MINNEAPOLIS — Three former Minneapolis officers who went to a federal civil rights trial this week in the death of George Floyd aren’t as familiar to most people as Derek Chauvin, a fellow officer who was convicted of murder last spring.
Thomas Lane and J. Kueng were the first officers to respond to a report that Floyd had tried to smuggle a counterfeit $20 bill, and they helped Chauvin restrain Floyd. Tou Thao, the second senior officer at the scene after Chauvin, held back a group of bystanders yelling at officers to take down Floyd.
Lane and Kueng were rookies just days after taking up duty as full officers. Although both took note of Floyd’s deteriorating condition – Kueng remarked that he couldn’t find a pulse, and Lane asked if they should turn Floyd onto his side – neither tried. to stop Chauvin as he pressed his knee into the handcuffed black man’s neck.
After the federal trial, Lane, Kueng, and Thao are charged by the state with aiding and abetting the murder.
Here is an overview of the three former officers:
Thao was Chauvin’s partner that day. Thao, a Hmong American, had worked for the Minneapolis Police Department for about 11 years, starting as a community service officer, a program intended to foster diversity by grooming potential cops. He had been a full-fledged police officer for more than eight years.
Thao joined the force part-time in 2008 while attending North Hennepin Community College. He was temporarily laid off at the end of 2009 during a budgetary crisis. He also previously worked as a security guard at Boston Scientific facilities in the Minneapolis area, as a supermarket storekeeper, and as a trainer at a McDonald’s.
City records show six complaints were filed against Thao. He was also the subject of a federal prosecution in 2017 accusing him and another officer of excessive force. According to the lawsuit, Lamar Ferguson claimed that in 2014 Thao and his partner arrested and beat him while Ferguson was on his way to his girlfriend’s house. The lawsuit was settled for $25,000.
Thao’s lawyer is Robert Paule.
Lane, who is white, joined the department in early 2019 as a 35-year-old cadet – significantly older than most rookies. He had no complaints on file during his short stint on the force.
According to the Star Tribune, he followed three generations of his mother’s male relatives in the Minneapolis Police Department, including his great-great-grandfather Michael Mealey, who served as chief from 1911 to 1912.
His previous jobs included stints as a corrections officer at Hennepin County Juvenile Jail and as an assistant probation officer with a Ramsey County residential program for juvenile offenders. The University of Minnesota graduate also said on his employment forms that he had volunteered tutoring at-risk Somali youths and elementary school students, and with a police activities league for children on the side. predominantly black north of Minneapolis.
Lane’s attorney is Earl Grey, who represented former Brooklyn Center officer Kim Potter, who was convicted of manslaughter in December in the shooting death of Daunte Wright. Gray was also part of the defense team that secured the 2017 acquittal of former St. Anthony officer Jeronimo Yanez in the shooting death of Philando Castile.
Kueng, who is black, was the youngest of four officers at the scene. He was partnered with Lane that day. He was raised by his mother in North Minneapolis.
Family members told The New York Times in 2020 that Kueng, the son of a white mother and Nigerian father, wanted to become a police officer to bridge the gap between the police and the black community. Two of her siblings criticized her role in Floyd’s death.
His personal file, which indicates that he speaks, reads and writes Russian, does not mention any disciplinary action.
Kueng was a 2018 graduate of the University of Minnesota, where he worked part-time in campus security. Like Thao, he was also a community service officer. He also worked nearly three years as a robbery prevention officer at the old Macy’s in downtown Minneapolis. And he worked short stints as a storekeeper at the downtown Target store and as a youth baseball and soccer coach at the Brooklyn Center.
Kueng and his family members traveled to Haiti to volunteer after the 2010 earthquake, according to relatives and his lawyer.
Kueng’s attorney is Tom Plunkett, who helped represent former Minneapolis officer Mohamed Noor in the 2017 shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. Noor’s third-degree murder conviction was overturned, but his conviction for manslaughter remains.
Find full AP coverage of the death of George Floyd at: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd