brightness and exposure of the screen grabs circulating on social media to accentuate the placement of Chauvin’s hand on his thigh.

As weeks of testimony come to a close in the murder trial for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, questions over Chauvin’s use of force against George Floyd in the arrest that preceded Floyd’s death have spilled over onto social media.

Some Facebook and Instagram users said Floyd could not have been resisting arrest, because Chauvin had one hand in his own pocket as he kneeled on Floyd’s neck for roughly nine minutes on May 25, 2020.

"If George Floyd were resisting, Chauvin's hands wouldn't have been in his pockets," said an April 6 Facebook post, one of several to make the claim.

The post and others like it were flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) 

Several use-of-force experts and the Minneapolis police chief testified during the trial that Floyd was no longer resisting as he lay pinned under Chauvin’s knee, and that Chauvin should have cut off his restraint once Floyd, who repeatedly said he could not breathe, cried out in distress. Chauvin is charged with second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

It’s not true, however, that Chauvin had his left hand in his pocket as he knelt on Floyd. 

PolitiFact’s review of the roughly 10-minute bystander video that ignited months of racial justice protests found that Chauvin was wearing gloves that, like his pants, were a very dark color. A close review of photos taken as screen grabs of the video also show Chauvin’s hand on his thigh.

The hand-in-pocket narrative is misguided

The claim that Chauvin had his hand in his pocket started circulating on Facebook shortly after Floyd’s death, according to CrowdTangle, a social media insights tool. 

As the trial has played out in recent weeks, those claims have resurfaced. Some news outlets have spread the narrative, USA Today reported. And in a video, Floyd’s brother Philonese said, "He tortured my brother to death with a smirk on his face, with his hands in his pocket."

The narrative also came up in court as Minneapolis firefighter Genevieve Hansen testified that she had tried to render medical aid to Floyd but was turned away by the police officers present. 

"In my memory, (Chauvin) had his hand in his pocket, he looked so comfortable," Hansen said. 

The prosecution asked Hansen if her assessment of Chauvin’s positioning would be different if Chauvin’s hand had been "resting on his thigh" rather than in his pocket. Hansen said no and that Chauvin seemed "comfortable" in the position he had taken to restrain Floyd regardless.

In reality, Chauvin’s hand was on his thigh, USA Today first reported. It was not in his pocket.

Featured Fact-check

PolitiFact reviewed the roughly 10-minute video uploaded to Facebook by Darnella Frazier, who later testified as a witness in Chauvin’s trial. Chauvin is visible for most but not all of the video. 

The video Frazier posted to Facebook shows Chauvin wearing black gloves that appear to match the color of his pants. At various points in the video, Chauvin can be seen resting the knuckles of his left hand on his thigh while he pinned Floyd’s neck to the pavement with his knee. At other points, Chauvin can be seen placing his hand on his radio and other objects on the holster of his belt. 

Police body camera footage of the incident does not always show Chauvin clearly.

Several of the social media posts claiming that Chauvin’s hand was in his pocket relied on screen grabs taken from Frazier’s video. The screen grabs on their own can be misleading, but a closer look reveals that the photos really show Chauvin’s gloves blended in with his pants.

Using image editing software, USA Today altered the brightness, exposure and vibrancy of the screen grabs to make the placement of Chauvin’s hand more visible. The enhanced version of the photo shows Chauvin’s knuckles resting against his thigh, with his fingers bent backwards.

Matthew Stamm, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Drexel University, is an expert on falsified images and videos. Stamm said USA Today’s techniques for enhancing the screen grab images were a legitimate way to visually interpret what they showed.

Stamm and researcher Brian Hosler also reviewed Frazier’s video for PolitiFact. From screen grabs that they took, they concluded that Chauvin’s hand was on his thigh, not in his pocket.

Several use-of-force experts and law enforcement personnel, including Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, said Floyd had stopped resisting before his breathing came to a halt.

"Once Mr. Floyd had stopped resisting — and certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalize that — that should have stopped," Arradondo said of Chauvin’s use of force.

Our ruling

Facebook posts said Chauvin had his left hand in his pocket while kneeling on George Floyd.

While some screen grabs taken from a bystander’s video appear to show that Chauvin had his left hand in his pocket as he pressed Floyd to the pavement, both the video itself and enhanced versions of the screen grabs indicate that his hand was actually on his thigh. 

Chauvin was wearing black gloves during the incident that blended in with his dark pants.

We rate this Facebook post False.

Related: Instagram post ignores full Floyd video to falsely claim officer’s knee was not on Floyd’s neck

Related: Did George Floyd say he ‘ate too many drugs,’ as Derek Chauvin's defense claimed?

Related: No, autopsy doesn’t say George Floyd died of overdose

Our Sources

Facebook posts, April 6, 2021

Various searches on CrowdTangle, April 19, 2021

USA Today, "Fact check: Derek Chauvin did not have hand in his pocket while kneeling on George Floyd," April 15, 2021

Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "A day-by-day recap of the Derek Chauvin murder trial," April 15, 2021

Minneapolis Star-Tribune on YouTube, "Minneapolis police chief: Derek Chauvin 'in no way' should've kept George Floyd pinned by the neck," April 5, 2021

Minneapolis Star-Tribune on YouTube, "Eyewitness Minneapolis Firefighter Genevieve Hansen: 'I thought his face looked puffy and swollen,'" March 31, 2021

Darnella Frazier on Facebook, May 26, 2020

Email and phone interviews with Matthew Stamm, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Drexel University, April 19, 2021

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