UPDATE 2/24/22 9:30 pm EST: Tou Thao was one of three officers convicted of violating George Floyd’s civil rights after they failed to get medical attention for him as ex-officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee on his neck, ending his life. He and J. Alexander Kueng were also charged with failing to intervene as Chauvin harmed Floyd. His trial for aiding and abetting second-degree murder will commence in June.
UPDATE 6/5 3:20pm EST: Two days after Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter, the Minneapolis has banned the use of chokeholds by police. The agreement, which comes in conjunction with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, means that any officer is required to immediately report the use of neck restraint or chokehold to their commander or their commander’s superiors.
If an officer sees a colleague try to chokehold anyone, they must intervene verbally, or physically if necessary. Failure to do so means they could face punishment as severe as the officer committing the prohibited action, according to the Associated Press. Additionally, the police chief or a deputy chief must authorize any use of chemical agents, rubber bullets, flash-bangs, batons, and marking rounds.
UPDATE 6/4 3:20pm EST: A judge set bail at $1,000,000 apiece for Thao along with Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng on Thursday, June 4, while they made their first appearance in court. Derek Chauvin, who has been charged with 2nd degree murder in the death of George Floyd, has his set at $500,000.
Former Minneapolis Police Department officer Tou Thao was charged for his role in the death of George Floyd on June 3. The ex-officer, who was involved in a prior instance of police brutality before George’s death on May 25, was charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Previously, it looked as if only ex-officer Derek Chauvin would be charged. The man seen kneeling across George’s neck in the viral video was hit with counts of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and one charge of manslaughter.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced the charges in a June 3 press conference: “We’re here today because George Floyd is not here. He should be here. He should be alive but he’s not.” He went on to say, “Today I filed an amended complaint that charges former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin with murder in the second degree for the death of George Floyd. I believe the evidence available to us now supports the stronger charge of second degree murder.” (Aiding and abetting second-degree murder is punishable by up to 40 years in prison, while aiding and abetting manslaughter is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.)
“Second, today arrest warrants were issued for former Minneapolis police officers J. A. King, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. Finally, I’d like to announce that today Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman and I have filed a complaint that charges police officer King, Lane and Thao with aiding and abetting murder in the second degree, a felony offense. I strongly believe that these developments are in the interests of justice for Mr. Floyd, his family, our community and our state.”
George Floyd’s killing sparked outrage and protests across the world, and millions demanded justice. As the world continues to protest the systemic racism and others await to see what happens to the four men involved in Floyd’s death — Chauvin, Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng – here’s what you need to know about former MPD officer Thao.
1. He arrived on the scene alongside Officer Chauvin.
It was officers Lang and Cheung who first approached George Floyd on May 25. A clerk at the Cup Foods market reported that a man bought merchandise with a counterfeit $20 bill, according to the criminal complaint filed by the Hennepin County Attorney. According to the document obtained by HollywoodLife, Thao and Derek Chauvin arrived on the scene around 8:14.
2. Thao didn’t get physically involved in the incident.
Unlike officers Chauvin, Lane, and Keung, Tou Thao didn’t physically touch George Floyd during the fatal encounter. Thao instead interacted with eyewitnesses. He’s seen in the viral video instructing onlookers to “get back on the sidewalk” while the three other officers pressed George Floyd down to the ground. From there, Chauvin was seen kneeling across George’s neck while the man pleaded for mercy. Around 8:24, about ten minutes after Chauvin and Thao arrived on the scene, George stopped moving.
3. He left Minnesota after the video of George Floyd’s death went viral.
Thao started with the MPD as a community service officer, according to the Star Tribune. He went through the academy in 2009. Tou was laid off for two years and returned to the department in 2012.
His lawyer, Criminal defense attorney Robert Paulie, told the Star Tribune that the fired cop fled Minnesota following the outrage over George’s death and he was “safely elsewhere.”
4. Tou Thao was involved in a previous police brutality incident.
Thao, along with another unnamed officer, was involved in a 2017 police brutality lawsuit, according to the Star Tribune. Lamar Ferguson alleged that, in 2014, two officers told him they were serving him a warrant for his arrest. They then allegedly beat him and broke his teeth while he was handcuffed. The city of Minneapolis paid $25,000 to settle the civil rights case. “They had no reason to stop me, they started asking me a whole bunch of questions, where I was going,” Lamar told The Sun. “[Thao] was the most aggressive one, I was in handcuffs within the first few minutes of the incident. I was horrified.”
Thao, according to the Star Tribune, also had “six unspecified police conduct complaints” filed against him. Five were “closed without discipline,” but one was open at the time of his firing.
5. He was the subject of a false conspiracy following his firing.
After the four MPD officers were fired over George Floyd’s death, social media posts alleged that Tou’s sister was Derek Chauvin’s wife, Kellie Chauvin. “Tou Thao is NOT Ms. Chauvin’s brother. I would GREATLY appreciate help putting that rumor to rest,” Amanda Mason-Sekula, her divorce lawyer, said in an email, per the Washington Post.
“Her family has been harassed and threatened based on multiple incorrect reports.” Both Kellie and Thao are Asian. She was born in Laos in 1974, and her family fled to Thailand in 1977. She competed for the title of Mrs. Minnesota in 2018, in hopes of becoming the first Hmong winner. Kellie does have a brother who is a cop, but he’s a police officer in St. Paul and was not involved in any aspect of George Floyd’s death.