ST. PAUL, Minnesota — A former Minneapolis police officer who helped corner George Floyd as he struggled to breathe and later died was sentenced Wednesday morning to three years in prison for violating Mr. Floyd’s rights. A colleague who was present and leading passers-by away from what was going on was to be sentenced later that morning.
A federal judge has sentenced the former officer, J. Alexander Kueng, after a jury found him guilty earlier this year of failing to provide medical aid to Mr. Floyd or intervene while another officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee against Mr. Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.
The death of Mr. Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, sparked protests against police abuse and racism across the country in the spring and summer of 2020, joined by millions of Americans.
Mr. Kueng, 28, who is black, was next to Mr. Chauvin for much of the encounter and placed his own knee on Mr. Floyd for several minutes as Mr. Floyd called for air and eventually lost consciousness.
Judge Paul Magnuson, who oversaw the federal case against the four former Minneapolis police officers involved in Mr. Floyd’s death – all of whom were fired – sentenced Mr. Kueng at a federal courthouse in St. Paul.
Understanding the hardships arising from the death of George Floyd
Manda Sertich, a federal prosecutor, said during the hearing that Mr. Kueng did not attempt to help Mr. Floyd once he lost consciousness, and that Mr. Keung deserved “serious punishment”, even though he hadn’t anticipated Mr. Floyd. die.
Later on Wednesday, Judge Magnuson was due to sentence former officer Tou Thao, who steered worried bystanders away from Mr Floyd as they shouted that he was in a terrible state.
Mr. Thao, 36, who is Asian American, and Mr. Kueng remain charged by the state with aiding and abetting manslaughter and murder, and are due to stand trial in January.
Thomas Lane, 39, who is white and who helped restrain Mr Floyd by holding his legs, has pleaded guilty both a federal charge of violating Mr. Floyd’s rights and state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Last week he received a federal sentence two and a half years in prison; he is expected to be sentenced in the state case in September.
Federal prosecutors had asked the judge to imprison Mr. Thao and Mr. Kueng for “significantly longer” than the six and a half years they requested in the case of Mr. Lane, but less than 20 years.
On May 25, 2020, the day Mr. Floyd died, officers attended a south Minneapolis street corner after a convenience store employee called 911 to report that Mr. Floyd had used a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes. When they arrived and tried to put Mr Floyd in the back of a police cruiser, he struggled with them, saying he was claustrophobic and struggling to breathe.
Video taken by a passerby outside the store, showing officers pinning Mr Floyd face down on the pavement, struggling to breathe, has ricocheted around the world and sparked protests against police brutality and racial injustice.