Tou Thao, a former Minneapolis police officer who held back bystanders while his colleagues restrained a dying George Floyd has been convicted of aiding and abetting manslaughter. Thao, who already had been convicted in federal court of violating Floyd’s civil rights, was last of the four former officers accused in state court in Floyd’s killing, the Associated Press reports. He rejected a plea agreement and, let Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill decide the case based on written filings by each side and evidence presented in previous cases. “Thao’s actions were not authorized by law. ... 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. Prosecutors argued that Thao “acted without courage and displayed no compassion” despite his nearly nine years of experience, and that he disregarded his training even though he could see Floyd dying.
Floyd, a Black man, died May 25, 2020, after officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, pinned him to the ground with his knee on Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes. Bystander video captured Floyd’s fading cries of “I can’t breathe.” Floyd’s killing touched off protests around the world and forced a reckoning with police brutality and racism. Chauvin, the senior officer at the scene, was convicted of murder and manslaughter in April 2021 and later pleaded guilty in the federal case. Two other officers — J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane — pleaded guilty to state charges of aiding and abetting manslaughter and were convicted with Thao in the federal case.
“The conviction of Tou Thao is historic and the right outcome,” said Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who led the prosecution team. “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." Unlike the other three former officers, Thao maintained that he did nothing wrong. “Every one of Thao’s actions was done based upon the training he received from the Minneapolis Police Department,” said his attorney. He argued that Thao “reasonably believed” that Floyd was experiencing a disputed condition known as “excited delirium” that some medical examiners have attributed as a cause of other in-custody deaths, particularly when someone has taken drugs.