According to court documents filed on Monday, a Minnesota judge found Tou Thao, a former Minneapolis police officer, guilty of second-degree murder for his role in keeping bystanders at bay during the killing of George Floyd in May 2020.
In a 177-page verdict, Peter Cahill stated that Thao had “actively encouraged the dangerous prone restraint by his three colleagues of Floyd”, contrary to his training which warned that this position could lead to fatal asphyxia.
Cahill, in his verdict, wrote that Thao was able to see Floyd’s life ebbing as the restraint continued. Thao actively participated in Floyd’s demise by holding back concerned bystanders, and even preventing an off-duty Minneapolis Firefighter from providing the medical assistance Floyd so desperately required.
All four officers involved in Floyd’s death, a 46-year-old Black man, were convicted of both federal and state charges. Thao’s case was the final of multiple trials related to Floyd’s death. The video was captured and sparked worldwide protests against police violence towards Black people.
In a press release, Keith Ellison (the Minnesota Attorney General, who is the main prosecutor in Floyd’s case) said that the conviction of Tou Tháo was historic and the correct outcome. It brings another measure of accountability to the tragic death of George Floyd. Accountability does not equal justice but is a first step to justice.
Mary Moriarty, the newly elected Hennepin County attorney, noted in a recent statement that “the images of an officer killing George Floyd shocked and shattered this community and devastated all those who knew him and loved him.”
Moriarty stated that “today, the individual who assisted in the murder of Mr. Floyd by preventing members of the community from helping him has been found guilty. He will be held accountable.” “I hope that today’s decision is another step in the healing process for George Floyd and his family.”
Ben Crump, an attorney for civil rights, and his co-counsel Antonio Romanucci, as well as Jeff Storms who represents Floyd’s family in a press release, have praised this latest conviction.
They said, “The family is grateful that another measure of accountability has been taken for George Floyd’s death.” Nearly three years after George’s death, the family of George Floyd and the Minneapolis community are still healing as the criminal justice system has prevailed. Each of these measures of Justice shows that police brutality, which is illegal and punishable, is a serious crime.
The attorney for Thao did not return calls Tuesday.
The guilty verdict came nearly three years after Derek Chauvin and Thomas Lane were fired for their actions or lack thereof in May 2020, when Chauvin had pressed his knee against the neck and back of Floyd who was handcuffed, lying on his stomach.
Thao stood nearby during the incident and told concerned residents to not interfere with the police. Thao mocked Floyd and his mother as he begged for air. He also kept bystanders away from helping.
Thao said that he believed the other officers were taking care of Floyd and his role was to control traffic and crowds. Thao said, when questioned by prosecutors during cross-examination about why he did not tell Chauvin to move off Floyd’s neck in the first place, “I would have trusted a 19-year-old veteran to figure out what to do.”
In the years that have passed, all of the former police officers were convicted of crimes.
Chauvin, who was found guilty in state court of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree homicide in June 2021, was sentenced to 22.25 years in prison. He pleaded guilty in federal court to depriving Floyd of his rights, and a civil rights violation unrelated to that. He was sentenced to 21 years of prison. The sentences are being served concurrently.
Lane, Kueng, and Thao have been found guilty by a federal court for violating Floyd’s rights to civil liberties and failing to stop Chauvin while he was being restrained. Thao has already served a 3.5-year sentence from his February 2022 federal conviction.
In the state cases, Kueng and Lane both pleaded guilty to aiding and abetment of second-degree murder and were sentenced respectively to 3.5 and 3 years.
In October 2022 Thao waived his right to trial by jury in the case against the state, allowing Cahill to decide his fate after examining evidence from both sides.
State guidelines suggest that Thao may be sentenced to between 41 and 57 months of imprisonment, with a recommendation of four years. The sentencing date is August 7.
The death of Floyd has led to a number of significant changes in Minneapolis, including the police force. In a settlement agreement, the city of Minneapolis paid $27 million to Floyd’s estate. The Minnesota Department of Human Rights released a statement that the city had agreed to reorganize its police force to deal with “race-based policing.”