Tou Nmn Thao is of Hmong descent. He 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, Hennepin County, Minnesota, United States called the Minneapolis Police Department to report a customer who was trying to pay with a counterfeit $20 bill. Apparently, Floyd matched the suspect’s descriptions and was arrested by Thao and three other cops namely Derek Michael Chauvin, Thomas Kiernan Lane and J Alexander Kueng.
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 things about him:
- He worked as a security guard, a supermarket stocker and a trainer at McDonald’s before attending North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota to earn an associate degree in law enforcement. While attending the community college, he was part of the police force part-time and was working at Cub Foods. He never graduated from the community college.
- In 2004, he graduated from Fridley High School in Fridley, Minnesota.
- 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.
- In 2012, the Minneapolis Police Department hired him back and gave him a full-time position.
- On October 7, 2014, he and fellow police officer Robert Thunder arrested Lamar Ferguson, physically assaulted Ferguson and took Ferguson to the hospital before putting Ferguson to jail.
- In 2017, he and Thunder were sued by Ferguson for excessive use of force.
- In 2018, the case involving him, Thunder and Ferguson was closed with the Minneapolis Police Department settling with Ferguson for $25,000.
- At least six complaints were filed against him in his career with the Minneapolis force prior to Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020 but no disciplinary action was ever taken, according to Communities United Against Police Brutality.
- He was 36 years old when he was involved in the fatal arrest of Floyd on May 25, 2020.
- On February 24, 2022, 12 jurors found him, Lane and Kueng guilty of depriving Floyd of his civil rights by showing deliberate indifference to Floyd’s medical needs as Chauvin knelt on Floyd on May 25, 2020. He and Kueng were also found guilty of failing to intervene to stop Chauvin. He was represented by Robert Paule.
- On July 27, 2022, Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson sentenced him to 3 years and 6 months in prison and said he would be incarcerated either in Duluth, Minnesota or South Dakota, USA to allow him to be near family. He is allowed to self-surrender by October 4, 2022.
- On October 24, 2022, he will be put on trial in Hennepin County on state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.