One of three Minneapolis police officers charged with federal civil rights violations in George Floyd’s killing, which triggered global protests and a re-examination of racism and policing in the United States, took the stand on Wednesday at their trial.
J Alexander Kueng is the second of the former officers to testify.
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Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao are charged with violating Floyd’s constitutional rights when Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as the 46-year-old Black man was handcuffed, face down on the street.
Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back. Lane held his legs and Thao kept bystanders back.
Earlier on Wednesday, Thao testified that he knew Floyd’s pleas that he could not breathe were becoming weaker, but still did not realise Floyd was in danger even as bystanders became increasingly vocal.
Under cross-examination by prosecutor LeeAnn Bell, Thao said he did not relay any of the onlookers’ concerns about Floyd’s wellbeing to the other officers and did not check his pulse after bystanders asked him to.
He said he was relying on the other three officers at the scene to care for Floyd’s medical needs while he controlled the crowd and traffic and that he did not think Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s trachea.
Thao, Kueng, and Lane are accused of depriving Floyd of medical care. Kueng and Thao are further accused of failing to intervene to stop the killing.
Prosecutors rested their case on Monday after calling to the stand doctors, police officers and bystanders to build an argument that the officers should have intervened to stop Chauvin and that they violated their training by not rolling Floyd onto his side so he could breathe, or giving him CPR as soon as he stopped breathing and they could not find a pulse.
Defence lawyers are seeking to show that the Minneapolis Police Department provided inadequate training and taught cadets to obey superiors. Chauvin, who was convicted of state murder and manslaughter charges last year, was the most senior officer at the scene.
On Wednesday, prosecutor Bell asked Thao what steps officers took to help Floyd. He replied that they were waiting for paramedics. She also asked if he ever told Chauvin to get off Floyd.
“I did not,” Thao replied, adding later that, “I think I would trust a 19-year veteran to figure it out”.
When Bell asked Thao if he communicated any bystander concerns to his partners, he replied, “Nope.”
On Tuesday, Thao’s lawyer, Robert Paule, asked Thao whether he saw any officers roll Floyd over and perform CPR. He said he did not and presumed that meant Floyd was breathing.
“It indicated that Mr Floyd was not in cardiac arrest,” said Thao, who later testified that he did not know there was anything seriously wrong with Floyd even as an ambulance took him away.
But Bell noted video shows Thao looking at the other officers much of the time and suggested that bystanders and traffic were not big threats.
Lane, Kueng and Thao also face a separate state trial in June on charges alleging that they aided and abetted murder and manslaughter.
Chauvin pleaded guilty in December to a federal civil rights charge. The other three officers have pleaded not guilty.