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Former Minneapolis officer Thomas Lane pleads guilty to manslaughter in George Floyd's death

3 ex-cops found guilty of violating George Floyd's civil rights
3 ex-officers found guilty in federal civil rights trial over George Floyd's death 05:01

A former Minneapolis police officer has pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced Wednesday. Thomas Lane will receive a three-year sentence, which will be served in a federal institution, according to his attorney.

Lane was one of four former Minneapolis police officers involved in the fatal May 2020 arrest that ended in the Floyd's death. Derek Chauvin, the former officer who knelt on Floyd's neck for over nine minutes, was sentenced to 22 and 1/2 years for Floyd's murder. Lane and former officers Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng were found guilty of depriving Floyd of his right to medical care in a federal trial earlier this year.

If Lane had been convicted of unintentional murder, he would have faced the state's mandatory minimum sentence of 12 years in prison. According to Lane's attorney Earl Gray, the former officer has a newborn child and he did not want to risk "not being part of the child's life." Lane's manslaughter sentence will be served concurrently with his federal sentence, and he's expected to be released in two years, Gray said.

"Floyd should still be with us. But I am pleased Thomas Lane has accepted responsibility for his role in Floyd's death," Ellison said in a statement Wednesday. "His acknowledgment he did something wrong is an important step toward healing the wounds of the Floyd family, our community & the nation. While accountability is not justice, this is a significant moment in this case & a necessary resolution on our continued journey to justice."

Former Minneapolis Police officer Thomas Lane, center, arrives with his attorney Earl Gray for a hearing at the Hennepin County Public Safety Facility on June 29, 2020, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images

During his federal testimony in February, Lane said on the witness stand that he did not realize Floyd was not breathing until paramedics arrived and turned him over. Lane also testified that while he was trained to administer first aid, he believed that Floyd still had a heartbeat and his suggestion to roll Floyd on his side was disregarded by Chauvin. 

The news comes months after a two-year probe by Minnesota's Department of Human Rights found that the Minneapolis Police Department has engaged "in a pattern or practice of discriminatory, race-based policing" for the past 10 years.

The recent police shooting of 22-year-old Amir Locke during a no-knock raid has placed added scrutiny on the department, especially after officials announced "insufficient admissible evidence" to bring charges against the officers involved. 

"Today's guilty plea by former officer Thomas Lane brings the Floyd family another step towards closure for the horrific and historic murder of George Floyd," attorney Ben Crump, who represents the Floyd family, said in a statement Wednesday. "While today is a step in the right direction, we only need to look to the recent and tragic killing of Amir Locke to understand that the City of Minneapolis has a long journey ahead to regain the trust of its citizenry."

State trials for former officers Thao and Kueng are still scheduled to take place on June 13, where they face charges of second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter.

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