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Ex-Minneapolis Cop Tou Thao Testifies In Own Defense At George Floyd Civil Rights Trial

Tou Thao, one of the three former Minneapolis officers charged with violating George Floyd's civil rights, testified that his role at the scene was crowd control and he didn't see what Derek Chauvin was doing.

By The Associated Press
Tou Thao Ap

A former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd's killing testified Wednesday that he realized Floyd's pleas that he couldn't breathe were becoming weaker, but still did not realize the Black man was in danger even as bystanders became increasingly vocal.

Tou Thao is one of three former officers charged in federal court with violating Floyd's constitutional rights when Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for 9 1/2 minutes as the 46-year-old man was handcuffed, facedown on the street. 

Under cross-examination by prosecutor LeeAnn Bell, Thao said he did not relay any of the onlookers' concerns about Floyd's well-being to the other officers. He said he was relying on them to care for Floyd's medical needs while he controlled the crowd and traffic and that he didn't think Chauvin's knee was pressing on Floyd's trachea.

Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane are accused of depriving Floyd of medical care. Kueng and Thao are also accused of failing to intervene to stop the May 25, 2020, killing, which triggered protests worldwide and a reexamination of racism and policing. The charges allege the officers' actions resulted in Floyd's death.

On Tuesday, Thao testified that when he and Chauvin arrived, Kueng and Lane were struggling with Floyd. Thao said he took a position on the roadway to serve as "a human traffic cone" to keep cars away from the other officers. 

Kueng knelt on Floyd's back, while Lane held his legs. They also are expected to testify.

Thao's attorney, Robert Paule, asked Thao whether he saw any officers roll Floyd over and perform CPR. He said he did not, and presumed that meant Floyd was breathing.

"It indicated that Mr. Floyd was not in cardiac arrest," said Thao, who later testified that he didn't know there was anything seriously wrong with Floyd even as an ambulance took him away.

But Bell noted video shows Thao looking at the other officers much of the time and suggested that bystanders and traffic were not big threats. Thao acknowledged under cross-examination that he did nothing to provide medical care to Floyd or intervene to stop Chauvin even after it appeared to him that Floyd was no longer resisting. 

Thao conceded he was standing near Floyd when he stopped speaking and moving.

"And you know that's a red flag," Bell said.

"Not always, but you should take note," Thao responded.

Prosecutors rested their case Monday after calling to the stand doctors, police officers and bystanders to build an argument that the officers should have intervened to stop Chauvin and that they violated their training by not rolling Floyd onto his side so he could breathe or giving him CPR.

Defense attorneys are seeking to show that the Minneapolis Police Department provided inadequate training and taught cadets to obey superiors. Chauvin, who was  convicted of state murder and manslaughter charges last year, was the most senior officer at the scene. 

Police tried to arrest Floyd after responding to a 911 call that he used a counterfeit $20 bill at a corner store. 

Lane, who is white; Kueng, who is Black; and Thao, who is Hmong American, also face a separate state trial in June on charges alleging that they aided and abetted murder and manslaughter.

Chauvin, who is white, pleaded guilty in December to a federal civil rights charge.

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