Tou Nmn Thao is one of the four police officers involved in the controversial death of George Floyd. On May 25, 2020, an employee at Cup Foods at 3759 Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States called the Minneapolis Police Department to report a customer who was trying to pay with a counterfeit $20 bill.
It was a deadly encounter witnessed by several bystanders and streamed on Facebook Live. As shown in the video, Floyd was lying face down on the street next to the police car’s rear passenger wheel while repeatedly telling the cops he could not breathe.
Thao did not physically touch Floyd. He was busy interacting with the eyewitnesses, asking them to “get back on the sidewalk” while his three colleagues were holding the arrestee.
Paramedics arrived moments after Floyd started to lose consciousness and he was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis where he was pronounced dead. On May 26, 2020, the Federal Bureau of Investigations launched an investigation and the Minneapolis Police Department terminated Thao, Chauvin, Lane and Kueng.
Thao’s involvement in the case caused problems in the Asian-American community in the U.S. Many people who are also named Tou Thao but had nothing to do with the incident received harassment from strangers.
In Hmong, Tou means son or boy while Thao is one of the 18 clan names. Here are 13 more facts about the Asian-American police officer involved in Floyd’s fatal arrest:
- Born on January 2, 1986, he is of Hmong descent.
- In 2004, he graduated from Fridley High School in Fridley, Minnesota.
- While working at Cub Foods, he attended North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota to earn an associate degree in law enforcement but he never graduated.
- He was part of the police force part-time while attending community college.
- Before attending community college, he worked as a security guard, a supermarket stocker and a trainer at McDonald’s.
- On February 4, 2008, the Minneapolis Police Department hired him as a community service officer.
- In 2009, he went through the Minneapolis Police Academy and was laid off by the Minneapolis Police Department because of budget cuts.
- The Minneapolis Police Department hired him back in 2012 and gave him a full-time position.
- His badge number was 7162.
- At least six complaints were filed against him in his career with the Minneapolis force prior to Floyd’s death but no disciplinary action was ever taken, according to Communities United Against Police Brutality.
- On October 7, 2014, he and fellow police officer Robert Thunder arrested Lamar Ferguson, physically assaulted the arrestee and took him to the hospital before putting him to jail.
- In 2017, he and Thunder were sued by Ferguson for excessive use of force and the case was closed in 2018 with the Minneapolis Police Department settling with Ferguson for $25,000.
- For the case involving the death of Floyd, he is represented by Robert Paule, one of the top-rated criminal defense attorneys in Minneapolis with more than three decades of experience in general practice.