Minnesota — Three former Minneapolis police officers were convicted Thursday of violating the civil rights of George Floyd.
Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane were charged with depriving Floyd of his right to medical care when officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nine and a half minutes while the 46-year-old Black man was handcuffed. and face down on a street on May 25, 2020.
Thao and Lane were also accused of failing to intervene to stop Chauvin.RELATED
The videotaped murder sparked protests in Minneapolis that spread around the world as part of recognition of racial injustice. Chauvin was convicted of murder last year in state court and pleaded guilty in December to the federal case.
Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, Lane held his legs and Thao kept bystanders away.
Kueng and Lane said they referred to Chauvin as the senior officer on the scene. Thao testified that he trusted the other officers to take care of Floyd’s medical needs, as his care was elsewhere.
Conviction of a federal civil rights violation resulting in death is punishable by life in prison or even death, but such sentences are extremely rare. The former officers will remain free on bail pending sentencing.
During the month-long trial, prosecutors tried to show that the officers violated their training, including when they did not move Floyd or give him CPR. Prosecutors argued that Floyd’s condition was so serious that even bystanders without basic medical training could see that he needed help.
The defense said his training was inadequate and that officers deputized Chauvin as the senior officer on the scene.
Prosecutors told jurors during closing arguments that the three officers “opted to do nothing” while Chauvin squeezed Floyd’s life. Defense attorneys countered that the officers were inexperienced, inadequately trained, and did not knowingly violate Floyd’s rights.
A handful of protesters stood outside the courthouse Thursday morning with large signs, including one mocking officers that read, “If only I had a brain, a heart, nerves.” It was decorated with images of the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion from “The Wizard of Oz”.
Lane is white, Kueng is black, and Thao is Hmong American.
Chauvin and Thao rushed to the scene to help rookies Kueng and Lane after they responded to a call that Floyd used a counterfeit $20 bill at a corner store. Floyd struggled with officers as they tried to put him into a police van.
Lane, Kueng and Thao also face a separate trial in June on state charges alleging they aided and abetted the murder and manslaughter.