Defendant Thao Interviewed About George Floyd by Bureau of Criminal Apprehension

According to the StarTribune, on or about June 2 (“eight days after George Floyd’s killing on May 25th”), then Minneapolis police officer Tou Thao, before he had been criminally charged, was interviewed for about 100 minutes regarding the George Floyd arrest and killing, by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The video of that interview is now part of the public file of his criminal case. [1]

Again according to the StarTribune,Thao in this interview first was “questioned about his professional history before spending about 12 uninterrupted minutes summarizing his encounter with George Floyd on that fateful day. Then Thao was questioned by a BCA special agent.

Here we will review details of that BCA interview.

Thao’s Own Summary

In his own summary, Thao said he and officer Derek Chauvin responded to a call for backup near Cup Foods. The call sounded urgent and their squad car was the ony one available. About half-way there, the dispatch was ended, but the two of them decided to go anyway because of their experience that Cup Foods was often a gang hang-out hostile to the police and because the officers already there (Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng) were “rookies.”

When they arrived, the rear driver-side door of the other squad car was open. Kueng told them that the suspect had refused to sit in the rear seat of the squad car and had gotten himself out of the car. The suspect was not calm and appeared to be “high” on something.

A crowd was gathering, and Thao called to change the call for an ambulance from “Code 4” (Situation under control) to “Code 3” (“EMERGENCY SITUATION – To be answered immediately, but in a manner enabling the responding units to reach the scene as quickly and safely as possible. MS 169.03 and 169.17 require the use of red lights and siren for emergency”). Thao hoped the medics could provide a better assessment and restraint of the suspect.

Thao and the three other policemen decided not to “hobble” the suspect, i.e. use a Hobble Restraint device with nylon webbing, heavy-duty metal swivel hook and self-locking jawed alligator clip.

Thao focused on traffic and a “loud and hostile” crowd by putting himself between the crowd and the other three officers and suspect in order to prevent the crowd from attacking the other three officers. “As the crowd is starting to grow and become loud and hostile toward us, I decided to forgo [monitoring] traffic and put myself in between the crowd and the officers … and just spend the majority of my attention looking at the crowd — make sure they don’t charge us or bull rush us as the officers on the ground are defenseless,” Thao said, adding that he was a “human traffic cone.”

Eventually the ambulance arrived and Lane left with the suspect in the ambulance.

As the StarTribune noted, during his own summary, Thao did not mention anything about what the other three officers were doing or what the suspect was saying.

BCA’s Questioning of Thao

 When Thao and Chauvin were driving to Cup Foods, they were told someone who had appeared to be intoxicated had passed a “fake bill.” No recall of any mention of weapons or violence.

When they arrived, the suspect already was handcuffed. Thao did not think of any alternative way of restraining the suspect. He was just backup. He did not suggest just talk with the suspect, whom he never touched.

Thao had had  Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), and he had used it before, But he did not suggest doing that because he did not know what already had happened.

Nor did Thao check on the suspect at any point. “No, because my job is scene security. I would trust [the other officers] . . . God gave me only one body and two hands and two legs. I can’t be in two places at once.”

He hoped the paramedics would know what to do. They could restrain the suspect better. Just hold him down without handcuffs.

Thao did not hear Lane say anything about “excited delirium.” From his training, Thao believed “excited delirium” was a mental health or drug-related condition when someone acts erratically with no apparent self-awareness and potentially is explosive or violent.[2]

Thao did hear the suspect say he couldn’t breathe, but he was talking, which meant he was breathing.

Thao saw Chauvin struggling with the suspect. At some point he saw Chauvin’s left knee on the suspect’s neck. There is a specific technique for use of a knee that was taught in training. Thao has never used that technique and had never seen Chauvin use it before.

Most of the time Thao was focused on traffic and the crowd, which at some point said the suspect was not moving. Thao assumed the other officers would take appropriate action.

After Floyd and Lane left the scene in the ambulance, Kueng recommended that they lock up the vehicle Floyd had been driving and leave it parked on the street. Thao thought Kueng did not recognize the potential gravity of the situation so Thao responded, “We’re not going to leave the scene” and took steps to secure the car and the scene as evidence.

Later when he was told that the suspect [Mr. Floyd] had died, Thao said, “I didn’t want anyone to die. It was kind of a somber moment, especially for me. My heart kind of sank.”

At the very end of the interview, Thao was asked, “Do you think you could have done something differently to intervene?” His response: “I’m under the belief that you can always do something differently on every single call… I guess I would be more observant toward Floyd.”

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[1] Xiong, Officer charged in George Floyd’s killing tells investigators his job wasn’t to check on Floyd, video shows, StarTribune (Aug. 15, 2020); Raiche, Former MPD officer Tou Thao reveals to investigators what he could’ve done differently in Floyd case, KSTP.com (Aug. 14, 2020); Shen, Minneapolis cop Tou Thao told investigators he feared George Floyd ‘would have superhuman strength if he was on drugs’ and admits ‘his heart sank’ when he died on the sidewalk, dailymail.com (Aug. 15, 2020); Assoc. Press. Officer minimized role in Floyd’s death during questioning, StarTribune (Aug. 15, 2020); BCA interview with Tou Thao after George Floyd killing is released, StarTribune (Aug. 15, 2020) (video); Exhibits Attached to Affidavit of Matthew Frank, State v. Thao, Court File No. 27-CR-20-12949 (Hennepin County District Court Aug. 12, 2020) (Ex. 4 (Thao BCA Interview on flash drive)).

[2] Three distinguished medical scientists have said that “excited delirium” is “pseudoscience.” (See Concept of “Excited Delirium” Is Junk Science, dwkcommentaries.com (July 21, 2020).)

 

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dwkcommentaries

As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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