On 21 April, 2021, former Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd on Memorial Day in 2020, a death that sparked a wave of international protests against police violence.
A federal jury trial now underway will determine whether the three other now-former officers who were on the scene that day – Thomas Lane, J Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao – are guilty of violating Mr Floyd’s constitutional rights for failing to come to his aid. They have pleaded not guilty.
The men were indicted by a federal grand jury along with Chauvin last year; as part of a plea agreement, Chauvin must serve a minimum of 20 and a maximum of 25 years in prison.
None of the men appeared to try to stop Mr Chauvin, whose knee was pressed into Mr Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as he cried out that he could not breathe. A federal indictment accuses the men of showing a “deliberate indifference” to his “serious medical needs”.
Mr Kueng, Mr Lane and Mr Thao are also facing a state trial on charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter. That trial was slated to begin on 7 March but has now been moved to 13 June.
J Alexander Kueng
Mr Kueng and Mr Lane were only on their third and fourth full-time shifts, respectively, when they responded to a 911 call that a man tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store. They were the first officers to encounter Mr Floyd.
Mr Kueng, who is Black, was the youngest of the four officers on the scene that day.
His family told The New York Times in 2020 that he joined the force in an effort to bridge law enforcement and Black residents.
“It’s a gut punch,” his mother Joni Kueng told the newspaper. “Here you are, you’ve raised this child, you know who he is inside and out. We’re such a racially diverse family. To be wrapped up in a racially motivated incident like this is just unfathomable.”
Two of his siblings – Taylor and Radiance, both of whom are African American – have spoken out critically about their brother’s role in Mr Floyd’s killing and have called for his arrest and the arrests of the other officers. They also have joined protests against police violence.
After Chauvin arrived on the scene with Mr Thao, Mr Lane and Mr Kueng were struggling with Mr Floyd – now handcuffed – inside a police car.
When Mr Floyd was brought to the ground, Mr Kueng knelt into Mr Floyd’s back while Mr Lane held his legs, according to evidence presented in Chauvin’s state trial.
Mr Kueng and Mr Thao are accused of failing to stop Chauvin and failing to help Mr Floyd.
A federal indictment alleges that both men were “aware” that Chauvin was holding his knee against Mr Floyd’s neck while he was handcuffed and not resisting, even after he became unresponsive.
Mr Thao and Mr Kueng “willfully failed to intervene” to stop Chauvin’s “unreasonable use of force”, according to the indictment.
Federal prosecutors have accused Mr Kueng and Mr Thao of violating Mr Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure, as well as failing to render medical aid.
Both counts allege the officers’ actions resulted in Mr Floyd’s death.
The men have pleaded not guilty.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in