ST. PAUL, Minn. — A former Minneapolis police officer charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights testified at his federal trial Monday, and began by outlining the jobs he had before moving toward a career in law enforcement.
Thomas Lane, one of three officers on trial, said one of his previous jobs was working at the Hennepin County Juvenile Detention Center, but that he wanted to instead work with people before they got into the jail system. He decided to pursue a job with the Minneapolis Police Department, where his father, grandfather and great-grandfather all worked.
Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng are charged with violating Floyd’s constitutional rights when Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes as the 46-year-old Black man was handcuffed, facedown on the street on May 25, 2020. Lane held Floyd’s legs. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back and Thao kept bystanders back.
Lane, 38, said at the Police Academy, cadets were expected to make sure their boots were polished and shirts were crisp. They were told to call officers “Sir or “Ma’am,” and stand at attention when the came in the room, he said.
He, Thao and Kueng are accused of depriving Floyd of his right to medical care. Kueng and Thao are also charged with failing to intervene to stop Chauvin in a killing that triggered protests worldwide and a re-examination of racism and policing. .
Kueng and Thao testified last week. Kueng said he deferred to Chauvin as the senior officer on the scene. Thao said he was relying on the other three officers to care for Floyd’s medical needs while he controlled the crowd and traffic.
Early Monday, Lane’s attorney called two witnesses who knew him before he became a police officer.
Minneapolis police Sgt. Adam Lepinski said he met Lane when Lane worked security at a bar. Lepinski said he encouraged Lane to join the police force.
“He was very calm. He always maintained his composure. He dealt with individuals with respect and dignity.”
Lane’s brother, James, testified that his brother “has always been the peacemaker, the compassionate one.”
Prosecutors have argued that the officers violated their training by not rolling Floyd onto his side or giving him CPR, and that even bystanders could see that Floyd was in trouble. Defense attorneys have attacked the department’s training as inadequate and have highlighted a culture that they said emphasized deference to senior officers like Chauvin.
Kueng testified to the latter last week. Kueng and Lane were both rookies, with just a few days working without a trainer, and Kueng testified last week that he feared he could be fired for disobeying a superior.
“He was my senior officer and I trusted his advice,” Kueng said of Chauvin.
Prosecutors questioned Kueng about training, including material from an emergency medical responder course he took that said someone might not be breathing adequately even though they’re talking and then lists thing to check for.
She pointed out that Floyd stopped talking after about 4 1/2 minutes and asked if it was a “red flag.”
“It is something to reassess, yes ma’am,” replied Kueng, who later agreed that he was trained to roll someone on their side to help them breathe when it was safe to do so. Kueng acknowledged he didn’t do so despite Lane’s suggestion.
Lane, who is white; Kueng, who is Black; and Thao, who is Hmong American, also face a separate state trial in June on charges alleging that they aided and abetted murder and manslaughter.