Tou Thao, a former Minneapolis police officer, has been found guilty for his role in the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. The decision was announced by Judge Peter Cahill in court documents on Monday, May 2nd. Thao has been found guilty of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter, and his sentencing is scheduled for August 7th.
Thao had been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter, but the first count was dismissed “pursuant to the state’s motion and the parties’ agreement regarding submission of the charge in Count II to the court for trial on stipulated evidence,” according to court documents.
Thao is already serving time on federal charges related to Floyd’s death, having been convicted of depriving Floyd of his civil rights alongside former officers Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng.
The decision by Cahill was laid out in a 177-page document following Thao’s stipulated-evidence trial, which he opted for last fall. This rare trial format meant that a judge decided the case without the questioning of witnesses and testimony in a courtroom. Closing arguments were submitted in writing.
Thao was not one of the officers who were holding Floyd down, but was instead on crowd control duty as bystanders gathered, demanding that the officers get off Floyd as he struggled to breathe. Thao’s defense argued that he suggested an alternative form of restraint and took steps to get medics to the scene “as quickly as possible.”
Thao’s attorneys also argued that he had been trained at the academy to use a restraint similar to how former officer Derek Chauvin was positioned on Floyd, including examples from his training. “Thao’s actions were directly in accordance with exactly what MPD trained him to do when a person is suspected of experiencing excited delirium,” the defense argued.
Prosecutors, however, argued that by not intervening and preventing others from doing so, Thao was liable for Floyd’s death. They also pointed out that at times, Thao was seen on video watching his fellow officers improperly restrain Floyd, which they say dispels any argument that Thao wasn’t aware of what they were doing. The prosecution also argued that Thao was trained to know what Chauvin was doing was wrong.
“The death of George Floyd was a tragedy. Yet the fact that a tragic death occurred does not transfer it into a criminal act,” the defense concluded. “Thao is innocent of the charges against him because he did not intend that his specific actions were done to assist in the commission of a crime.”
The judge had 90 days to reach a decision in the case. Chauvin was convicted of murder nearly two years ago in the case, while co-defendants Lane and Kueng were convicted of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.