St. Paul, MN–Following a trial that lasted nearly five weeks, a federal jury in St. Paul, Minnesota, found three former Minneapolis Police Department officers guilty of federal civil rights offenses arising out of the death of George Perry Floyd Jr. on May 25, 2020.
Former Minneapolis Police Department Officers Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng were found to have deprived Floyd of his constitutional right to be free from an officer’s unreasonable force when each willfully failed to intervene to stop former Minneapolis Police Department Officer Derek Chauvin’s use of unreasonable force, resulting in bodily injury to and the death of Floyd. Thao, Kueng, and former Minneapolis Police Department Officer Thomas Lane also were found to have deprived Floyd of his constitutional right to be free from a police officer’s deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs when they saw him restrained in police custody in clear need of medical care and willfully failed to aid him, resulting in bodily injury to and the death of Floyd.
The convictions announced Thursday are separate from and in addition to any and all charges the State of Minnesota has brought against these former officers related to the death of Floyd. The federal charges addressed civil rights offenses that criminalize violations of the U.S. Constitution.
“Today’s verdict recognizes that two police officers violated the Constitution by failing to intervene to stop another officer from killing George Floyd, and three officers violated the Constitution by failing to provide aid to Mr. Floyd in time to prevent his death,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “The Justice Department will continue to seek accountability for law enforcement officers whose actions, or failure to act, violate their constitutional duty to protect the civil rights of our citizens. George Floyd should be alive today.”
Co-defendant Derek Chauvin previously entered a guilty plea in connection with the federal case. Chauvin pleaded guilty to willfully depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights while Chauvin was serving as a police officer. Chauvin also acknowledged that his conduct resulted in death and that he acted in callous and wanton disregard of the consequences to Floyd’s life. In addition, Chauvin was tried in state court and convicted of second-degree murder. In 2021, Chauvin was sentenced in state court to 22-1/2 years in prison.
Evidence presented at the federal trial for defendants Thao, Kueng, and Lane established that on May 25, 2020, then-officer Chauvin held his knees on Floyd’s neck and back as he lay on the ground, handcuffed and unresisting. As soon as Floyd was on the ground, Chauvin placed his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck, while Kueng placed his knee on Floyd’s lower body. Chauvin would not remove his knee for the next nine minutes and 29 seconds, and Kueng maintained his position for the next eight minutes and 11 seconds. Throughout this period, Floyd pleaded with officers 25 times to let him breathe.
As Floyd lost consciousness and a pulse, Chauvin and Kueng maintained their positions on his body. Even as Floyd ceased movement and stopped speaking, and even as Lane noted that he was “passing out” and Kueng said he could not find a pulse, none of the CPR-certified officers did anything to stop Chauvin from keeping his knee on Floyd’s neck or to render the medical aid that they were trained and required to provide. Even as EMTs arrived and checked Floyd’s pupils and pulse, Chauvin did not move his knee and the other officers on scene did not render aid to Floyd.
Firefighters and EMTs unsuccessfully attempted to revive Floyd on the way to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The county medical examiner ruled Floyd’s death was a homicide due to cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.
After the incident, a Minneapolis Police Department supervisor and, later, a lieutenant, spoke with Lane and Kueng. On both occasions, Lane and Kueng both omitted that Chauvin had knelt on Floyd’s neck, that he had been restrained on his stomach for nine and a half minutes, that Floyd had lost consciousness, and that officers had not been able to find a pulse. Additionally, Kueng told the supervisor that Floyd did not stop moving until after an ambulance arrived on the scene, which he admitted at trial was false. At trial, the lieutenant testified that, after watching a video taken by a bystander, he realized that what he was told and what was on the video was “totally different.” He further testified that if a Minneapolis Police Department officer observed another officer using too much force or doing something illegal, the officer has a duty to intervene to stop it, regardless of rank or seniority. Testimony offered at trial established that this duty to intervene is enshrined in Minneapolis Police Department policy and is a component of the police department’s training program.
Evidence presented at trial also showed that Minneapolis Police Department officers were required to complete emergency medical responder training prior to entering the police academy, which includes CPR training. Further, the department’s policy requires officers to determine if a subject is injured after a use of force and to render medical aid as soon as reasonably practical and requires officers assisting a person experiencing a medical crisis to provide first aid while awaiting emergency medical personnel.
The jury found that the three men disregarded the training and willfully violated Floyd’s constitutional rights. Kueng and Thao failed to intervene to stop Chauvin’s use of unlawful force and all three defendants failed to provide aid to Floyd as he suffered a medical emergency at the hands of a fellow police officer.
No sentencing date has been set. The statutory maximum sentence for Floyd’s death is life in prison.