One of the four former Minneapolis officers charged in George Floyd’s death tried to warn his fellow officers during the arrest, his attorney claimed in court Thursday.
J. Alexander Kueng hadn’t yet completed his third full shift as a police officer when the deadly arrest occurred, his attorney Tom Plunkett claimed. Plunkett says Kueng allegedly told his fellow officers as they were detaining Floyd, “You shouldn’t do that."
Kueng was in court on Thursday along with former officers Tou Thao and Thomas Lane after being charged on Wednesday with aiding and abetting murder, as well as aiding and abetting manslaughter, in the case. A fourth officer, Derek Chauvin, was charged with second-degree murder after video showed Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes while detaining him on May 25.
Thomas Kiernan Lane, Alexander Kueng, and Tou Nmn Thao.Hennepin County Sheriff
Lane was also new to the job, only on the force for four days when the incident occurred, his attorney Earl Gray claimed. His lawyer said that Lane twice asked Chauvin, a training officer, “Shall we roll him over?” He also expressed concern that Floyd may be in “delirium.”
“What is my client supposed to do other than follow what the training officer said?” Gray said in court.
A judge ordered Kueng, Lane and Thao each an unconditional bail of $1 million compounded with $750,000 of conditional bail. No pleas were entered.
All four of the former officers face a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, according to the criminal complaints.
"Please, please, please, I can't breathe," Floyd begged in one video caught by a bystander. "My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Please, please. I can't breathe."
Lane and Kueng were the first officers to arrive at the scene that night, as they investigated a report that a possible counterfeit $20 bill had been passed at the Cup Foods grocery store, according to the complaint against Chauvin. When Lane found Floyd parked nearby, the officer pulled his gun, had Floyd get out of his car and handcuffed him, the complaint said.
A cuffed Floyd was eventually put face-down on the pavement with Kueng holding down his back and Lane pressing down his legs, the charging document against Chauvin said. While a distressed Floyd said “I can’t breathe,” “Mama” and “please” several times, Lane asked, “Should we roll him on his side?”
“No, staying put where we got him,” Chauvin responded, according to the complaint. “I am worried about excited delirium or whatever,” Lane allegedly said. “That’s why we have him on his stomach,” Chauvin responded, according to the complaint.
The official autopsy from the Hennepin County medical examiner listed Floyd's cause of death as a "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression."
The medical examiner ruled that Floyd's death was a homicide, but added that he had "significant" underlying conditions, including hypertensive heart disease, fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use.
But an examination funded by Floyd’s family reached a somewhat different conclusion. It found that police officers' pressing on his neck and body cut blood and air flow to his brain, causing him to die by mechanical asphyxia, pathologists hired by the family said.
Chauvin was initially charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter last week, but Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison elevated the prosecutorial case by adding a second-degree murder charge on Wednesday. Ellison said his team will assert that Chauvin committed a felony assault which unintentionally resulted in Floyd's death, which fits the requirements for second-degree murder.