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Tou Thao found guilty of aiding and abetting manslaughter in George Floyd's death

Tou Thao found guilty of aiding and abetting manslaughter
Tou Thao found guilty of aiding and abetting manslaughter 01:41

MINNEAPOLIS – A judge has found a now-former Minneapolis police officer guilty of aiding and abetting manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

In January, the attorney representing Tou Thao asked Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill to make the decision himself on whether or not his client is guilty of the charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Cahill had 90 days to issue his ruling, which he did Monday night.

A count of aiding and abetting second-degree murder against Thao was dismissed.

"The conviction of Tou Thao is historic and the right outcome," Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a statement. "It brings one more measure of accountability in the tragic death of George Floyd. Accountability is not justice, but it is a step on the road to justice." 

On May 25, 2020, Thao was one of the officers at the scene of Floyd's detainment, which came after a 911 call from a convenience store worker who accused Floyd, a Black man, of using a counterfeit bill.

Tou Thao Hennepin Co. Jail

As now-ex officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, knelt on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes, Thao, who is Hmong-American, stopped bystanders from intervening. Body camera video shows him telling members of the crowd that were gathering at the scene that "This is why you don't do drugs, kids." He is also heard telling an off-duty Minneapolis firefighter to "back off" when she asks to check Floyd's pulse.

In his nearly 180-page ruling, Cahill wrote that Thao "made a conscious decision to actively participate in Floyd's death." Cahill found that Thao knew the dangers of the restraint Chauvin used on Floyd and "actively encouraged" use of the restraint, even declining to use a "hobble" device, which Cahill said "would have saved Floyd's life" if properly employed.

"The short of it: Tou Thao did not want to follow the proper protocol and the work it would entail," Cahill wrote. "George Floyd died as a result."

Cahill found Thao's other actions at the scene also contributed to Floyd's death.

"Thao ... was an experienced Minneapolis police officer with almost a decade's experience," Cahill wrote. "Yet Thao made a conscious decision to actively participate in Floyd's death: he held back the concerned bystanders and even prevented an off-duty Minneapolis firefighter from rendering the medical aid Floyd so desperately needed."

WATCH: Joe Tamburino talks Tou Thao verdict

Extended: Joe Tamburino talks Tou Thao verdict 08:12

Floyd family attorney Ben Crump released the following statement on Thao's conviction: "The family of George Floyd is grateful for another measure of accountability for his death. Nearly three years after George was killed, the family and Minneapolis community continue to heal as the criminal justice system prevails. With each of these measures of justice, it is even more so demonstrated that police brutality is an illegal - and punishable - act."

"I had a particular disdain for Tou Thao because he always seemed like he wasn't claiming any responsibility for the way he spoke to the crowd that day and stopped anyone from helping Floyd," said Courteney Ross, Floyd's significant other. "The way he spoke about people and drugs, it really disgusted me and I'm trying to find forgiveness in my heart for him."

She added she is glad Thao will spend time in jail and hopes he comes out a better person.

Chauvin was convicted on two state murder charges and a manslaughter charge in April of 2021 – in a trial that was also proceeded over by Cahill – and was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison. Chauvin appealed his conviction, but it was upheld by the Minnesota Court of Appeals last month.

READ MORE: Minnesota Court of Appeals affirms Derek Chauvin's murder conviction

The two other ex-officers involved – J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane – were already convicted of the state charges that Thao faces, and received a 3.5- and 3-year prison sentence, respectively. Kueng is Black, and Lane is white.

All four men have already been convicted on federal civil rights violation charges. Chauvin was sentenced to 21 years; Kueng 3 years; Lane 2.5 years; and Thao 3.5 years. They will all serve their state and federal sentences concurrently.

Thao's sentencing on the state conviction is set for Aug. 7 at 9 a.m.

Of the four ex-officers, Thao is the only one who has maintained that he did nothing wrong.

"Nearly three years ago, the images of a police officer murdering George Floyd shocked the world, shattered our community, and devastated those who knew and loved him," Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty said in a statement. "Today, the person who aided in the murder by preventing community members from helping Mr. Floyd has been found guilty and held accountable. I hope today's verdict is another step on the path toward healing for George Floyd's family."   

Cahill made his decision on Thao based on evidence from Chauvin's state trial, and the ex-officers' federal trials.

Floyd's death sparked protests around the globe, thrusting the issues of racism and police reform to the forefront of the national dialogue.

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