All four officers face decades behind prison bars if convicted on all the charges they face

By Chris Harris
June 04, 2020 01:56 PM
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On Wednesday, all four fired Minneapolis police officers present during the killing of George Floyd learned they would face prosecution for their alleged roles in his homicide.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced that, two days after taking over the case, the initial third-degree murder charge filed against former cop Derek Chauvin would be amended to include second-degree unintentional murder.

Chauvin also still faces a single manslaughter charge. Ellison further revealed the other three other officers who were at the scene, all of whom have lost their jobs, would be arrested.

Here is what we know about the four accused men, the charges against them, and what roles authorities allege they played in the homicide.

Derek Chauvin, from left, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao
Hennepin County Sheriff's Office/AP/Shutterstock

Derek Michael Chauvin, 44

Chauvin, according to a probable cause statement obtained by PEOPLE, is charged with second-degree murder. The allegations indicate prosecutors believe Chauvin committed third-degree felony assault against Floyd as he was arresting him.

Chauvin can be seen in bystander-filmed video of the Memorial Day arrest putting his full weight on Floyd's neck — all while he was handcuffed and facedown on his stomach. Police alleged Floyd tried to use a counterfeit bill; he was unarmed at the time of his arrest.

"Officer Chauvin's restraint of Mr. Floyd in this manner for a prolonged period was a substantial causal factor in Mr. Floyd losing consciousness, constituting substantial bodily harm, and Mr. Floyd's death as well," reads the probable cause statement.

Chauvin, who'd been a Minneapolis officer for 19 years, is also charged with second-degree manslaughter for acting negligently and creating an unreasonable risk to Floyd.

The Associated Press reports that Chauvin trained as a cook, and served in the Army as a military police officer prior to taking the police exam.

Chauvin joined the department in 2001, and received 12 formal complaints. Only one of those incidents has been detailed publicly. In 2007, the AP reports, Chauvin was accused of pulling a woman from her car during a standard speeding stop. Investigators reportedly determined Chauvin used unnecessary force during the arrest, and he was reprimanded for not having the video camera in his squad car on during the stop.

George Floyd
Ben Crump Law Firm

According to the Star-Tribune, Chauvin did receive commendations for bravery in both 2006 and 2008. In both cases, Chauvin disabled armed suspects with gunfire. Two more honors came in 2008 and 2009, for tackling a fleeing suspect and taking alleged gang members into custody while working an off-duty job at the same Minneapolis nightclub that employed Floyd.

His wife filed for divorce shortly after his arrest, and she intends on legally changing her last name.

If convicted on all three charges, he faces 75 years in prison.

Thomas Kiernan Lane, 37

Lane, one of the two officers who helped pin Floyd to the sidewalk, faces 50 years in prison after being charged Wednesday with aiding and abetting unintentional second-degree murder while committing a felony and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

The charges allege Lane "intentionally aided, advised, hired counseled, or conspired" with Chauvin and the other officers in "causing the death of a human being, George Floyd, without intent to effect the death of any person, while committing or attempting to commit a felony offense."

Lane, the Star-Tribune reports, joined the Minneapolis police department in early 2019, and had only officially become an officer six months ago. He had no complaints in his file during his short time on the force.

George Floyd
Ben Crump Law Firm

Lane graduated from the University of Minnesota and did volunteer work tutoring Somali youth.

Floyd was restrained and press to the pavement for nearly 9 minutes. For several minutes, Floyd can be heard on video groaning in pain. He repeatedly tells the officers he can't breathe, and at one point, he calls out to his mother for help.

Witnesses begged the police to let up on Floyd. Instead, Chauvin adjusted his position as Floyd struggled to turn his head.

J. Alexander Kueng, 26

Like Lane, Kueng was charged with aiding and abetting unintentional second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. He faces 50 years in prison if convicted on both counts.

Another recent recruit to the Minneapolis force, Kueng completed his year's probationary period just three months ago. His personnel file does not include any commendations or disciplinary actions during his short time on force, according to the AP.

Kueng was a 2018 graduate of the University of Minnesota, where he worked part-time as part of the campus security force.

Floyd's autopsy from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner determined he died of "cardiopulmonary arrest" — or heart failure — "complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression." The autopsy does not mention asphyxiation, which was listed as the cause of death in the independent autopsy the family commissioned that was performed by Dr. Michael Baden. Baden ruled Floyd died due to "asphyxiation from sustained pressure."

George Floyd
Ben Crump Law Firm

The Hennepin County autopsy report states Floyd had fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cannabinoids in his system at the time of his death. None of those substances factored into his death, which was ruled a homicide. He had also tested positive for the coronavirus, which also did not factor in his death.

The medical examiner's report further details blunt-force injuries Floyd had sustained to the skin of his head as well as his face and upper lip. His hands, shoulders, and elbows also shows signs of bruising, as did his wrists, from the compression caused by the handcuffs.

Tou Thao, 34

Authorities charged Thao with aiding and abetting unintentional second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. He, too, faces 50 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

KARE reports Thao joined the Minneapolis police on a part-time basis in 2008, while he finished up community college. Before that, he worked as a security guard, a supermarket stocker and trainer at McDonald's.

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According to city records, PEOPLE confirms six complaints were filed against Thao. The details of those complaints have never been made public by the department. However, a 2017 lawsuit filed in federal court — a copy of which was obtained by PEOPLE — shows he was accused of using excessive force in the 2014 arrest of a man.

The suit accuses Thao and his partner of stopping the man as he was making his way to his girlfriend's house. The man claimed he was beaten by the officers, forcing him "to suffer broken teeth." The lawsuit was settled for $25,000.

It was unclear Thursday if any of the four officers had appeared in court to enter pleas to the charges, or had retained legal counsel who could comment on their behalf.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.