A former police officer, Tou Thao, who held back bystanders as other officers restrained George Floyd, has been sentenced to four years and nine months in state prison. Mr. Thao was found guilty of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in the killing of Mr. Floyd. This marks the final sentencing in this case.
The incident occurred on May 25, 2020, when Minneapolis police officers arrested Mr. Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, after a store employee reported that he had used a counterfeit $20 bill to purchase cigarettes. Mr. Floyd was handcuffed and pinned to the ground with Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on his neck for over nine minutes. While two other officers held him down, Mr. Thao prevented concerned bystanders from intervening. The county medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, attributing it to the compression of Mr. Floyd’s neck and the restraint by the officers.
The killing of Mr. Floyd was captured on video by witnesses and spread rapidly online. The footage ignited protests across the United States, leading to a global movement against police brutality and systemic racism.
The day after Mr. Floyd’s death, all four officers involved were fired by the Minneapolis Police Department. Later, they were charged and convicted of various crimes. Each received prison sentences, with Officer Chauvin receiving the longest – more than 20 years in both federal and state prison. Additionally, the City of Minneapolis agreed to pay $27 million to Mr. Floyd’s family to settle a lawsuit filed against the city, claiming that his rights had been violated by the police.
As for the officers involved, Officer Chauvin, who is white, was found guilty in 2021 of second-degree and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter, and was sentenced to 22 and a half years in state prison. He later received an additional 21-year sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty to violating Mr. Floyd’s constitutional rights and the rights of a 14-year-old boy who was also injured in a similar but unrelated incident.
Officer Chauvin’s sentences are being served concurrently, and he is currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Tucson, Ariz. He has appealed his murder conviction, but the Minnesota Supreme Court declined to hear the case. Now, Mr. Chauvin plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review his conviction.
Another officer, Thomas Lane, who held down Mr. Floyd’s legs, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in May 2022. Lane, who is white, was also convicted in federal court of violating Mr. Floyd’s rights. He is currently serving concurrent sentences of two and a half years and three years at a federal prison in Colorado.
J. Alexander Kueng, an officer who helped restrain Mr. Floyd, including kneeling on his torso, was convicted in federal court in February 2022 for violating Mr. Floyd’s constitutional rights. Kueng, who is Black, pleaded guilty to state charges of manslaughter in October and is serving concurrent three-year and three-and-a-half-year sentences.
The fourth officer, Mr. Thao, who is Asian American, is serving a three-and-a-half-year federal sentence after being convicted of depriving Mr. Floyd of his right to medical care and failing to intervene.
Regarding the future, following Mr. Floyd’s death, Minnesota’s Department of Human Rights conducted an investigation that revealed the Minneapolis Police Department’s routine racially discriminatory policing and failure to hold officers accountable for misconduct. City officials have agreed to implement significant changes in policing. Moreover, the Justice Department conducted a multiyear investigation into the department and released a scathing report this year, which found frequent discrimination against Black and Native American individuals and unjustified use of deadly force. In response, Minneapolis officials have committed to working with the federal government to negotiate a consent decree aimed at overhauling the police force.