Three Officers Involved in George Floyd’s Murder Found Guilty of Civil Rights Violations
23:24 GMT 24.02.2022 (Updated: 13:28 GMT 06.08.2022)
© REUTERS / CEDRIC HOHNSTADTFILE PHOTO: Three former Minneapolis officers, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, sit with their lawyers during their trial as they are charged with violating George Floyd's civil rights during his 2020 arrest, in St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S., January 24, 2022 in this courtroom sketch.
A Minnesota jury found three Minneapolis police officers guilty of violating the civil rights of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man whose murder at the hands of white police officers in May 2020 helped spark the largest uprising in the US in half a century.
J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas K. Lane and Tou Thao, three former Minneapolis officers, were found guilty on Thursday of depriving Floyd of his civil rights by showing deliberate indifference to his medical needs. Thao and Kueng were also found guilty of failing to intervene to stop officer Derek Chauvin as he kneeled on Floyd’s neck during the May 25, 2020, encounter.
Chauvin was found guilty last year of murdering Floyd in the incident and sentenced to 22.5 years in prison.
Violating a person’s civil rights carries a wide variety of punishments, including up to a life sentence or even the death penalty, depending upon the circumstances, according to the US Department of Justice. However, federal sentencing guidelines mean the former officers are likely to receive a lesser sentence.
“These defendants knew what was happening, and contrary to their training, contrary to common sense, contrary to basic human decency, they did nothing to stop Derek Chauvin, did nothing to help George Floyd. You know it because you’ve seen it,” prosecutor Manda Sertich told jurors during closing arguments Tuesday.
In the trial, the trio claimed they had deferred to Chauvin during the police stop, unsure if the force he was using was unreasonable. They also claimed the Minneapolis Police Department had not adequately trained them for the situation, leading to their confusion.
Two of them, Keung and Lane, had been full-time officers for less than a week when the incident happened. They were the first to respond that night to the call from a local market about a counterfeit $20 bill, and according to body camera video of the incident, Lane pulled a gun on Floyd within 15 seconds of encountering him in a parked car.
Chauvin arrived a few minutes later with Thao, and after attempting to arrest Floyd and put him in the police cruiser, they held him face-down on the street, with Chauvin’s knees pressed onto Floyd’s neck and upper back. As Floyd cried out that he couldn’t breathe, the other officers helped hold him down or control the crowd.
Footage of Floyd’s death aroused fury across the United States, setting off a series of Black Lives Matter protests that police violently put down, sparking even greater protests. The movement swelled for several weeks into June and July, drawing millions of people into the streets and forcing state governments to mobilize tens of thousands of National Guard soldiers to control the demonstrations.
While the protests are largely credited with forcing the judicial system to take seriously the accusations against Chauvin, which protesters complained happened far too infrequently when white police officers kill Black people, they ultimately failed to effect a change in police behavior. During Chauvin’s trial in April 2021, another officer on the same force, Kim Potter, shot and killed a 20-year-old Black man named Daunte Wright after claiming to have grabbed her pistol instead of her taser. Last week, she was sentenced to two years in custody for Wright’s death, some of which could be spent in house arrest.
More recently, Lauren Smith-Fields, a Black woman from Bridgeport, Connecticut, died under mysterious circumstances in December 2021, but police mishandling of her case aroused protests in the community that claimed police had not taken her death seriously because of her race.