Former Minneapolis officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas K. Lane, and Tou Thao have been charged for violating the civil rights of George Floyd when they failed to intervene when senior officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck. Prosecutors said the three former officers knew Floyd was in medical danger but failed to get Chauvin off his back until he lost consciousness and died.
Following a month of intense trial, a jury concluded that the inaction of the three officers caused the death of Floyd when changing his prone position and administering CPR could have saved his life. Presiding over the trial, US District Judge Paul A. Magnuson, fixed June to deliver his ruling on what he termed a case of aiding and abetting manslaughter and murder.
Leading a team of prosecutors who represented the family of Floyd, Ben Crump said finding the three officers guilty of inaction to save Floyd’s life brought closure to the case. Floyd’s brother, Philonise, said he can now “breathe again” even though he can never get his late brother back.
“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,” Crump said. “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.”
Each of the former officers had lawyers who represented them, but they also took the stand themselves. They argued that they were deferring to Chauvin who was a senior officer with 19 years of experience behind him, while the younger officers had been less than a month on the job. They said that due to their lack of experience and the inadequate training they had at that time, they were not certain if Chauvin used was using excessive force or not by kneeling on Floyd’s back.
Acting Attorney Charles Kovats said the young officers had a right to intervene to save Floyd from their rogue senior colleague, regardless of rank or seniority. He said it is fundamental policing to withdraw force when a suspect stops resisting and to perform CPR or determine their pulse if they are still breathing, and to intervene if a colleague is too extreme with the suspect.
Chauvin was sentenced to 22 ½ years imprisonment for murder and manslaughter on state charges in 2021 and awaits sentencing for federal charges. Legal analysts do not know the sentencing to be imposed on the three former officers by Magnuson, but they believe the trio of Keung, Lane, and Thao will get less severe sentencing than Chauvin.