May 29, 2023

Ex-Officer Guilty of Abetting Manslaughter in George Floyd’s Killing

4 min read

By Amanda Holpuch

A judge in Minneapolis ruled that the former officer, Tou Thao, was guilty of aiding and abetting manslaughter in the killing of Mr. Floyd in 2020.

A former Minneapolis police officer who held back bystanders as other officers restrained George Floyd was found guilty on Monday of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in Mr. Floyd’s killing.

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill said in the verdict that the former officer, Tou Thao, who had waived his right to a jury trial, “actively encouraged his three colleagues’ dangerous prone restraint of Floyd.” Mr. Thao, 37, was the last of the four officers with unresolved criminal charges in the killing of Mr. Floyd.

Mr. Floyd died on May 25, 2020, after one of the officers, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee on his neck for more than nine minutes. Two other officers held Mr. Floyd down while Mr. Thao, who was Mr. Chauvin’s partner, kept away bystanders who were saying that Mr. Floyd was struggling to breathe and needed help.

The killing of Mr. Floyd, who was Black, was captured in video recorded by bystanders, setting off protests that evolved into a global movement for racial justice.

Mr. Thao is currently serving a three-and-a-half-year federal sentence for failing to provide medical help to Mr. Floyd and for failing to stop Mr. Chauvin. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Aug. 7.

“While we have now reached the end of the prosecution of Floyd’s murder, it is not behind us,” Keith Ellison, the Minnesota attorney general, said in a statement. “There is much more that prosecutors, law-enforcement leaders, rank-and-file officers, elected officials, and community can do to bring about true justice in law enforcement and true trust and safety in all communities.”

The legal team for Mr. Floyd’s family, including the lawyer Ben Crump, said in a statement on Tuesday that the family was “grateful for another measure of accountability for his death.”

“Nearly three years after George was killed,” the statement said, “the family and Minneapolis community continue to heal as the criminal justice system prevails.”

Mr. Thao was set to face a jury trial on the state charges, but instead asked Judge Cahill to determine his guilt or innocence in an unusual process in which the defense and the prosecution jointly present an agreed-to set of facts. As part of this process, Mr. Thao waived the right to testify and to question witnesses.

”Like the bystanders, Thao could see Floyd’s life slowly ebbing away as the restraint continued,” Judge Cahill wrote in the verdict. “Yet Thao made a conscious decision to actively participate in Floyd’s death: He held back the concerned bystanders and even prevented an off-duty Minneapolis firefighter from rendering the medical aid Floyd so desperately needed.”

Prosecutors said that Mr. Thao, who was an officer for nearly nine years, violated the Minneapolis Police Department’s motto, which urges officers to serve with courage and compassion, on the day Mr. Floyd was killed, and that he ignored police training and “acted without courage and displayed no compassion.”

“Thao held back the concerned onlookers, and even prevented an off-duty firefighter from rendering the very medical aid Floyd so desperately needed,” prosecutors said in a written closing argument filed on Jan. 31.

Mr. Thao’s lawyer, Robert Paule, argued in the defense’s written closing argument that Mr. Thao believed Mr. Floyd was experiencing excited delirium, a vague and poorly understood diagnosis that is often cited in cases when people die in police custody.

“Whether or not this medical phenomenon is real, Thao was taught that people in these highly agitated states are extremely dangerous to themselves and others, unless they are restrained until they are sedated,” Mr. Paule wrote.

Mr. Paule said in the closing argument that “every one” of Mr. Thao’s actions that day was based on training he received from the Minneapolis Police Department.

The three other officers who were on the scene when Mr. Floyd was murdered have been convicted on state and federal charges.

Mr. Floyd, 46, was arrested after a convenience store employee accused him of buying cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. The Police Department fired all four officers involved in his arrest the day after Mr. Floyd was killed.

Mr. Chauvin was found guilty of murder in April 2021 and later pleaded guilty to a federal charge of violating Mr. Floyd’s civil rights. He is expected to spend more than two decades in prison.

J. Alexander Kueng, who helped to pin Mr. Floyd as he gasped for air, including by placing his knee on Mr. Floyd’s torso, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in October. Mr. Kueng, who is Black, was also convicted in federal court in February 2022 of violating Mr. Floyd’s constitutional rights by not providing medical care or intervening to stop Mr. Chauvin. He is concurrently serving a three-year sentence and a three-and-a-half-year sentence.

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