Newly released video show onlookers' reaction to George Floyd's death

Body-camera video revealed onlookers' growing horror in the death of Floyd.

August 14, 2020, 5:35 PM

Newly released body-camera video from one of four former Minneapolis police officers charged in the death of George Floyd revealed onlookers' growing horror and repeated pleas with the officers to get off him.

Former officer Tou Thao's body-camera video, which was made available to the public on Thursday, showed Thao holding back nearly a dozen onlookers. Some were using their cellphones to record the moment when former officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against Floyd's neck for nearly eight minutes resulting in his death.

In the video, Thao grew increasingly aggressive with the growing number of bystanders pleading with officers to get off Floyd's neck and check his pulse. At one point, Thao ordered the bystanders onto the sidewalk and told them that this is what could happen if they did drugs.

Floyd, who was suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store, was lying on his stomach and held down by two other officers in addition to Chauvin: Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng. A young male onlooker is seen in the video stepping off the sidewalk into the street, prompting Thao to push him in the chest with one hand.

Later, a woman who identified herself in the video as an off-duty Minneapolis firefighter, arrived out of uniform and asked officers if they had checked Floyd's pulse.

This combination of photos provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office in Minnesota on 3, 2020, shows, from left, Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao.
Hennepin County Sheriff's Office via AP, File

Prosecutors later confirmed the woman's employment as a Minneapolis firefighter and argued in court filings that the officers rejected her help and relegated her to the sidewalk. Kueng eventually took Floyd's pulse and told his colleagues that he couldn't detect one, according to the Star-Tribune.

Thao's attorney, Robert Paule, filed Thao's body-camera video with the court to support a motion to dismiss criminal charges against him, reported the Star-Tribune.

Paule argued in court filings that Thao's video proved he was focused on crowd control and never physically laid hands on Floyd or had a full view of what was happening as the three other officers restrained Floyd on the ground.

Thao also contacted emergency medical personnel and asked them to increase their urgency from a code 2 to a code 3, which activated their lights and sirens, Paule wrote in a memo filed last week, according to the Star-Tribune.

"The last time Officer Thao turned around to see what was happening, Mr. Floyd was alive and breathing," Paule wrote. "Officer Thao spent the time during the arrest of Mr. Floyd focused on keeping the civilian bystanders out of the scene to allow the other three officers to effectuate the legal arrest."

Former Minneapolis police officer Tou Thao, seen in an artist's sketch, attends a court hearing in Minneapolis, June 4, 2020.
Cedric Hohnstadt Illustration via Reuters

Floyd's death on May 25 sparked nationwide outcry and massive protests across the U.S. and around the world against racial injustice and police brutality. Floyd repeatedly told the officers that he could not breathe and called out for his mother before passing out. He was pronounced death at a hospital that evening.

All four officers were fired and are scheduled for trial in March 2021. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. Lane, Kueng and Thao are charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter.

On Thursday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison asked the judge to have the four ex-officers tried jointly. Defense attorneys have until Sept. 8 to respond. The next court hearing for the four is scheduled Sept. 11.

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