One of four former Minneapolis police officers charged with crimes related to the death of George Floyd pleaded guilty on Wednesday to aiding and abetting manslaughter, admitting he restrained the black man in a way that caused his death.
Thomas Lane held down Floyd’s leg as another cop, Derek Chauvin, knelt on Floyd’s neck for a gruesome eight minutes and 46 seconds.
Lane, along with ex-cops J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, have previously been convicted of federal charges of willfully violating Floyd’s civil rights. The police killing of Floyd, 46, in May 2020 sparked nationwide racial justice protests.
Disturbing video footage captured Chauvin ignoring pleas from onlookers and Floyd himself, who repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe. Lane continued to hold Floyd’s legs as Kueng knelt on his back. Thao kept the mob at bay during the murder.
In his plea agreement, Lane admitted he knew from training that restraining Floyd in this manner created a serious risk of death. He acknowledged hearing Floyd say he couldn’t breathe, knew Floyd was quiet, had no pulse, and appeared to have passed out.
Lane even asked twice if Floyd should be rolled onto his side – as the training suggests – but the cop continued to hold Floyd down despite the danger. Lane acknowledged that the restraint was “unreasonable in the circumstances and constituted an unlawful use of force”.
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The second anniversary of Floyd’s murder is next week.
Chauvin pleaded guilty last year to violating Floyd’s civil rights and faces a federal sentence of 20 to 25 years. He had previously been convicted of murder and manslaughter in Minnesota and sentenced to nearly 23 years.
In Lane’s case, prosecutors recommended a three-year sentence for the manslaughter charge and agreed to let him serve his sentence in federal prison. A more serious charge of aiding and abetting second degree unintentional murder will be dismissed as part of Lane’s plea deal.
None of the former officers have been convicted in federal court.
“His acknowledgment that he did something wrong is an important step toward healing the wounds of the Floyd family, our community and the nation,” Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said. “While accountability is not justice, this is an important moment in this case and a necessary resolution in our continued journey toward justice.”
Kueng and Thao are due to stand trial in June. They remain free on bail pending trial.
With dispatch services