crime and punishment

Criminal complaint against Tou Thao, J Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane

  1. aiding and abetting second degree murder, unintentional, while committing a felony
  2. aiding and abetting second degree manslaughter, culpable negligence creating unreasonable risk

STATEMENT OF PROBABLE CAUSE

On May 25, 2020, someone called 911 and reported that a man bought merchandise from Cup Foods at 3759 Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota with a counterfeit $20 bill. At 8:09 p.m., Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) Officers Thomas Lane and J.A. Kueng arrived with their body worn cameras (BWCs) activated and running. The officers learned from store personnel that the man who passed the counterfeit $20 bill was parked in a car around the corner from the store on 38th Street.

BWC video obtained by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension shows that the officers approached the car. Lane on the driver’s side and Kueng on the passenger side. Three people were in the car. George Floyd was in the driver’s seat, a known adult male was in the passenger seat and known adult female was sitting in the back seat. As Officer lane began speaking with Mr. Floyd, he pulled his gun out and pointed it at Mr. Floyd’s open window and directed Mr. Floyd to show his hands. When Mr. Floyd put his hands on the steering wheel, Lane put his gun back in its holster.

While Officer Kueng was speaking with the front seat passenger, Lane ordered Mr. Floyd out of the car, put his hands on Mr. Floyd, and pulled him out of the car. Lane handcuffed Mr. Floyd.

Once handcuffed, Mr. Floyd walked with Lane to the sidewalk and sat on the ground at Lane’s direction. When Mr. Floyd sat down, he said “thank you man” and was calm. In a conversation that lasted just under two minutes, Lane asked Mr. Floyd for his name and identification. Lane asked Mr. Floyd if he was “on anything” and noted there was foam at the edges of his mouth. Lane explained that he was arresting Floyd for passing counterfeit currency.

At 8:14 p.m., Officers Lane and Kueng stood Mr. Floyd up and attempted to walk Mr. Floyd to their squad car (MPD 320). As the officers tried to put Mr. Floyd in their squad car, Mr. Floyd stiffened up and fell to the ground, Mr. Floyd told the officers that he was not resisting but did not want to get in the back seat and was claustrophobic.

MPD Officers Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao then arrived in a separate squad car.

The officers made several attempts to get Mr. Floyd in the backseat of their squad car by pushing him from the driver’s side. As the officers were trying to force Mr. Floyd in the backseat, Mr. Floyd reportedly said that he could not breathe. Mr. Floyd did not voluntarily sit in the backseat and the officers physically struggled to try to get him in the backseat.

Officer Chauvin went to the passenger side and tried to get Mr. Floyd into the car from that side and Lane and Kueng assisted.

Officer Chauvin pulled Mr. Floyd out of the passenger side of the squad car at 8:19:38 p.m. and Mr. Floyd went to the ground face down and still handcuffed. Officer Kueng held Mr. Floyd’s back and Officer Lane held his legs. Officer Chauvin placed his left knee in the area of Mr. Floyd’s head and neck. Mr. Floyd said “I can’t breathe” multiple times and repeatedly said “Mama” and “please,” as well. At one point, Mr. Floyd said “I’m about to die.” Officer Chauvin and the other two officers stayed in their positions.

Thao initially obtained a hobble restraint from the squad car to restrain Mr. Floyd in that manner but the officers decided not to use it and maintained their positions. During this time, Thao looked directly at how Chauvin was restraining Mr. Floyd with Chauvin’s knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck area and observed that the three officers had Mr. Floyd subdued in this manner. Thao then became concerned about a number of citizens who had gathered and were watching the officers subdue Mr. Floyd and potential traffic concerns, and so Thao stood between those citizens and the three officers restraining Mr. Floyd. When one citizen stepped off the curb, imploring Chauvin to get off of Mr. Floyd, Thao put his hands on the citizen to keep him back.

One of the officers said, “You are talking fine” to Mr. Floyd as he continued to move back and forth. Lane asked “should we roll him on his side?” and Officer Chauvin said, “No, staying put where we got him.” Lane said, “I am worried about excited delirium or whatever.” Officer Chauvin said, “That’s why we have him on his stomach.” Officer Chauvin and Officer Kueng held Mr. Floyd’s right hand up. None of the three officers moved from their positions.

While Mr. Floyd showed slight movements, his movements and sounds decreased until at 8:24:24, Mr. Floyd stopped moving. At 8:25:31, the video appears to show Mr. Floyd ceasing to breathe or speak. Lane said, “want to roll him on his side.” Kueng checked Mr. Floyd’s right wrist for a pulse and said, “I couldn’t find one.” None of the officers moved from their positions.

At 8:27:24, Officer Chauvin removed his knee from Mr. Floyd’s neck. An ambulance and emergency medical personnel arrived, the officers placed Mr. Floyd on a gurney, and the ambulance left the scene. Mr. Floyd was pronounced dead at Hennepin County Medical Center.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner (ME) conducted Mr. Floyd’s autopsy on May 26, 2020. While the ME did not observe physical findings supportive of mechanical asphyxia, the ME opined that Mr. Floyd died from cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officers. The autopsy revealed that Mr. Foyd had arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease, and toxicology testing revealed the presence of fentanyl and evidence of recent methamphetamine use. The ME opined that the effects of the officers’ restrained of Mr. Floyd is underlying health conditions, and the presence of the drugs contributed to his death. The ME listed the cause of death as “(c)ardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restrain, and neck compression,” and concluded the manner of death was homicide.

Officers Chauvin, lane, and Kueng subdued prone to the ground in this manner for nearly 9 minutes. During this time, Mr. Floyd repeatedly stated he could not breathe and his physical condition continued to deteriorate such that force was no longer necessary to control him. Officer Chauvin had his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in total. Two minutes and 53 seconds of this was after Mr. Floyd was non-responsive. Police officers are trained that this type of restraint with a subject in a prone position is inherently dangerous. Officer Chauvin’s restraint of Mr. Floyd in this manner for a prolonged period was a substantial causal factor in Mr. Floyd losing consciousness, constituting substantial bodily harm, and Mr. Floyd’s death as well.

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