MINNEAPOLIS – A judge set bail at $750,000 apiece Thursday for three fired Minneapolis police officers charged with aiding and abetting in the killing of George Floyd, as a memorial service took place just blocks away.
Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng made their first appearances in Hennepin County District Court as friends, relatives and celebrities gathered to memorialize Floyd in Minneapolis.
The Minneapolis Police Department fired them last week, along with Derek Chauvin, who is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s May 25 death. Widely seen bystander video shows the white police officer pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck, ignoring the African American man’s pleas that he can’t breathe, until he stopped moving.
Defense attorneys argued for lower bail. They told the court that Chauvin was the training officer for Lane and Kueng, who had been on the job just four and three days respectively.
Defendants don’t normally enter pleas during their first appearances in Minnesota courts, which tend to be brief proceedings. Judge Paul Scoggin set their next court dates for June 29.
If convicted, Chauvin faces a maximum of 40 years in prison on the murder count and 10 years for manslaughter. Under Minnesota law, aiding and abetting second-degree murder is tantamount a second-degree murder charge, so Thao, Lane and Kueng face the same potential penalties as Chauvin if convicted.
A date for Chauvin’s first court appearance has not been set. He was arrested May 29. The latest criminal complaint against him says his actions were a “substantial causal factor in Mr. Floyd losing consciousness, constituting substantial bodily harm, and Mr. Floyd’s death as well.”
The narratives in the other three complaints are almost identical to the one against Chauvin. The complaint against Lane, 37, notes that he asked about rolling Floyd on his side and wondered about delirium, but went on to say that Lane “took no actions to assist Mr. Floyd, to change his position, or to reduce the force the officers were using against Mr. Floyd.”
The complaint against Kueng, 26, says he was positioned between Chauvin and Lane and could hear their comments. The complaint against Thao, 34, who was seen in the cellphone video standing near a crowd of bystanders, says Thao initially got a hobble restraint from the squad car, “but the officers decided not to use it and maintained their positions.”
Following days of nationwide protests decrying police brutality and discrimination, Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights ordered a civil rights investigation of the police department to determine how to address its history of racial discrimination and find solutions for systemic change.
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