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Former Police Officer Tou Thao Found Guilty in George Floyd’s Death

A former Minneapolis police officer has been convicted of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter for his role in keeping bystanders back in the May 2020 killing of George Floyd, according to court documents filed Monday.

In a 177-page verdict, Judge Peter Cahill wrote that Tou Thao “actively encouraged his three colleagues’ dangerous prone restraint of Floyd” contrary to his training that the positioning could cause fatal asphyxia.

“Like the bystanders, Thao could see Floyd’s life slowly ebbing away as the restraint continued,” 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.”

Tou Thao, who had already been convicted in federal court of violating Floyd’s civil rights, was the last of the four former officers facing judgment in state court in Floyd’s killing. He rejected a plea agreement and, instead of going to trial, let Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill decide the verdict based on written filings by each side and evidence presented in previous cases. 

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill based his verdict on exhibits and transcripts from Chauvin’s murder trial, which he presided over, and the federal civil rights trial of Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane.

“Thao was trained on MPD’s use of force and medical policies, which are consistent with generally accepted policing practices,” Cahill wrote in his 177-page ruling. “Under those policies and practices, it was objectively unreasonable to (among other things): encourage fellow officers to engage in a dangerous prone restraint for 9 minutes and 24 seconds; encourage those officers not to use a hobble; actively assist their restraint by acting as a ‘human traffic cone’; and prevent bystanders from rendering medical aid.”

It was also added that “Thao’s actions were even more unreasonable in light of the fact that he was under a duty to intervene to stop the other officers’ excessive use of force and was trained to render medical aid.”

The verdict comes almost three years after Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020.

Chauvin, the senior officer at the scene, was convicted of murder and manslaughter in April 2021 and later pleaded guilty in the federal case. Two other officers — J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane — pleaded guilty to state charges of aiding and abetting manslaughter and were convicted with Thao in their federal case. 

But unlike the other three former officers, Thao maintained that he did nothing wrong. When he rejected the plea deal in state court last August, he said “it would be lying” to plead guilty. However, prosecutor Matthew Frank wrote that Thao knew that his fellow officers were restraining Floyd in a way that was “extremely dangerous”.

The judge did not accept Thao’s claims of innocence, and his sentencing date is set for August 7. Thao’s sentence is expected to range from 41 to 57 months in prison, and is currently serving a 3 1/2-year prison sentence after being convicted on federal charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights.

“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,” Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty said in a statement. “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.”

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