Former Cop in George Floyd Case Wants Charges Dropped

Former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane, right, walks out of the Hennepin County Public Safety Facility with his attorney Earl Gray on June 20. (Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via AP)

MINNEAPOLIS (CN) — An attorney for one of three former Minneapolis police officers charged with aiding and abetting the killing of George Floyd asked a state judge to dismiss the case against him, arguing transcripts of body camera footage and interviews with investigators prove his innocence.

St. Paul-based defense attorney Earl Gray wrote in a memo filed Tuesday along with the motion to dismiss that Thomas Lane did not encourage fellow officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with Floyd’s murder, to assault or kill Floyd.

Floyd’s May 25 death in police custody and a widely circulated video showing Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes sparked massive civil unrest and protests against police brutality in Minneapolis and across the nation.

“Lane did not know what Chauvin was thinking while restraining Floyd. Chauvin did not verbally tell Lane anything about his intentions other than waiting for the ambulance to arrive,” Gray wrote. “Lane knew Floyd needed to be restrained and he knew Chauvin was authorized to use reasonable force to restrain.”

The attorney also pointed out that Lane was not in a position to question Chauvin, a field training officer with 20 years of seniority on Lane and fellow rookie officer J. Alexander Kueng.

Lane, Kueng and Tou Thao, who was shown on video keeping bystanders away from Chauvin, were all charged by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter in early June.

Lane detailed Floyd’s arrest in his interview with Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigators. He said Floyd was anxious from early on, telling Lane and Kueng that he’d been shot before when Lane briefly drew a gun on Floyd.

Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin kneels on the neck of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. (Darnella Frazier via AP)

As officers struggled to get Floyd into the squad car and then laid him on the ground, Lane said, that anxiety escalated to the point where he was concerned about excited delirium. The officers called an ambulance after Floyd hit his head on the glass partition inside the squad car and began bleeding from the mouth, according to the memo.

Throughout the incident, Lane said, he suspected that Floyd was intoxicated, having found a pipe in Floyd’s possession and noticed flecks of spit near his mouth. An autopsy released early on noted that Floyd had recently used methamphetamines and was intoxicated with the opioid fentanyl.

The body camera transcripts, taken from footage shot on Lane and Kueng’s cameras, also showed Floyd telling the officers that he’d just had a bout with Covid-19 and couldn’t breathe while they attempted to get him into the squad car. Floyd’s cries of “I can’t breathe” during his arrest sparked signs, chants and comparisons to the 2014 death of Eric Garner after a New York Police Department officer placed him in a chokehold.

Lane said in the BCA interview that he learned at a previous job at the Hennepin County Juvenile Detention Center to roll agitated people on their side to recover, which he suggested to Chauvin. Chauvin declined, according to Lane, opting instead to keep Floyd on his stomach until an ambulance arrived. Lane, meanwhile, held Floyd’s legs and looked for his hobble, a restraint police use to hog-tie handcuffed detainees.

The video transcripts also depict Chauvin dismissing Floyd’s complaints that he couldn’t breathe. “You’re doing a lot of talking, a lot of yelling,” he said.  

When Floyd replied, “They’re going to kill me. They’re going to kill me, man,” Chauvin retorted that it “takes a heck of a lot of oxygen to say that.”

Kueng checked Floyd’s pulse as bystanders begged the officers to do so, and told Chauvin that he couldn’t find one.

When the ambulance arrived, Lane said, paramedics instructed him to perform CPR, which he did. He then went with Floyd and the paramedics to Hennepin County Medical Center, where Floyd eventually died.

At the scene, Lane said he had misgivings about the handling of Floyd’s arrest.

“I would say I felt like it maybe could have been handled differently or we should be reassessing what we’re doing,” he told investigators.

All four former officers are next scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 11, and the first trial, likely Chauvin’s, is set for March 8.

In the meantime, Gray has advocated for the public release of the actual body camera footage.

“I think the public should see it,” he said in a Wednesday interview with the Star Tribune. “That shows the whole picture. If they watch the whole thing, people… couldn’t cherry pick parts of it.”

“The attorney general has come out and said my client committed murder,” Gray added. “Showing just the last little piece there is not fair.”

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