Official: Officers in Floyd killing trained about rights

Posted at 1:34 PM, February 11, 2022 and last updated 7:47 PM, July 19, 2023


ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The chair of the Minnesota agency that sets licensing standards for police officers testified Friday that three former Minneapolis police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights had to receive training about constitutional rights and on providing first aid.

Kelly McCarthy, chief of police in Mendota Heights Police Department and chair of Minnesota’s Police Officers Standards and Training board, said that J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao were all licensed officers in Minnesota and described training every officer must receive.

FILE – This combination of photos provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota on June 3, 2020, shows, from left, former Minneapolis police officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. The former policer officers are on trial in federal court accused of violating Floyd’s civil rights as fellow Officer Derek Chauvin killed him. (Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office via AP, File)

Kueng, Lane and Thao are accused of depriving Floyd, 46, of his civil rights by failing to give him medical aid while he was handcuffed, facedown with Chauvin’s knee pressed onto his neck for 9 1/2 minutes on May 25, 2020. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back and Lane held down his legs while Thao kept bystanders back.

Kueng and Thao are also accused of failing to intervene to stop the killing, which triggered protests worldwide and a reexamination of racism and policing.

McCarthy said officers also are specifically taught to reposition someone who is restrained facedown, to ensure they can breathe. Asked why, she said, “There were enough in-custody deaths that we needed to have a learning objective on it.”

Prosecutors planned to show video from the officers’ body cameras on Friday and provide transcripts for the jury.

On Thursday, the head of the Minneapolis Police Department’s homicide unit testified that the officers should have intervened to stop Chauvin. He said that can mean intervening to begin first aid or even mean moving an officer out of the way if necessary.

>>> READ MORE: Federal Trial in The Death of George Floyd: Daily Trial Highlights

Asked what Chauvin was doing that was significant to him, Lt. Richard Zimmerman, the most senior officer in the department, replied: “The knee on the neck — the officers should have intervened at that point and stopped it. … It can be deadly.”

Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, pointed out during Zimmerman’s testimony that his client is not charged with failing to intervene.

Zimmerman, who joined the department in 1985, also testified in Chauvin’s state trial last year that resulted in murder and manslaughter convictions.

FILE – In this image from surveillance video, Minneapolis police Officers from left, Tou Thao, Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane are seen attempting to take George Floyd into custody in Minneapolis, Minn on May 25, 2020. Prosecutors played videos from the scene of Floyd’s arrest Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022 at the federal civil rights trial of three former Minneapolis police officers accused of violating Floyd’s civil rights as fellow Officer Derek Chauvin killed him. (Court TV)

The defense has pointed out that Chauvin was the most senior officer at the scene and argued that the others were trained to obey him. Lane and Kueng were rookies, while Thao had been with the department around eight years.

But rank and seniority don’t change the duty to intervene, Zimmerman said. “We all wear the same badge,” he said.

Zimmerman also discussed his interviews with the officers immediately after Floyd’s killing.

Prosecutor Samantha Trepel, from the Department of Justice civil rights division, played a portion of Lane’s body camera video that showed Zimmerman asking Lane and Kueng and what happened. They recounted elements of their struggle to try to put Floyd in their squad car after they responded to a report of someone passing a counterfeit $20 bill.

“He kind of seemed like he was on something.. … He was fighting the whole time,” Lane says.

Zimmerman said Lane and Kueng told him nothing about having kept Floyd on the ground without rolling him over, about Chauvin keeping his knee on Chauvin’s neck, about their being unable to find a pulse, or about Lane performing CPR in the ambulance.

Trepel asked officers’ obligation to be truthful applied to the account that Lane and Kueng gave him. Zimmerman said it did.

On cross-examination, Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, focused how Lane is seen on video calling for an ambulance and upgrading the call to lights-and-sirens as Floyd fades; asking if they should roll Floyd over and being rebuffed; and expressing concern that Floyd might be experiencing “excited delirium.”

Under cross-examination from Kueng’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, Zimmerman acknowledged telling FBI investigators he thought poorly of Chauvin and that, “I think it’s pretty much known throughout the department that he’s a jerk.”

Zimmerman agreed that a jerk probably shouldn’t be a field training officer, as Chauvin had been to Kueng.

Kueng, who is Black, Lane, who is white, and Thao, who is Hmong American, are charged with willfully depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights while acting under government authority. The charges allege that the officers’ actions resulted in Floyd’s death.

Chauvin, who is white, pleaded guilty in December to a federal civil rights charge.

Lane, Kueng and Thao also face a separate state trial in June on charges alleging that they aided and abetted murder and manslaughter.

Find Court TV’s full coverage of the death of George Floyd here: