Ex-US officer who kneeled on George Floyd’s back gets 3.5 years

Former Minneapolis police officer J Alexander Kueng’s sentence is ‘another piece of justice’ for Floyd family, lawyer says.

A mugshot of Kueng
J Alexander Kueng admitted in his plea agreement that he knew from his training that restraining a handcuffed person in a prone position came with serious risks [File: Hennepin County Sheriff's Office via AP Photo]

A former United States police officer has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for his role in the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man whose May 2020 killing at the hands of Minneapolis police set off a wave of mass protests.

J Alexander Kueng appeared for a sentencing hearing in Hennepin County District Court on Friday, joining via video link from a federal prison in Ohio, where he is already serving a three-year federal sentence for violating Floyd’s civil rights.

He had pleaded guilty in October to state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter, and both sentences will be served at the same time.

“Mr Kueng was not simply a bystander that day. He did less than what some of the bystanders attempted to do in helping Mr Floyd,” said Matthew Frank, who led the prosecution effort for the Minnesota attorney general’s office.

Floyd was killed on May 25, 2020, when another Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, handcuffed him and kneeled on his neck for more than nine minutes while Floyd repeatedly said that he could not breathe and bystanders implored the officer to stop.

Keung was one of the three other officers present at the scene, and he kneeled on Floyd’s back while Chauvin kneeled on his neck.

Floyd’s death sparked outrage and helped ignite a massive protest movement for racial justice and greater accountability for police, with thousands of people participating in demonstrations around the world.

Lawyer Ben Crump, who has represented the Floyd family, said in a statement before Friday’s hearing that Kueng’s sentencing “delivers yet another piece of justice for the Floyd family”.

“While the family faces yet another holiday season without George, we hope that moments like these continue to bring them a measure of peace, knowing that George’s death was not in vain,” Crump said.

In February, Keung and fellow officers Tou Thao and Thomas Lane were found guilty in federal court of violating Floyd’s civil rights and depriving him of medical care.

They received prison sentences ranging from two and a half to three and a half years, and a plea deal by Keung means that he will serve his three-and-a-half-year sentence on state charges concurrently with his three-year federal sentence.

In his state plea agreement, Keung admitted that he knew from his training that restraining a handcuffed person in a prone position came with serious risks and that using the technique on Floyd was unreasonable under the circumstances.

Chauvin received a 21-year prison sentence in July on federal charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights. He also was sentenced last year to 22.5 years in prison after being found guilty of murder in a state case.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies