Three former Minneapolis police officers were convicted Thursday of violating George Floyd’s civil rights, as a federal jury rejected their arguments that inexperience, improper training or the distraction of shouting bystanders excused them from failing to prevent Mr. Floyd’s killing.
Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane were convicted of depriving Mr. Floyd of his right to medical care as the 46-year-old Black man was pinned under fellow officer Derek Chauvin’s knee for 9½ minutes while handcuffed, facedown on the street on May 25, 2020. Mr. Kueng knelt on Mr. Floyd’s back, Mr. Lane held his legs and Mr. Thao kept bystanders back.
Mr. Thao and Mr. Kueng were also convicted of failing to intervene to stop Mr. Chauvin in the videotaped killing that sparked protests in Minneapolis and around the globe as part of a reckoning over racial injustice.
Mr. Lane shook his head and looked at his lawyer as his verdict was read, according to a pool report. Mr. Thao and Mr. Kueng showed no visible emotion.
The jury that appeared to be all-white reached the verdicts after two days of deliberations. Mr. Lane is white, Mr. Kueng is Black and Mr. Thao is Hmong American.
Conviction of a federal civil-rights violation that results in death is punishable by life in prison or even death, but such sentences are extremely rare. The former officers will remain free on bond pending sentencing. No sentencing date has been set.
Mr. Chauvin, who is white, was convicted of murder last year in state court and pleaded guilty in December in the federal case. He was sentenced to 22½ years in the state case. Under the plea deal in the federal case, both sides agreed Mr. Chauvin should face a sentence ranging from 20 to 25 years.
Mr. Chauvin and Mr. Thao went to the scene to help rookies Mr. Kueng and Mr. Lane after they responded to a call that Mr. Floyd used a counterfeit US$20 bill at a corner store. Mr. Floyd struggled with officers as they tried to put him in a police SUV.
During the month-long federal trial, prosecutors sought to show that the officers violated their training, including when they failed to move Mr. Floyd or give him CPR. Prosecutors argued that Mr. Floyd’s condition was so serious that even bystanders without basic medical training could see he needed help.
The defence said their training was inadequate. Mr. Kueng and Mr. Lane both said they deferred to Mr. Chauvin as the senior officer at the scene. Thao testified that he relied on the other officers to care for Mr. Floyd’s medical needs as his attention was elsewhere.
Lawyers for the Floyd family said in a statement that the verdicts underscore the need for police departments nationwide to expand programs that encourage officers to stop other officers from using excessive force.
“These officers tried to devise any excuse that could let them wash the blood from their hands, but following these verdicts George’s blood will forever stain them,” the statement said.
Mr. Lane, Mr. Kueng and Mr. Thao also face a separate trial in June on state charges alleging that they aided and abetted murder and manslaughter.
The verdicts come just days after the conviction of three white men on hate crimes charges in Georgia in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was chased and shot in February, 2020.
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.