A former Minneapolis police officer has been sentenced to nearly five years in prison for his role in the killing of George Floyd, whose death in 2020 set off racial justice protests across the United States and the world.
Tou Thao, the last former Minneapolis police officer convicted in state court for his role in Floyd’s killing, was sentenced to four years and nine months on Monday.
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“I was hoping for a little more remorse, regret, acknowledgment of some responsibility,” Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill said before handing down the sentence.
Thao had testified that he merely served as a “human traffic cone” when he held back concerned bystanders who gathered as another former Minneapolis officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes in the fatal incident on May 25, 2020, in the northern state of Minnesota.
In May, Cahill found Thao guilty of one count of aiding and abetting manslaughter in the second degree for his role in the killing, which was captured on bystander video.
In his 177-page ruling, Cahill said Thao’s actions separated Chauvin and two other former officers from the crowd, including an emergency medical technician, allowing his colleagues to continue restraining Floyd and preventing bystanders from providing medical aid.
“There is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Thao’s actions were objectively unreasonable from the perspective of a reasonable police officer, when viewed under the totality of the circumstances,” Cahill wrote.
The judge concluded: “Thao’s actions were even more unreasonable in light of the fact that he was under a duty to intervene to stop the other officers’ excessive use of force and was trained to render medical aid.”
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and other prosecutors handling the case had asked the judge to sentence Thao to 51 months in prison.
Thao had rejected a plea bargain on the state charge, saying “it would be lying” to plead guilty when he did not think he was in the wrong.
He instead agreed to let Cahill decide the case based on evidence from Chauvin’s 2021 murder trial and the federal civil rights trial in 2022 of Thao and former officers Thomas Lane and J Alexander Kueng.
“I didn’t intend on doing any malice or … try hurt anyone. That was never my intent. I did the best that I thought I could,” Thao said in court before he was sentenced.
Lawyers for the former officer were not immediately available for comment on Monday, the Reuters news agency reported.
Chauvin, the officer captured on cellphone video kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he pleaded for help and repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe,” was found guilty of murder in 2021.
The other two officers, Lane and Kueng, restrained Floyd’s knees and hips while Chauvin knelt on his neck.
Last year, Lane and Kueng pleaded guilty in state court to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Lane was sentenced to three and a half years in prison while Kueng was sentenced to three years.
At a federal trial last year, Kueng and Lane were also found guilty of violating Floyd’s civil rights.
Lane was sentenced to two and a half years and Kueng to three years in federal prison, to run at the same time with the state sentence.
Chauvin was sentenced to 22 and a half years in state prison for the unintentional second-degree murder of Floyd. Last year, he received a concurrent sentence of 21 years in prison on federal charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights.