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Officers involved in the murder of George Floyd found guilty on federal charges

ST PAUL, MN – MARCH 19: People march near the Minnesota State Capitol to honor George Floyd on March 19, 2021 in St Paul, Minnesota. This morning Judge Peter Cahill rejected motions for change of venue and continuance by the defense of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, who is accused of killing George Floyd last May. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

George Floyd is a name the public became remarkably familiar with during the past two years due to his tragic death on May 25, 2020.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and three additional officers responded to a call regarding a counterfeit bill from a convenience store in Minneapolis’ Powderhorn Park neighborhood. The arrest quickly went wrong and resulted in the death of the 46-year-old Black man. 

Video footage of Floyd’s arrest surfaced on the internet soon after and sparked an increase in protests globally. During the month after his death, the number of those protesting rose from roughly 15 million to 26 million. 

This became the largest social justice movement in U.S. history.  

Last year, Chauvin was tried and convicted of third-degree murder, unintentional second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter by the state of Minnesota, resulting in a 22 ½ year sentence.

Chauvin awaits his sentencing in the federal case. The other three officers on the scene of Floyd’s death began their federal trial on Jan. 24, and were found guilty on Thursday, Feb. 24.  

J. Alexander Kueng, 26, is one of two rookie officers on trial for helping Chauvin restrain Floyd with his right knee. Thomas Lane, 38, a rookie officer older than most, is also on trial for his participation in helping Chauvin restrain Floyd by holding down his legs.  

Unlike the other two officers on trial, Lane is not being charged with failing to intervene because he suggested they turn Floyd onto his side twice, as officers learn it is safer to do that in a situation like this. The third officer on trial, Tou Thao, 36, was Chauvin’s partner that day and was controlling a group of distressed onlookers angered by what they were witnessing.  

The jury began deliberation on Wednesday, Feb. 23 after a month-long trial. The three officers were found guilty of federal charges for depriving Floyd of his civil rights. Keung and Thao also face federal charges for not intervening to stop Chauvin.  

The men are being charged for aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Though unlikely, they each face up to life in prison. The state trial will take place in June.  

Many experts believe this trial will have a direct impact on police culture because Kueng, Lane and Thoa’s actions are more common to see in day-to-day policing than Chauvin’s extreme use of force.  

SUNY Brockport African American Studies professor, John Marah, spoke about the impact Floyd’s death has had globally and the lessons that can be taken away from it. 

“The murder of George Floyd by the police, recorded for the world to see, must have four major lessons for all of us in this global village: everyone must appreciate that Black lives matter, understand the lived experience of African people with law enforcement in all communities, that we must all be activists, locally, nationally and internationally to protect the human rights of African people in our global village and that African people feel pain, just like everybody else,” Marah said. 

As the federal trials continue, and the three former Minneapolis police officers face possible convictions, the effect on police culture and steps taken towards active change will be clear.  

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