(The Center Square) – A federal trial jury has found three former Minneapolis police officers guilty of violating George Floyd’s civil rights on May 25, 2020.
Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane were all charged with failing to provide medical aid to Floyd, age 46, who allegedly tried to spend a counterfeit $20 bill.
Thao and Kueng were also charged with failing to intervene in the fourth former officer Derek Chauvin’s unreasonable use of force. Lane, who asked Floyd to reposition but was overruled by Chauvin, wasn’t charged with that count.
Anger from Floyd’s death in police custody was fueled by a bystander filming part of the arrest, showing Floyd pinned under Chauvin’s knee for nine minutes and 45 seconds while he pleaded “I can’t breathe.” Floyd was declared dead later that day.
Video shows that the officers worked together to hold Floyd – a 6’4″ man alleged to be intoxicated on illicit substances – down and control the crowd. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, Lane held his legs and Thao handled bystanders.
Kueng and Lane said they deferred to Chauvin’s 19 years of experience at the scene.
In closing arguments, prosecutors said the former officers “chose to do nothing” while Floyd was pinned for over nine minutes, while repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe.”
“They chose not to aid George Floyd as the window into which Mr. Floyd’s life could have been saved slammed shut,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Manda Sertich said Tuesday.
The video of the arrest sparked worldwide protests. Riots in the Twin Cities caused more than $500 million of damage.
The Department of Justice says violating a person’s civil rights “is punishable by a range of imprisonment up to a life term, or the death penalty, depending upon the circumstances of the crime, and the resulting injury, if any.”
However, federal sentencing guidelines suggest lesser sentences.
Ben Crump, who won Floyd’s family a record $27 million settlement from the city of Minneapolis, welcomed the verdict.
“These officers tried to devise any excuse that could let them wash the blood from their hands, but following these verdicts George’s blood will forever stain them,” Ben Crump and other attorneys representing Floyd’s family said in a statement. “Today’s guilty verdicts should serve as the guiding example of why police departments across America should expand and prioritize instruction on an officer’s duty to intervene and recognize when a fellow officer is using excessive force.”