Ex-Minneapolis cop gets nearly 5 years for role in Floyd’s death

Thao denies wrongdoing and preaches Christianity

Tou Thao, the last former Minneapolis police officer convicted in state court for his role in the killing of George Floyd, was sentenced Monday to 4 years and 9 months — even as he denied wrongdoing. Thao had testified that he merely served as a “human traffic cone” when he held back concerned bystanders who gathered as former Officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes while the Black man pleaded for his life on May 25, 2020. A bystander video captured Floyd’s fading cries of “I can’t breathe.”


At the sentencing hearing, Thao spoke at length about his growth as a Christian during his 340 days behind bars. He said he was “distressed” by Floyd’s death but denied any role in it. “I did not commit these crimes,” Thao said. “My conscience is clear. I will not be a Judas nor join a mob in self-preservation or betray my God.”

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill responded that he was hoping “for more than preaching” from Thao. “After thee years of reflection, I was hoping for a little more remorse,” the judge said.

Thao’s attorney, Robert Paule, said afterward that they will appeal. He declined further comment.

Prosecutors say Thao knew better and did nothing

Assistant Attorney General Erin Eldridge said during the hearing that Floyd’s final words “reverberated across the globe.” Floyd, she said, “narrated his own death over the course of a restraint that lasted more than 9 long minutes until he lost consciousness, stopped breathing and his heart stopped beating.”

Thao, she said, “stood by and allowed it to happen” and stopped others from moving in to help the dying man. “He knew better, and he was trained to do better,” Eldridge said.

Floyd’s killing touched off protests worldwide and forced a national reckoning of police brutality and racism.

Cahill found Thao guilty in May of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

Thao faces federal charges along with other ex-officers

Thao is one of four former officers who also face federal charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights. He pleaded not guilty to those charges last month.

The other three ex-officers are Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane. Chauvin was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison for second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter in state court. He also pleaded not guilty to the federal charges.

Kueng and Lane were convicted of aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter. They were sentenced to six years each in state prison. They also pleaded not guilty to the federal charges.

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