Washington (AFP) – Two former Minneapolis police officers were sentenced to prison on Wednesday for their roles in the May 2020 killing of George Floyd, a Black man whose death sparked protests against racial injustice across the United States.
US District Judge Paul Magnuson sentenced J. Alexander Kueng, 28, to three years in prison and 36-year-old Tou Thao to three and a half years on federal charges.
Kueng and Thao were convicted in February of violating Floyd's civil rights, showing “deliberate indifference” to his medical needs and failing to intervene to stop the use of “unreasonable force” by another officer, Derek Chauvin.
Kueng, Thao and Chauvin were among four police officers involved in Floyd's arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill to buy a pack of cigarettes.
Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the force, was videotaped by a bystander kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed Floyd for nearly 10 minutes until he passed out and died.
He was found guilty of murder and is serving more than 20 years in prison.
The fourth officer, Thomas Lane, was also convicted in February of violating Floyd's civil rights and was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
Lane's lawyers had asked for a lighter sentence for him on the grounds that he had suggested placing Floyd on his side and tried to resuscitate him.
“All four officers involved in the tragic death of George Floyd have now been convicted in federal court, sentenced to prison and held accountable for their crimes,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in a statement.
“The federal prosecution of all officers tied to the death of George Floyd should send a clear and powerful message that the Department of Justice will never tolerate the unlawful abuse of power or victimization of Americans by anyone in law enforcement,” Clarke said.
Kueng and Lane helped to restrain Floyd while Thao kept away bystanders who were pleading with the officers to get off of Floyd as he lay face down on the ground complaining he could not breathe.
Lane was new to the job when he and fellow rookie cop Kueng apprehended Floyd after a shopkeeper accused him of using a counterfeit bill in his store.
As they struggled to get Floyd into their vehicle, the pair were joined by two experienced officers, Chauvin and Thao.
Lane pleaded guilty in May to separate state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
Kueng and Thao are to go on trial on state manslaughter charges in late October.