The trial of Derek Chauvin began on Monday, with prosecutors accusing the former Minneapolis Police Department officer of killing George Floyd by “grinding and crushing him.” Chauvin denies charges of second- and third-degree murder.
Video showed him kneeling on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes, as he and three fellow officers from the Minneapolis Police Department arrested him on May 25, 2020. Floyd died while in custody, and footage of his arrest went viral and sparked worldwide protests against racial inequality and police brutality.
While Chauvin’s trial is underway, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Thou Thao, the three other former Minneapolis Police Department officers involved in Floyd’s death, will stand trial later this year. The trio were all fired over their role in the incident and charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
While their former colleague was a veteran of almost 19 years with the Minneapolis Police Department, Lane and Kueng were both new to policing after entering the force as cadets in February 2019. The duo graduated in the same recruit class and were promoted to officers in December 2019.
By the time of Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020, Lane had worked with the Minneapolis Police Force for just four days. A criminology graduate from the University of Minnesota, Lane had previously worked as a guard at a juvenile detention center.
Along with Kueng, Lane was one the first two officers to arrive on the scene, responding to a call about someone allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill in a Cup Foods store. The transcript from Lane’s body-worn camera shows he pulled his gun on the car Floyd was in, before the latter pleaded: “Don’t shoot me, Mr. Officer.”
According to the transcript, Lane thought Floyd was “on something,” suggesting he suspected him of being under the influence.
An autopsy carried out by Dr. Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, in June last year concluded Floyd’s death was a homicide. Baker also noted he had found traces of fentanyl—an opioid used as recreational drug—in Floyd’s system, but stated that could not be identified as the cause of death.
Later, as Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck, Lane twice suggested his colleague roll Floyd on his side. By then, according to the transcript and the video filmed by a bystander, Floyd had repeatedly complained he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin refused his colleague’s suggestion and Lane pinned Floyd’s legs to the ground.
“Despite his comments, the defendant took no actions to assist Mr. Floyd, to change his position, or to reduce the force the officers were using against Mr. Floyd,” a criminal complaint against Lane states.
According to an interview he gave to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in the presence of his attorney, Earl Gray, Lane said Chauvin had advised him from time to time. He added he was “basically going off [Chauvin’s] experience” during Floyd’s arrest.
“What was my client supposed to do but follow what his training officer said?” Gray asked the court during a preliminary hearing.
Initially held in Hennepin County jail on $1 million bail without conditions, Lane was released on conditions at $750,000 less than a month after his arrest. Gray subsequently filed a motion to dismiss the charges in June last year.
“Lane did not intentionally aid, advise, hire, counsel, or conspire with Chauvin or otherwise procure Chauvin to commit second degree murder,” Gray wrote in the motion.
“Lane did not encourage any alleged criminal actions of Chauvin. He did not know and had no reason to believe that a third degree assault was being committed, and he certainly did not intend his actions (restraining his legs/feet) to further a crime.”
State prosecutors rejected the motion, prompting Gray to dismiss the state’s response as “narrative fiction” and that his client “did nothing wrong.”