Ex-officer Thao convicted of aiding George Floyd’s killing

Former Minneapolis police officer Tou Thao has been found guilty of aiding in George Floyd’s death. The verdict comes almost three full years after Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020.

As previously reported, Thao waived his right to a jury trial in October. Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill returned his decision late Monday, finding Thao guilty of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter, months after closing arguments were made.

Thao is the last of the four officers involved to be convicted in his state case, as Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter in 2021 — his appeal was denied earlier in April — and the other two officers took plea deals — Thomas Lane last May and J. Alexander Kueng in October, just before jury selection for his trial was set to begin. That was also when Kueng decided to forgo a jury trial and just have Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill decide his fate.

Thao is now expected to get a sentence in the range of 41-57 months in prison. His sentencing date is scheduled for August 7. He’s serving his federal sentence and isn’t expected to be released until August 2025, meaning he could serve his state sentence while he’s in federal prison.

The four men involved either entered guilty pleas or were already convicted of federal charges and are currently serving prison time.

J Alexander Kueng agreed to a plea deal in October, pleading guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. The murder charge against him was dropped.

Thao testified in his federal trial that he was on crowd control when Floyd was killed and never actually touched Floyd. He added of his fellow former officers, “I was assuming they were taking care of him.” Video from the scene that day shows Thao standing between bystanders on the sidewalk and Chauvin, Lane and Kueng, who were closer to Floyd.

However, prosecutors argued that Thao, who had almost nine years of experience, should’ve known from his training that Floyd needed medical help.

During closing arguments, state prosecutors argued police officers have a “legal and professional duty to intervene in the excessive use of force by another officer” and added that Thao acted as a “human traffic cone” and in turn assisted the criminal actions of the other officers.

However, Thao’s defense team argued he is innocent because he followed his police training and “did not intend that his specific actions were done to assist in the commission of a crime.”

On Tuesday morning, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty issued prepared statements on the verdict.

Statement from Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison:
“The conviction of Tou Thao is historic and the right outcome. It brings one more measure of accountability in the tragic death of George Floyd. Accountability is not just justice, but it is a step on the road to justice.

While we have now reached the end of the prosecution of Floyd’s murder, it is not behind us. 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. To begin with, Congress must act: almost three years after his death, Congress has still not passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. That must change, now.

Many people deserve our thanks: the world-class team that has seen this historic prosecution from beginning to end; the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office for their unflagging partnership; the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for diligently leaving no stone unturned in the investigation; and the United States Attorney’s Office for their purposeful prosecution of the civil-rights case. I also want to thank community in Minnesota and around the world for their clear, unrelenting focus on accountability and justice.

Above all, my thoughts today are with George Floyd, his young daughter, and his family. Floyd’s loved ones can never have him back, yet they have turned their private tragedy into a public movement for their accountability, healing, and justice that keeps Floyd’s legacy vibrant and alive to this day and beyond.”

Statement from Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty:
“Nearly three years ago, the images of a police officer murdering George Floyd shocked the world, shattered our community, and devastated those who knew and loved him. Today, the person who aided in the murder by preventing community members from helping Mr. Floyd has been found guilty and held accountable. I hope today’s verdict is another step on the path toward healing for George Floyd’s family.

I am grateful to the courageous community members whose cooperation was essential to the successful prosecution of the four defendants. Ik also give my thanks to the Attorney General and his team, the members of the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office who played a role, and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for their investigation.

Those of us in leadership positions in the legal system have much work to do when it comes to building trust and safety in our communities. We must all commit to doing our part to make our neighborhoods safe for everyone.”