Prosecutors in the federal trial of three former Minneapolis police officers accused of violating the civil rights of George Floyd are trying to show that even bystanders knew the black man needed help, while officers failed to act when former officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck.
Footage shown to jurors at the trial of J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao showed Floyd struggling with officers as they attempted to put him into a police vehicle, officers pinning the handcuffed man face down to the ground and Floyd he was gasping for air like a A growing group of onlookers realized that Chauvin was killing him.
Floyd, 46, died after Chauvin knelt on his neck for nine and a half minutes. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, Lane held his legs and Thao kept bystanders away, according to prosecutors. Prosecutors have argued in pretrial filings that even bystanders could see that Floyd needed serious medical attention and that officers, who had basic medical training, were unhelpful.
Witness Charles McMillian wept Tuesday as prosecutors played a video of McMillian pleading with officers to let Floyd breathe, prompting a warning from the judge that prosecutors should avoid provoking emotional responses.
“I knew something bad was going to happen to Mr. Floyd,” McMillian testified.
“What do you mean by that?” prosecutor Allen Slaughter asked.
“That I was going to die,” McMillian replied.
When questioned by defense attorneys, McMillian acknowledged she didn’t see or hear several things, including Lane asking if Floyd should turn onto his side and then giving him chest compressions, and Kueng saying he couldn’t find a pulse.
“You could only see or hear things from your perspective, is that correct?” asked Tom Plunkett, Kueng’s attorney.
Kueng, who is black; Lane, who is white; and Thao, who is Hmong American, are accused of depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights: all three are accused of failing to provide Floyd with medical care, while Thao and Kueng face an additional charge of failing to detain Chauvin, which is white Both charges allege that the officers’ actions resulted in Floyd’s death. Chauvin pleaded guilty in November to a federal civil rights violation.
The video shown to jurors was from widely viewed police body cameras, street surveillance video and bystander video that was also widely played in the state criminal trial that ultimately convicted Chauvin of murder last year.
Police responded to a 911 call that Floyd attempted to use a counterfeit $20 bill to buy a pack of cigarettes at a corner store on May 25, 2020. His murder sparked worldwide protests and a new examination of the racism and surveillance.
Jenna Scurry, a 911 dispatcher from Minneapolis, testified that after Lane and Kueng responded, she called for backup for them. She then called an ambulance with no lights or sirens, for a mouth wound. More than a minute later, Chauvin and Thao updated that call to request that the ambulance come with lights and sirens, but Scurry said she was not told that Floyd was not breathing, had no pulse and was unresponsive.
Had he known someone was having trouble breathing, Scurry testified, he would have called the fire department as well, because “sometimes they can get there quicker. … They can be almost anywhere in four minutes.”
Previously, a body camera video of Thao played during testimony from the cashier who took the counterfeit bill showed him shoving a bystander. Christopher Martin, 20, said he recorded about 30 seconds of video as bystanders yelled at Thao to check Floyd’s pulse, but he stopped when Thao shoved the other man.
Martin said he didn’t have a good view of Kueng or Lane.
While questioning Martin, Thao’s attorney, Robert Paule, noted that Thao raised his hand before pushing the man away and that the man did not listen to Thao’s instructions to get back up on the sidewalk. Paule said that when Thao pushed the man away, he pushed Thao’s hand away.
US District Judge Paul Magnuson has said the trial could last four weeks.
Lane’s attorney has said his client will testify, but it is not known whether Thao or Kueng will. It’s also unclear if Chauvin will testify, though many experts who spoke to The Associated Press believe he won’t.
Lane, Kueng and Thao also face a separate state trial in June on charges of aiding and abetting both murder and manslaughter.
Webber contributed from Fenton, Michigan.
Find AP’s full coverage of the killing of George Floyd at: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.