Chauvin’s colleagues convicted of violating George Floyd’s civil rights

MGN

The three former Minneapolis police officers who were with Derek Chauvin while he murdered George Floyd were convicted of depriving Floyd of his civil rights late Thursday afternoon. 

J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Kiernan Lane, and Tou Thao were all convicted of failing to help Floyd when it was obvious he needed medical care. Thao and Kueng were also convicted of failing to tell Chauvin to stop kneeling on Floyd’s neck once he went unconscious, murdering him. Chauvin previously admitted to depriving Floyd of his civil rights by kneeling on his neck last December. 

“Mr. Floyd called out more than 20 times that he couldn’t breathe repeatedly, begging to be led up. Eventually, he stopped begging,” said acting United States Attorney Charles Kovats at a press conference inside the courthouse shortly after the verdict was read. “All the while these officers [did] nothing to assist Mr. Floyd as he lay dying. And the world collectively witnessed this tragic and horrifying loss of life and humanity.”

During the case, the prosecution argued that the three officers with Chauvin violated their training and their duty to act by failing to provide medical aid to Floyd while waiting for an ambulance. They also alleged that the officer’s failure to stop Chauvin’s neck restraint on Floyd contributed to his death.

However, the defense contended they were simply doing what they were instructed to do in their training, which included keeping Floyd prone because they believed he had excited delirium, which has been debunked as junk science. They also were trained to defer to authority, in this case, Chauvin, who has over a decade of experience as a police officer and was highly regarded as a field training officer. 

The case was ultimately decided by an all White, majority-metro, and majority-female jury who deliberated for close to 14 hours. Juror 46, a White woman from Jackson County, was the foreperson. 

This is possibly the first case in which lower-ranking officers are being charged for failing to intervene in a case where a superior officer is using excessive force. The guilty verdict may set a precedent requiring officers nationwide to stop other officers from using excessive force, regardless of rank or seniority.

Speaking at the press conference, Floyd’s brother Philonise was relieved by the verdict. “Today is a good day for us, that this is the first time that I [have] ever seen something like this did [sic]—four White officers were convicted of killing an African American man,” said Philonise.

“And out there just watching what happened to Kim Potter [who received a two-year sentence]. I was like, I’m still gonna believe and I have faith because I just wanted some time to be served from somebody for what happened to my brother. This is just accountability,” said Philonise.

Activists too were relieved. “I was a little worried here with the juror, with most of them, all of them are White, from other parts of the state. I was worried that the outcome might not be what we wanted,” said Joe T., who declined to give his full last name. “But they looked through the evidence, looked through all the outcomes, and said ‘no, it was wrongdoings that the three officers—former officers—has committed.”

Photo by Henry Pan

“I know George Floyd or my son Dolal, who we miss, I know they are not coming back. I cannot say the years [the officers will be sentenced], but it’s good; we are happy [with] whatever the court says,” said Bayle Gelle, father of Dolal Idd, who was killed by Minneapolis police in December 2020.

Gelle continued, “It says 10 years, 6 years, or 20 years, whatever they say, we are happy. Not you kill someone and they charge you with two years—that’s unfair. Its disrespect. We are talking human life, we are not talking insect life.”

The attorneys representing the Floyd family, Ben Crump, Tony Romanucci, and Jeff Storms, also released a statement, saying, “These officers tried to devise any excuse that could let them wash the blood from their hands, but following these verdicts George’s blood will forever stain them. The existing policies were not on trial; rather, on trial were the human beings present when the breath was taken from an unarmed man right in front of them.

“Nothing will bring George Floyd back to his loved ones, but with these verdicts, we hope that the ignorance and indifference toward human life shown by these officers will be erased from our nation’s police departments, so no other family has to experience a loss like this,” read the statement.

The three officers face up to life in prison and will be sentenced after they meet with their probation officers. That date, along with the date of Chauvin’s sentencing, has yet to be determined. Meanwhile, they remain free on bond as they await their state trial on charges they aided and abetted Floyd’s murder, which will start on June 13. 

“No matter how many times that I pray at night, and I think about my brother 24/7 is still, it’s gonna be hard, even though we did have a federal conviction—and we already had the state conviction—but times, you know, will be probably a lot harder for me still, because I can’t get my brother [back],” said Philonise.