CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Officer who held back crowd during George Floyd’s murder sentenced to over 4 years in prison

Aug 7, 2023, 11:20 AM | Updated: 11:20 am

Tou Thao, the last former Minneapolis police officer to face sentencing in state court for his role...

Tou Thao, the last former Minneapolis police officer to face sentencing in state court for his role in the killing of George Floyd, appeared in court Monday. (Mandatory Credit: Pool/WCCO)

(Mandatory Credit: Pool/WCCO)

(CNN) — Tou Thao, the former Minneapolis police officer who held back a crowd of bystanders during George Floyd’s fatal arrest in May 2020, was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison Monday for aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

Thao gave a short comment on his role in Floyd’s death in a statement prior to his sentencing in a Minnesota courthouse.

“Obviously, on that day, we didn’t intend on – I didn’t intend on doing any malice or anything like that, or try to hurt anyone. That was never my intent. I did the best I thought I could,” he said. “Obviously the outcome didn’t come out the way I wanted it, so I’ll leave it at that.”

He then spoke for about 20 minutes about how he rediscovered Christianity after Floyd’s death and delivered a religious sermon to the court.

Hennepin County Judge Peter A. Cahill was unimpressed.

“Mr. Thao, to be perfectly honest, after three years of reflection, I was hoping for a little more remorse, regret, acknowledgement of some responsibility and less preaching,” he said.

“Suffice it to say that I think your culpability is less than Mr. Chauvin, but well above Mr. Kueng and Mr. Lane, as an experienced senior officer who was in the best position to save George Floyd. Accordingly, it’s my belief that a sentence at the top of the (sentencing) range would be condign punishment.”

Thao had no visible reaction to the sentence. When asked if he had any questions, he said, “No, God bless you sir.” He received credit for 340 days already served.

All four officers convicted of federal and state charges

The sentencing marks the end of a series of state and federal trials for the four former officers involved in Floyd’s death. All of the former officers have been convicted of crimes in the years since.

Thao and his then-colleagues Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng were fired and arrested for their actions – or lack thereof – in May 2020 as Chauvin pressed his knee into the neck and back of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who was handcuffed and lying on his stomach, for more than nine minutes.

During the arrest, Lane held down Floyd’s legs, Kueng held down Floyd’s torso, and Thao stood nearby and kept back a crowd of upset bystanders, including an off-duty firefighter trying to render aidEven as Floyd pleaded for air and for his mother, Thao made mocking references to Floyd’s assumed drug use and kept the group of bystanders from helping.

Thao was found guilty of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in May at a trial by stipulated evidence decided by Judge Cahill. The guilty verdict meant that all four of the officers who took part in the fatal restraint have been convicted on both state and federal charges.

Thao is already serving a 3 1/2-year sentence for his February 2022 conviction on federal charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights during the arrest. He was sentenced last July in the federal case. He will serve his state sentence concurrently with his federal sentence.

Calls to Thao’s attorney and lawyers representing the Floyd family were not immediately returned Monday morning.

Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in state court and was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison in June 2021. In federal court, he pleaded guilty to depriving Floyd of his rights and an unrelated civil rights violation and was sentenced to 21 years in prison. He is serving the sentences concurrently.

Lane, Kueng and Thao were found guilty in federal court of violating Floyd’s civil rights and of failing to intervene to stop Chauvin during the restraint.

In the state cases, Kueng and Lane pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter and were sentenced to 3 1/2 years and three years in prison, respectively.

Floyd’s death has led to significant change in Minneapolis and its police force. The city of Minneapolis agreed to pay Floyd’s estate $27 million to settle a lawsuit, and just last month the city agreed to reorganize the police department to address “race-based policing,” the Minnesota Department of Human Rights said in a news release.

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Officer who held back crowd during George Floyd’s murder sentenced to over 4 years in prison