Ex-cop's video captures crowd's horror during Floyd arrest

Group of people wearing face masks walk into a building.
Former Minneapolis police officer Tou Thao enters the Hennepin County Courthouse with his attorneys before a motions hearing in Minneapolis on July 21, 2020.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Updated: 3:15 p.m., Aug. 14 | Posted: 8:51 p.m., Aug. 13

Newly released body camera video from a third officer involved in George Floyd's arrest captures for the first time the growing horror of onlookers who repeatedly pleaded with the officers to get off Floyd.

The video, made available Thursday, comes from Tou Thao, one of four former Minneapolis police officers charged in the death of Floyd, a handcuffed Black man.

Floyd died after a white officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee against Floyd's neck for nearly eight minutes on a south Minneapolis street May 25 as Floyd repeatedly said he could not breathe. The death sparked massive protests across the U.S. and beyond against racial injustice and police brutality.

Thao held back a crowd of nearly a dozen bystanders, many taping the scene with their cellphones, as Chauvin pinned Floyd with his knee. Two other officers, Thomas Lane and J. Kueng, held down Floyd, who was suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store.

Warning: This video contains profanity, graphic audio and footage of the final minutes of George Floyd’s life. Newly released body-camera video from a third officer involved in George Floyd's arrest shows bystanders looking on in horror and dismay as they repeatedly pleaded with the officers to get off Floyd.

In the video from Thao's body camera, a Black man wearing a Northside Boxing Club sweatshirt yells at Chauvin to "get off of his (expletive) neck, bro" and asks Thao "you gonna keep him like that," motioning toward Floyd.

"You gonna let him kill that man in front of you, bro?" he asks Thao. "Bro, he's not even (expletive) moving right now, bro."

Thao orders the crowd onto the sidewalk. At one point he tells the onlookers, "This is why you don't do drugs, kids."

When a woman who identifies herself as a Minneapolis firefighter arrives out of uniform, Thao yells at her, "Back off!" She asks if the officers have checked Floyd's pulse.

"Let me see a pulse," she demands of the police.

"Check his pulse," the man says. "You bogus, bro. 'Don't do drugs,' bro? ... You call what he's doing OK?"

The crowd grows more agitated. A young woman yells: "What the (expletive) are you doing? He's dying."

When the man approaches Thao with his phone, Thao shoves him back toward the sidewalk, yelling, "Get out of the street!"

Prosecutors submitted Thao's body camera footage earlier this week. On Monday, body camera video from Lane and Kueng was released under a judge's order. That footage, along with Thao's video, shows Floyd pleading with the officers as they struggle to place him in the squad car in the moments before his death.

Floyd repeatedly said he could not breathe and called out for his mother before passing out. He was pronounced dead at a hospital that evening, his death sparking protests against racial injustice and police brutality around the world.

In an interview with Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigators, Thao said he responded to the scene to back up other rookie officers in an area known to be hostile to police.

He said his main job was to keep his fellow officers safe.

"As the crowd is starting to grow and become loud and hostile toward us, I decided to forgo traffic, put myself between the crowd and officers ... make sure they don't charge us or bull rush us,” he said.

He told investigators Floyd was resisting arrest.

"He's not going to be cooperative, he's already showing it. If we put him in there, possibly he might end up hurting himself or bang himself on the windows or kicking out, damaging the squad car,” he said. “Let's just stop what we're doing, put him on the ground and call for an ambulance.”

Prosecutors filed the interview as evidence in court. Video of the interview was released Friday.

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. Lane, Kueng and Thao are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter. All four officers were fired and are scheduled for trial in March.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office is prosecuting the case, has asked the judge to have all four officers tried jointly. Defense attorneys have until Sept. 8 to respond.

The next court hearing for the four is scheduled for Sept. 11.

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