When George Floyd was killed on May 25, 2020, Tou Thao was a Minneapolis police officer who was in charge of monitoring and restraining the large nearby crowd of bystanders while observing fellow officers Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane and Alexander Kueng physically restraining and killing George Floyd on the nearby pavement. On August 7, 2023, Thao was sentenced in state court to 57 months imprisonment for aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. The following is a summary of Minnesota state courts’ proceedings, convictions and sentencings of these four ex-Minneapolis police officers.
Prior State Court Proceedings
The State of Minnesota charged Thao and the other three officers with various crimes for the killing of Mr. Floyd. The officer in charge, Derek Chauvin, was the first officer to go on trial in the Hennepin County District Court and a jury found him guilty of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter and the court sentenced him to 22.5 years imprisonment.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals then denied Chauvin’s appeal and the Minnesota Supreme Court declined to hear his further appeal. According to his attorney, Chauvin will petition the U.S. Supreme Court to review his case.
In Hennepin County District Court in May 2022, Officer Lane pleaded guilty to a charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to 2.5 years imprisonment.
In October 2022, also in Hennepin County District Court, Kueng pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting manslaughter and was sentenced to three years imprisonment.
Thao, however, rejected a proposed guilty plea and instead chose to have Judge Cahill try him on stipulated evidence.
District Court’s Conviction of Thao
On May 1, 2023, District Court Judge Peter Cahill issued the Court’s 177-page Verdict, Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Memorandum Opinion. In finding Thao guilty of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter of George Floyd, the Verdict stated:
- “Thao actively encouraged his three colleagues’ dangerous prone restraint of Floyd while holding back a crowd of concerned bystanders begging the officers to render medical aid. Thao knew, as the minutes passed and the restraint continue unimpeded, that Floyd had stopped talking and fallen silent, had stopped moving altogether, and
- had become totally unresponsive. In fact, by about six minutes into the restraint, Floyd stopped breathing, lost consciousness, and became pulseless.”
- That night Thao “was an experienced Minneapolis police officer with almost a decade’s experience. He knew that the officers’ prone restraint could kill. Like the other officers, Thao had been trained specifically to turn an individual onto his side to avoid positional asphyxia, the very thing that several eminent medical specialists who testified at trial concluded caused Floyd’s death. Like the bystanders, Thao could see Floyd’s life slowly ebbing away as the restraint continued. Yet Thao made a conscious decision to actively participate in Floyd’s death: he held back the concerned bystanders and even prevented an off-duty Minneapolis firefighter from rendering the medical aid Floyd so desperately needed.”
- ““Thao also directly insisted upon continuing the restraint that took Floyd’s death that night. Soon after Floyd had been subdued prone on the street, Thao retrieved a device called a ‘hobble’ from Lane’s and Kueng’s squad. If properly employed, that hobble would have saved Floyd’s life. But Thao encouraged the other officers not to use the hobble and instead to ‘hold on’ and continue the physical restraint by which his three fellow officers were bearing down on Floyd, forcing him into the unyielding concrete of the street, drastically inhibiting his ability to breathe effectively. Thao’s stated reason? ‘If we hobble him, the sergeant is going to have to come out’ to complete the paper work for a ‘use of force review’ mandated by MPD policy whenever the hobble is employed. The short of it: Tou Thao did not want to follow the proper protocol and the work it would entail. George Floyd died as a result.”
District Court’s Sentencing of Thao
On August 3, 2023, Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Erin Eldridge submitted a three-page letter to the Court noting that the presumptive sentence for this crime for Thao was 48 months with a guideline range of 41 to 57 months and that the State requested the imposition of a 51 month sentence for the following reasons:
- “Thao’s conduct was calculated, deliberate, and directly facilitated and perpetuated the restraint that led to Floyd’s death. Throughout the encounter, Thao was aware of Floyd’s distress and the dangerousness of the ongoing prone restraint. Thao discouraged the officers from using a hobble—a device that, if properly utilized, would have saved Floyd’s life. . . . Instead, Thao actively encouraged his fellow officers to continue to restrain Floyd prone on the ground. . . . . . Thao also ‘expressly refused to allow’ ‘a trained Minneapolis firefighter’ ‘to tend to Floyd, . . . despite Floyd’s obvious distress. . . . In short, Thao bears personal responsibility for what happened that day. This Court should impose a punishment that reflects Thao’s culpability.”
- “Thao’s conduct was even more egregious in light of his extensive experience and training. Thao completed the police academy in 2009, and became a full-time officer in 2012, serving in that capacity for 8 years. …. Over the course of his multi-year career, Thao completed 1,014 hours of MPD training, including medical training, defensive tactics training, procedural justice training, and crisis intervention training. . . . .Above all, Thao had been trained about the importance of placing individuals in the side recovery position to alleviate the risk of positional asphyxia. . . . Yet despite his extensive on-the-job experience and copious training, Thao intentionally encouraged the use of a dangerous prone restraint, discouraged the use of a hobble, and prevented an off-duty firefighter from rendering aid. In short, Thao knew better, but did not do better.”
- “Thao acted callously and cruelly. Thao mocked Floyd, telling the concerned bystanders: ‘This is why you don’t do drugs, kids.’ . . . . Thao dismissed Floyd’s pleas: ‘He’s talking, so he’s fine.’ . . . And Thao encouraged the dangerous behavior for selfish reasons: In Thao’s words, if the officers used a hobble, ‘a sergeant’s going to have to come [to the scene].’ ….This Court put it best: ‘Tou Thao did not want to follow the proper protocol and the work it would entail. George Floyd died as a result.’ . . . . “
- “[A] a significant term of incarceration would serve as a deterrent for similar misconduct. Police officers enforce the law; they are not above the law. A 51-month prison sentence will discourage other public servants from engaging in similar criminal behavior or abuses of authority.”
- “Thao has neither accepted responsibility nor shown any remorse for his actions”
At the August 7 sentencing hearing, Mr. Eldridge said, “George Floyd’s last words were heard around the world, but more importantly they were heard by Tou Thao and we cannot forget them now three years later.”
Mr. Thao’s attorney, Robert Paule, said at the hearing, “The death of Mr. Floyd is a tragedy, but the court is a place of justice, not retribution. Mr. Thao went out that day with the purest intentions. My client is a good and decent man with a family.” Paule then requested a sentence of 47 months, which was 10 months less than the maximum of the sentencing guidelines.
Mr. Thao then spoke for about 23 minutes to say, “Hold on to the truth that I did not commit these crimes; my conscience is clear. I will not be a Judas nor join a mob in self-preservation or betray my God. I did not intend on hurting anyone that day. I did the best I thought I could. Obviously the outcome didn’t come out the way I wanted it. I’ll leave it at that” without any apology. He then quoted Biblical passages and preached of repentance, fear of God and forgiveness. “Today if you feel the love of God pulling at your heart. . . . Let it be your day of salvation. Do not harden your heart in rebellion, for God desired mercy and relationship with you.”
Thao then directly asked Judge Cahill if he was a brother in Christ and apologized if he had offended the Judge by refusing to take a guilty plea deal and having said, “it would be a lie and a sin for me to accept a plea deal.” The Judge then said no offense was taken.
Thao closed by saying that he is praying for everyone in the room, including the Judge, and that if anyone needs him for prayer, “you know where to find me. Thank you judge. God bless you.”
Judge Cahill then said, “After three years of reflection, I was hoping for a little more remorse, regret, acknowledgement of some responsibility and less preaching.” The Judge added that he would not rehash the facts of the case, but that Thao’s “culpability is less than Mr. Chauvin, but well above Mr. Kueng and Mr. Lane as an experienced senior officer who was in the best position to save George Floyd.” Therefore, a sentence of 57 months was appropriate.
This sentence will be served in Minnesota state prison, to which he will be transferred from federal prison where he already is serving his federal sentence of 42 months for violations of Floyd’s civil rights with the balance of that federal sentence to be served concurrently with the state sentence. 
After the hearing, Thao’s attorney said he would appeal the guilty verdict and the sentence.
 Tou Thao, ex-MPD Officer, Convicted for Aiding and Abetting Second-Degree Manslaughter of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (May 3, 2023); Briefs in Tou Thao’s State Court Criminal Case Over Killing of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (Feb. 2, 2023);
 Hyatt, Ex-Minneapolis cop Tou Thao sentenced to nearly 5 years for aiding George Floyd’s killing, StarTribune (Aug. 7, 2023); Karnowski, Ex-Minneapolis officer unrepentant as he gets nearly 5 years in George Floyd killing, AP News (Aug. 7, 2023); Betts, Former Officer Gets More than 4 Years in Final Sentencing for Police Killing of George Floyd, N.Y. Times (Aug. 7, 2023). Bailey, Ex-Minneapolis officer gets second sentence in George Floyd’s death, Wash. Post (Aug. 7, 2023); Helmore, Ex-officer sentenced to nearly five years for role in George Floyd’s murder, Guardian (Aug. 7, 2023); Letter, Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Erin R. Eldridge to Judge Peter Cahill (Aug. 3, 2023).
 Tou and the other three ex-MPD officers were also sued in federal court for alleged violations of Mr. Floyd’s civil rights. All four of them were convicted and sentenced to federal imprisonment. (E.g., U.S. Court of Appeals Affirms Federal Conviction of Tou Thao for Violating the Civil Rights of George Floyd, dwkcommentaries.com (Aug. 5, 2023).) https://www.startribune.com/tou-thao-sentenced-nearly-5-years-aiding-george-floyds-killing/600295391/?refresh=true