Civil Rights Violation Conviction by Federal Court for Three Former MPD Police Officers in George Floyd Death Case

Three former officers of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) have been found guilty in the case of death of George Perry Floyd Jr. on the 25th of May, 2020, of federal civil rights offenses. This was after a trial that lasted 5 weeks.

The offense of Tau Thao and J. Alexander Keung was their failure to intervene despite being present in the case of unreasonable force being used by another former officer of MPD, Derek Chauvin, that resulted in bodily injury and eventual death of Mr. Floyd.

The duo, along with a third former officer, Thomas Lane, were also found guilty of deliberate indifference and failure to address the serious and visible medical needs of Mr. Floyd while he was restrained in police custody, that tantamounted to depriving him of his constitutional rights in this respect. This resulted in bodily injury and eventual death of Mr. Floyd.

Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 242 stood violated in both offenses.

These federal charges, and convictions, pertain to offenses of civil rights that criminalize violations of the U.S. Constitution and are distinct from any charges brought by the State of Minnesota against the same officers in the case of death of Mr. Floyd.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said, “Today’s verdict recognizes that two police officers violated the Constitution by failing to intervene to stop another officer from killing George Floyd, and three officers violated the Constitution by failing to provide aid to Mr. Floyd in time to prevent his death. “The Justice Department will continue to seek accountability for law enforcement officers whose actions, or failure to act, violate their constitutional duty to protect the civil rights of our citizens. George Floyd should be alive today.”

A guilty plea, of wilfully depriving Mr. Floyd of his constitutional rights, had earlier been entered in the federal case by Derek Chauvin, a co-defendant and an MPD officer at the time. It was also acknowledged by Chauvin that he had been callous in his disregard to the consequences of his actions to Mr. Floyd’s life which had, indeed, led to his death. A state court had earlier tried Chauvin and convicted him for second-degree murder, leading to a prison sentence of 22.5 years.

Chauvin holding his knee on the neck and back of Mr. Floyd on 25th May, 2020, as he lay on the floor, handcuffed, unresisting, had been established through evidence presented at the trial of Thao, Kueng and Lane. While Chauvin placed his knee on the back of Mr. Floyd’s neck, Keung placed his knee on the lower body of Mr. Floyd. Chauvin’s knee continued in that position for 9 minutes and 29 seconds while Keung’s was there for 8 minutes and 11 seconds. Mr. Floyd was heard 25 times pleading to them for letting him breathe.

They maintained their posture on Mr. Floyd’s body, even as Mr. Floyd lost consciousness and his pulse. His movements ceased and he stopped speaking. His ‘passing out’ was noticed by Lane, while Keung said that he could not find a pulse. Though they were all CPR-certified, neither did any of the defendants do anything to get Chauvin to remove his knee from Mr. Floyd’s neck, nor did they provide any medical aid that they were required to. When the EMT arrived and was checking Mr. Floyd’s pulse, no aid was rendered to Mr. Floyd by any of the officers on the scene even as Chauvin continued to hold his position.

Though EMTs and firefighters tried to revive Mr. Floyd on the way to the hospital, he was pronounced dead upon arrival. It was ruled as a homicide due to cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression, by the county medical examiner.

When Lane and Keung were spoken to after the incident, first by an MPD supervisor and later by a lieutenant, on both occasions they omitted mention of Chauvin having knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck, that he had been restrained on his stomach for over 9 minutes, and even of him losing consciousness and the inability of officers to find a pulse. Keung, in fact, said that Mr. Floyd was moving till the ambulance arrived, which he retracted at the trial and admitted was a lie.

The lieutenant, at the trial, testified that he realized he had been lied to when he saw the video that had been taken by a bystander. He also testified that it was the duty of an MPD officer to intervene if he saw excessive force being used by another officer, or indulging in any other illegal act, even if he was a senior. Further, this duty was a part of the MPD training programs and was also enshrined in the policy.

Proof of the requirement to complete emergency medical responder (EMR) training before entering the MPD academy was also presented at the trial. CPR training was a part of the EMR training. It was also the duty of an MPD officer to determine if use of force had caused injury to a person subjected to such force and to provide medical and first aid as soon as reasonable and practicable, while EMS was awaited.

Findings of the jury:

  • Wilful disregard of their training and violation of Mr. Floyd’s constitutional rights.
  • Failure to intervene to stop Chauvin’s use of unlawful force by Thao and Keung
  • Failure of all three defendants to provide aid to Mr. Floyd while he suffered a medical emergency at the hands of a fellow police officer

A date for sentencing has not been set. A violation of section 242 that results in death carries life imprisonment as the maximum sentence.

The verdict was announced by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Charles J. Kovats and Special Agent in Charge Michael F. Paul of the FBI’s Minneapolis Division.

The FBI conducted the investigation with the cooperation of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

The case is being prosecuted by Special Litigation Counsel Samantha Trepel and Trial Attorney Tara Allison of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Samantha Bates, LeeAnn Bell, Evan Gilead, Manda Sertich and Allen Slaughter of the District of Minnesota.

Michael Canning

Michael Canning

Michael has a Masters's Degree in Leadership and Juris Doctorate. After working in private business for 10 years, he started writing. He covers law, business, startups, and technology. One of his passions is researching disruptive technology in business. [email protected]

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