A former Minneapolis police officer who kept bystanders away from George Floyd while another officer pinned him to the ground with his knee at his neck was found guilty of aiding and abetting manslaughter.
The conviction of Tou Thao is the latest involving the four now-former officers uninvolved with Floyd’s murder on 25 May 2020, which galvanised an international movement against police violence.
On 2 May, Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill in Minnesota convicted Thao on charges of second-degree aiding and abetting manslaughter. He will remain in custody ahead of sentencing, which is scheduled for 7 August.
“The conviction of Tou Thao is historic and the right outcome,” state Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a statement. “It brings one more measure of accountability in the tragic death of George Floyd. Accountability is not justice, but it is a step on the road to justice.”
While Derek Chauvin kneeled into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, Thao stopped bystanders from intervening, according to body-worn police camera footage. “This is why you don’t do drugs, kids,” he can be heard saying on police footage. He also can be heard telling another emergency responder to “back off” when she asks to check Floyd’s pulse.
Judge Cahill determined that Thao “made a conscious decision to actively participate in Floyd’s death,” and “actively encouraged” Chauvin’s restraint despite knowing that it could endanger Floyd’s live.
“The short of it: Tou Thao did not want to follow the proper protocol and the work it would entail,” Cahill wrote. “George Floyd died as a result.”
Thao’s sentencing is the last among the four men in state courts, concluding a series of charges, trials and court hearings in the three years after Floyd’s murder.
A joint trial with another office at the scene, J Alexander Kueng, was expected to begin last year, but Kueng pleaded guilty and Thao waived his right to a trial, leaving a verdicy to Cahill.
Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder and manslaughter in 2021. He also pleaded guilty to federal charges for violating Floyd’s civil rights and is serving a 20-year prison sentence.
Kueng, Thao and another now-former officer, Thomas Lane, were also found guilty of federal charges in a jury trial. They are each serving two- to three-and-a-half years in prison.
Lane also pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. He was sentenced to three years in prison. Kueng sentenced to three and a half years for the same charges. Both men will serve those sentences concurrently with their federal sentences.