Former officers Tou Thao, 36, J. Alexander Kueng, 28, and Thomas Lane, 38, attempted to stop Floyd while Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck and back for more than 9 minutes during the arrest, resulting in the death of Floyd.
Thao, Chauvin’s partner, stood nearby, acting as a crowd control for a group of upset bystanders, while rookie officers Kueng and Lane held Floyd’s torso and legs.
“They had the opportunity and the resources to (help) and they didn’t…Ignoring that is idiosyncratic,” US assistant attorney LeeAnn Bell said during closing arguments.
However, each of the three former officers took the stand and tried to put the blame elsewhere, saying that they lacked proper training and that they deferred it to Chauvin, the senior officer on the scene.
“I think I would trust a 19-year-old veteran to find out,” Thao said in the stands.
The trial is the second such criminal proceeding to detail Floyd’s final moments on May 25, 2020. As captured on harrowing video by an onlooker, the 46-year-old black man was handcuffed and pressed face down into the pavement for over 9 minutes while yelling, “I can’t breathe.” Floyd soon fell unconscious and stopped breathing, but officers continued to restrain his limp body until paramedics arrived.
What the 3 agents said
The arrest came after Floyd was suspected of using a counterfeit $20 bill at a Minneapolis supermarket. All three ex-officers testified that Floyd appeared to be exhibiting some erratic behavior at the beginning of their meeting.
Lane—who had just entered his fourth day with the Minneapolis Police Department—and Kueng were the first to arrive. Kueng testified that Floyd was “very hyperactive” and had difficulty answering questions when initially approached by police.
“I remember Officer Chauvin saying we would overthrow him,” Kueng told the jury.
Lane, who was holding Floyd’s legs, testified that he twice asked Chauvin if Floyd needed to be moved during the restraining order. The first time, Lane asked Chauvin if they should raise Floyd’s legs as the academy teaches.
“No, we’re good,” Chauvin said, according to Lane’s testimony.
Lane then said he had asked Chauvin if they should roll Floyd on his side.
“No, we’re good like that,” Chauvin replied according to Lane’s testimony.
Thao, meanwhile, was working a few feet away, keeping the growing crowd under control and causing cars to swerve across the stage.
“At that time, I have another role, which is to control the crowd to allow them to assist Mr. Floyd.”
Officers could and should have done more, prosecutors say
Multiple witnesses also stated that the three ex-officers made no attempt to get Chauvin off Floyd’s neck or provide medical care. Several medical experts testified that this was a “survivable” event and that CPR would have saved Floyd’s life.
“The violence used at the time must be appropriate and proportionate,” she said. “If they become unconscious, you can’t continue to use force.”
Assistant US Attorney Manda Sertich stated in closing arguments that Thao and Kueng “had the ability, authority, opportunity, means and duty to intervene”, adding that there was ample time for Kueng and Thao to take action.
“It was not a split-second use of force like a gunshot,” she said, adding that it “wasn’t 30 seconds, not a minute. Several minutes, 569 seconds (…) Defendants Thao and Keung watched while George Floyd’s condition was slowly deteriorating,” Sertich argued, adding that the officers’ relative inexperience did not allow them to recognize a medical emergency.
Even Lane, she said, knew what had to be done, as evidenced by his asking if they should hand Floyd over. But asking a question isn’t providing medical assistance, Sertich said.
Bill Kirkos, Amir Vera, Eric Levenson, Eliott C. McLaughlin, Brad Parks, Scottie Andrew and Paul Vercammen of DailyExpertNews contributed to this report.