Police officer involved in the murder of George Floyd is sentenced to almost five years in prison


Tou Thao, the last former Minneapolis police officer convicted in a state court for his involvement in the murder of George Floyd, received a sentence of four years and nine months in prison last Monday.

Thao had claimed in his testimony that he merely played the role of a "human traffic cone" by blocking concerned bystanders who had gathered as former officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd's neck for nine and a half minutes while the African American man begged for his life on May 25, 2020.

Floyd's distressing words of "I can't breathe" were captured in a video recorded by a bystander.

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Floyd's murder sparked protests worldwide and led to a nationwide reckoning with police brutality and racism.

During his sentencing hearing, Thao asserted that he never intended to harm anyone that day. He spoke in detail about his growth as a Christian during the 340 days he spent in prison but denied any responsibility for Floyd's death. In comments that veered off course, filled with biblical references, he drew parallels between the suffering and false accusations endured by Job and Jesus.

"I did not commit these crimes," Thao declared. "My conscience is clear. I will not be a Judas, I will not join a crowd to preserve myself, and I will not betray my God."

In May, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill found Thao guilty of aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder. On Monday, Cahill expressed his hope that Thao would "do more than preach."

"Three years later, I expected a little more remorse," the judge added.

Cahill sentenced Thao to 57 months, at the upper end of the range recommended by state guidelines, where the standard sentence is 48 months or even four years. The sentence exceeded the 51 months requested by the prosecution and the 41 months proposed by Thao's attorney, Robert Paule.

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In his 177-page ruling, Cahill argued that Thao's actions separated Chauvin and two other former officers from the crowd, including an emergency medical technician, allowing his colleagues to continue restraining Floyd and preventing bystanders from providing medical assistance.

"There is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Thao's actions were objectively unreasonable from the perspective of a reasonable police officer, considering all the circumstances," Cahill wrote.

"Even more unreasonable were Thao's actions in light of the fact that he had a duty to intervene to stop the other officers' excessive use of force and was trained to provide medical assistance," the judge noted.

The sentence Cahill imposed on Monday will run concurrently with Thao's three-and-a-half-year sentence for his separate federal civil rights conviction, upheld by an appeals court on Friday. The state sentence exceeded the four years recommended by Minnesota state guidelines.