One of the former Minneapolis police officers involved in George Floyd’s death was found guilty of manslaughter for his role in the killing nearly three years ago. On Monday night, a judge in Hennepin County, Minnesota, issued the ruling for Tou Thao, one of four ex-officers charged in the aftermath of Floyd’s death.
Floyd died on May 25, 2020, after officer Derek Chauvin pinned him to the ground for 9 1/2 minutes with his knee on Floyd’s neck. Thao restrained onlookers while his colleagues restrained Floyd.
Judge Peter Cahill wrote in a 177-page verdict that Thao “actively encouraged his three colleagues’ dangerous prone restraint of Floyd” despite his training that the positioning could cause fatal asphyxia.
“Like bystanders, Thao could see Floyd’s life slowly ebbing away as the restraint continued,” Cahill wrote in his verdict. “Yet Thao made a conscious decision to actively participate in Floyd’s death: he resisted concerned bystanders and even prevented an off-duty Minneapolis firefighter from providing the critical medical assistance Floyd required.”
The decision concludes a series of state and federal trials for the four former officers involved in Floyd’s death, which was caught on video and sparked worldwide protests against police violence against Black people.
“The conviction of Tou Thao is historic and the right outcome,” said Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who was the lead prosecutor in Floyd’s murder case. “It adds another layer of accountability to George Floyd’s tragic death.” Accountability is not justice, but it is a necessary step toward justice.”
Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thao were fired and arrested in May 2020 for their actions – or lack thereof – when Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck and back for more than nine minutes while he was handcuffed and lying on his stomach.
During the incident, Thao stood nearby and told concerned citizens not to interfere with the police. Even as Floyd pleaded for air and for his mother, Thao made sarcastic remarks about Floyd’s alleged drug use and prevented the group of bystanders from assisting.
Thao testified at his federal trial in 2022 that he assumed the other officers on the scene were “taking care” of Floyd and that his role had changed to crowd and traffic control. During cross-examination, prosecutors asked Thao why he didn’t tell Chauvin to get off Floyd’s neck, and he replied, “I think I would trust a 19-year veteran to figure it out.”
In October 2022, Thao agreed to a trial by stipulated evidence in the state case, waiving his right to a trial by jury and allowing his fate to be decided by Cahill after reviewing evidence presented by both parties.
Calls to Thao’s attorney and lawyers representing the Floyd family were not immediately returned Tuesday. Sentencing is set for August 7.