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February 25, 2022

Guilty verdicts against former officers Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane send a strong message for Police Accountability, yet additional work is still needed


Twin Cities, Minnesota

Yesterday, a federal jury found former Minneapolis police officers Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane guilty of violating George Floyd’s civil rights when they aided fellow officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd, failed to intervene, and failed to render medical treatment. We are thankful that the jury found these former officers guilty. It is another step towards police accountability. These verdicts are a result of the multi-year long persistence of Black leaders and allies in our community who continue to demand justice.

“A guilty verdict was the only appropriate result in the heinous murder of George Floyd.” said  Nekima Levy Armstrong, founder of the Racial Justice Network. “Those former officers never saw the humanity of George Floyd. It shouldn’t take a global uprising to get justice for the murder of a Black man. I’m glad the jury listened to the evidence and decided to hold those three officers accountable under the law.”

The guilty verdicts in this case indicate small cracks are happening in a system that still rarely holds police officers accountable when they murder Black people. These convictions are important. However, without a strong penalty by the Court at the sentencing phase, guilty verdicts fail to truly deliver justice and accountability. This recently happened when Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu sentenced former officer Kim Potter, who is white, to just 24 months after being convicted of first and second degree manslaughter for the death of Daunte Wright, a Black father. This slap on the wrist was far below the sentencing guidelines range. Contrast that to the five year sentence of former officer Mohamed Noor, a Black man, for a lesser charge of third degree manslaughter in the death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a white woman. Judge Chu is perpetuating the racial bias that is deeply ingrained within the criminal justice system. She was able to empathize with Kim Potter, a white woman, in a way she was not able to empathize with Daunte Wright and his family.

“Attorney General Keith Ellison needs to use his authority to appeal the sentencing of Kim Potter.” said Sonja Western. “The criminal legal system consistently offers little empathy and compassion for Black people convicted of lesser crimes. This short sentence is unconscionable, unacceptable, and needs to be challenged.”

As we celebrate this guilty verdict, much work remains to be done in transforming the system of policing in Minnesota and around the nation. To that end, Racial Justice Network demands the following: 

  • We demand that former officers Kueng, Lane and Thao are sentenced to the maximum extent under law for their actions.

  • We demand that Attorney General Keith Ellison appeal the sentencing of Kim Potter and demand a longer sentence within the sentencing guidelines range.

The Racial Justice Network (RJN) is a multi-racial, grassroots organization, committed to fighting for racial justice and building bridges across racial, social, and economic lines.