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Fired officer charged in George Floyd's killing tells investigators his job wasn't to check on Floyd, video shows

Chao Xiong, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in News & Features

MINNEAPOLIS -- The former Minneapolis police officer who stood by as three officers fatally restrained George Floyd told investigators he was focused on an angry crowd and trusted his colleagues to respond appropriately, according to a video released Friday.

Prosecutors filed the video of Tou Thao's voluntary interview with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in court this week to support their motion to try all four former officers in one trial. The 1-hour, 40-minute interview, recorded eight days after Floyd was killed, showed that Thao did not become visibly emotional while recounting the incident and appeared to distance himself from his colleagues' actions.

In Minnesota, no interview with a police officer charged with killing a civilian on the job has been made public before trial until now; state law dictates that evidence submitted to the court at any point is public data.

Thao spoke frequently about the officers' safety, only addressing Floyd's well-being and bystanders' concerns for Floyd when questioned by BCA Special Agent Brent Petersen.

"As the crowd is starting to grow and become loud and hostile toward us, I decided to forgo (monitoring) traffic and put myself in between the crowd and the officers ... and just spend the majority of my attention looking at the crowd -- make sure they don't charge us or bull rush us as the officers on the ground are defenseless," Thao said, adding that he was a "human traffic cone."

Thao kept several angry bystanders at bay in front of Cup Foods as former Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for roughly eight minutes while a handcuffed Floyd lay stomach-down in the street. Former Officers J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane restrained Floyd's back and legs after responding to a call that he had allegedly used a fake $20 bill.

 

Thao's body camera video, released Thursday as part of a motion filed by his attorney to dismiss the case against him, showed that Thao was aggressive with bystanders and pushed two men who stepped off the sidewalk into the street.

In the BCA video, Thao was questioned about his professional history before spending about 12 minutes summarizing the events of May 25 without interruption. Petersen and BCA Special Agent James Reyerson asked him several questions afterward as his attorney, Robert Paule, and an FBI agent looked on.

During his summary, Thao said Floyd appeared to be on drugs, resisted getting into a squad car and kicked himself out of the squad onto the street. Thao said his colleagues grew tired as they restrained Floyd on the ground, but he never voluntarily mentioned Chauvin's actions, that Floyd repeatedly told them he couldn't breathe and was going to die, or that several bystanders, including an off-duty Minneapolis firefighter, urged the officers to stop and to check Floyd's pulse.

Nor did he say that the officers continued to pin Floyd after he became unresponsive.

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