Former officers Tou Thao, 36, J. Alexander Kueng, 28, and Thomas Lane, 38, tried to restrain Floyd as Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck and back for more than 9 minutes during the arrest, resulting in Floyd’s death.
Attorneys for the defendants have pointed to various reasons for why the officers did not render aid or stop Chauvin, including their deference to Chauvin’s 18 years of service with the department and a lack of proper training.
“They had opportunity and means to (help) and didn’t … Disregarding that is willfulness,” Assistant US Attorney LeeAnn Bell said during closing arguments.
Floyd, handcuffed and lying face down as Chauvin knelt on him, soon fell unconscious and stopped breathing. The officers called for medical services but did not render aid to Floyd, and he remained in the same position until paramedics arrived. He was declared dead later that night.
In addition to the ongoing federal proceedings, the three former officers will face a state trial later this year on charges of aiding and abetting in Floyd’s murder.
3 former officers testified
The arrest began after Floyd came under suspicion of having used a counterfeit $20 bill at a Minneapolis convenience store. All three ex-officers testified that Floyd seemed to be displaying some erratic behavior at the start of their encounter.
Lane — who was working just his fourth day with the Minneapolis Police Department — and Kueng were the first to arrive on the scene. Kueng testified Floyd “was very hyperactive” and had difficulty responding to questions when initially approached by police.
Unsure of what to do, Lane testified, Chauvin “either asked or cut in front of me and asked if he was under arrest and then informed George Floyd that he was under arrest for forgery.”
“I recall officer Chauvin saying we’re going to bring him down,” Kueng told the jury. Lane and Kueng controlled Floyd’s torso and legs while Chauvin then knelt on Floyd, who was face down and handcuffed.
Officers could and should have done more, prosecution says
Multiple witnesses also testified the three ex-officers made no attempt to get Chauvin off Floyd’s neck or to render medical care. Several medical experts testified this was “a survivable” event and that CPR would have saved Floyd’s life.
“Force used has to be appropriate and proportional at the time,” she said. “If they go unconscious, you cannot continue to use force.”
Assistant US Attorney Manda Sertich stated during closing arguments that Thao and Kueng “had the ability, authority, opportunity, means, and duty to intervene,” adding that there was plenty of time for Kueng and Thao to take action.
“It wasn’t a split-second use of force like a gunshot,” she said, adding that it was “not 30 seconds, not a minute. Several minutes, 569 seconds (…) Defendants Thao and Keung watched while George Floyd condition slowly deteriorated,” Sertich argued, adding that the officers’ relative inexperience did not make them unable to recognize a medical emergency situation.
Even Lane, she pointed out, knew what needed to be done, as evidenced by his question of whether they should turn Floyd over. But asking a question isn’t rendering medical aid, Sertich said.
CNN’s Bill Kirkos, Amir Vera, Eric Levenson, Eliott C. McLaughlin, Brad Parks, Scottie Andrew and Paul Vercammen contributed to this report.