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Ex-cop Tou Thao gets nearly 5 years for role in police custody killing of George Floyd


Left: Tou Thau (via Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office/AP). Right: FILE – Former Minneapolis police officer Tou Thao, left, and his attorney, Robert Paule, arrive for sentencing for violating George Floyd’s civil rights outside the federal courthouse, July 27, 2022, in St. Paul, Minn. (David Joles/Star Tribune via AP, File). Inset: Thao at the scene of George Floyd’s death while in police custody (via Facebook screengrab).

Tou Thao, the last former Minneapolis police officer to be sentenced for his role in the killing of George Floyd, was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison, a state judge ruled on Monday.

Prosecutors sought an additional 51 months, or 4 years in prison, for Thao, telling Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill in its proposed sentencing brief that Thao’s conduct was “calculated, deliberate, and directly facilitated and perpetuated the restraint that led to Floyd’s death.”

Thao, they noted, knew Floyd was in distress and encouraged officers who had Floyd pinned on the ground to keep him in the prone position instead of using a hobble, or a type of leg restraint that may have saved Floyd’s life. During his bench trial, Thao told the court he didn’t want to use the hobble because it meant a superior officer would have to come to the scene.

Prosecutors specifically urged Cahill to weigh the former police officer’s “personal responsibility” for what happened as well as his callousness and cruelty and his failure to accept responsibility or show remorse for his actions.

Thao refused to allow a trained local firefighter on the scene to tend to Floyd despite the blatant nature of his injuries. Thao also mocked Floyd as he begged for his life while Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for nine-and-a-half minutes, ultimately killing him.

“He’s talking, so he’s fine,” Thao told bystanders on May 25, 2020.  Thao also glibly remarked, “This is why you don’t do drugs, kids.”

In court, Thao said he was just a “human traffic cone” in place to keep people away from the scene and other officers.

Cahill found Thao guilty of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death this May, highlighting at length that it was Thao’s actions specifically that led to Floyd’s demise. There were two other officers nearby — including one with emergency medical expertise — who could have helped Floyd but for Thao’s actions, Cahill found.

Proof existed beyond a reasonable doubt that the former police officer behaved in a way that was “objectively unreasonable,” he wrote.

“Thao’s actions were even more unreasonable in light of the fact that he was under duty to intervene to stop the other officers’ excessive use of force and was trained to render medical aid,” Cahill added.

Thao rejected a plea bargain for the state charge this February, telling the court “it would be lying for me to accept any plea offer.”

Fellow former Minneapolis police officers J. Alexander Keung and Thomas Lane did accept plea deals for the state case.

Thao is already serving time on his federal sentence after he was convicted on two counts of depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights. That sentence was 3.5 years. Thao tried to appeal that sentence on Aug. 4 and failed. He was unable to convince an appellate panel that prosecutors did not provide sufficient evidence of his intent.

The death of George Floyd sparked national and international outcry over police brutality and systemic racism, touching off a wave of protests in the U.S. A representative for the Floyd family could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday.

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