Tou Thao, the last former Minneapolis police officer convicted in state court for his role in the killing of George Floyd, was sentenced Monday to 4 years and 9 months behind bars.
Thao had testified that he merely served as a “human traffic cone” when he held back concerned bystanders who gathered as former Officer Derek Chauvin, who is White, knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes while the Black man called out that he could not breathe on May 25, 2020.
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill found Thao guilty in May of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. The sentence he handed down Monday will run concurrently with Thao’s 3 1/2-year sentence on his separate conviction on a federal civil rights charge. His state sentence was more than the four years recommended under state guidelines.
Before the sentencing was decided, Thao took time to bear witness to Jesus, recalling how while “distressed” in prison over the “false narratives” surrounding the case, he was reading the Bible and a deputy helped him interpret the gospel in a way that he hadn’t come to realize before.
“Repent means changing of mind, changing of doing your will to God’s will. This is what repentance means. It’s kind of unpopular today. It’s kind of a bad word now. We insist Jesus do all of the dying without surrendering our whole heart to do His will,” Thao said.
“God tells us in Romans and Psalms that no one is good, not one. For me, I thought I was good enough but I was deceived. The Pharisees and the scribes. The Pharisees were religious and political leaders. The scribes loyal teachers. They demonstrate the example of fallen man’s nature,” he continued.
“They were fearful they would lose their power and influence and the security of their way of life,” Thao said. “If Jesus becomes the power their way of their life would be gone. Jesus essentially became a political prisoner. For them it was better one man than the whole nation.”
Minnesota inmates generally serve two-thirds of their sentences in prison and one-third on parole. There is no parole in the federal system, but inmates can shave some time off their sentences with good behavior.
“The death of Mr. Floyd is a tragedy just as the death of any human being is, and this is not a court of retribution. This is a court of justice,” Thao’s defense attorney had said Monday, asking for a sentence of 41 months in prison, giving credit for the 340 days already served. “I would point out that my client did not begin that day, did not go out to this call with anything but the purest of intentions. He had been a police officer sworn to serve, and he believed in that service. And he went out to help the situation out. He cannot undo what’s done, and obviously the court has spoken with regard to the verdict in this case. But my client is a good and decent man with a family just as all of us in this courtroom are.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.