All four former Minneapolis police officers involved in the death of George Floyd are scheduled to appear in court Friday, where they will request four separate trials because each officer’s version of events—and their interpretation of who was in charge at the scene—differ so greatly, reports the Washington Post.
“There are very likely going to be antagonistic defenses presented at the trial,” wrote lawyer Earl Gray, representing former officer Thomas K. Lane, in a legal motion filed in Minneapolis earlier this week. “It is plausible that all officers have a different version of what happened and officers place blame on one another.”
According to court documents, Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, two rookie cops who had been on the force less than a week, initially answered the call on May 29 about an alleged counterfeit $20 bill. They say they were just following orders from Derek Chauvin and Tou Thoa, veteran officers who arrived later to aid with Floyd’s arrest.
From the Post:
Lane, who was holding Floyd’s legs, twice asked Chauvin whether they should reposition Floyd—requests that his lawyer says prove that he tried to intervene with a senior officer but was rebuffed. After Floyd appeared to have stopped moving, Lane told Chauvin he was worried about “excited delirium,” citing a term used by medical examiners to describe the sudden in-custody death of people who might be under the influence of drugs or who are in an agitated state.
“That’s why we got the ambulance coming,” Chauvin told him.
“Okay, I suppose,” Lane replied.
But Thao and Chauvin—who was captured on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than 8 minutes during the arrest, despite pleas from Floyd and bystanders that he couldn’t breathe—are just as eager to throw their fellow officers under the bus, according to documents filed by their respective lawyers.
A lawyer for Chauvin is arguing that Lane and Keung mishandled the scene by not calling an ambulance sooner, causing the 46-year-old to die, the Post reports:
He said the former officers delayed in requesting an ambulance when they suspected Floyd might be on drugs or was having a medical issue and that they did not do enough to try to calm Floyd down by “sitting him on the sidewalk” or “render aid instead of struggle.”
“If EMS had arrived just three minutes sooner, Mr. Floyd may have survived. If Kueng and Lane had chosen to de-escalate instead of struggle, Mr. Floyd may have survived,” Nelson wrote. “If Kueng and Lane had recognized the apparent signs of an opioid overdose and rendered aid, such as administering naloxone, Mr. Floyd may have survived.”
Thao, Chauvin’s partner, has tried to get his charges dismissed, claiming that he was nothing more than “a human traffic cone” at the scene, attempting to control bystanders who were yelling at officers to leave Floyd alone. Interestingly, it was Thao’s decision to even arrive at the scene—the former officer told investigators the call for backup had been cancelled by dispatchers, but Thao decided he and Chauvin should “continue to Cup Foods anyway because Kueng and Lane were ‘so new’ and the area was known to be hostile to police,” writes the Post.
Thao was also the one who advised the rookie officers to lay Floyd on the street after they couldn’t get him inside the squad car. Still, like Chauvin, Thao maintains that the junior officers were in charge of the scene, and thus culpable for Floyd’s death.
Prosecutors are pushing back against the officers’ claims, and want to try them all together. They also pointed out that police body camera footage contradicts the Thao’s claim that he wasn’t aware of what was going on. As the Post, citing prosecutor filings, writes, “body-camera footage ... shows him shoving and screaming at bystanders—including an off-duty Minneapolis firefighter—who urged officers to check Floyd for a pulse and that he ignored Floyd’s ‘desperate cries.’”
The four officers, however, appear united in their attempts to emphasize Floyd’s alleged drug use as a leading factor in his death.
Because state law requires officers to stop their fellow police from committing a crime, Thao, Lane and Keung have been charged with aiding and abetting murder. Chauvin, who is still in jail under a $1 million bail, has been charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. Friday’s hearing will mark his first in-person court appearance related to the charges. Minneapolis city officials have boarded up government buildings near the courthouse in preparation for protests.
The Justice Department is also said to be close to announcing a decision regarding federal charges in Floyd’s killing, according to anonymous sources who spoke to the Post.