(NEW YORK) — In emotional testimony on Monday, former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane told a jury that he tried to help George Floyd several times but in each instance was blocked by his senior officer, Derek Chauvin.
Lane is the third former police officer to take the witness stand in his own defense regarding charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights.
The 38-year-old Lane told the U.S. District Court jury in St. Paul, Minnesota, that when paramedics came to take Floyd to a hospital, he volunteered to assist them, testifying that he thought Floyd “didn’t look good.”
He welled up with emotion and his voice cracked when asked by his attorney, Earl Gray, why he decided to go into an ambulance and help try to revive Floyd.
“I felt with the situation, they might need a hand,” Lane testified.
Lane and his former police colleagues, Tou Thao, 35, and J. Alexander Kueng, 28, are charged with using the “color of the law,” or their positions as police officers, to deprive Floyd of his civil rights by allegedly showing deliberate indifference to his medical needs as Chauvin kneeled on the back of the handcuffed man’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds, ultimately killing him.
They have all pleaded not guilty. If convicted, the men face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Closing arguments in the high-profile case are scheduled for Tuesday.
Both Lane and Kueng were rookie police officers at the time of Floyd’s death, and their field training officer was Chauvin, who was convicted of murdering Floyd and sentenced to over 22 years in prison. Chauvin also pleaded guilty to federal civil rights violations.
Lane said he and Kueng were partnered up for the first time when they responded to a call on Memorial Day 2020 of a person possibly under the influence who had allegedly used a fake $20 bill to purchase cigarettes at a Cup Foods store.
He testified that when he confronted Floyd, who was seated in the driver’s seat of a Mercedes-Benz SUV parked outside the store with two passengers, “it looked like he (Floyd) was trying to put something away” and that he couldn’t see the man’s right hand.
Lane told the jury that he initially drew his gun and yelled at Floyd “to let him know how serious I thought it was.”
He said he then lowered his voice to de-escalate the situation and told Floyd, “I’m not going to shoot you.”
A struggle broke out, he testified, when he and Kueng tried to get the handcuffed man into a police cruiser.
Lane testified that he and Kueng were still struggling with Floyd when Chauvin and Thao arrived at the scene.
“Chauvin cut in front of me,” he said, adding that he backed off and deferred to Chauvin, who decided to place Floyd prone on the pavement.
Lane said he was holding and monitoring Floyd’s legs “because of the kicking.” But, he testified, Floyd’s resistance lessened after a few minutes.
Gray asked Lane if he could see where Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s body.
“It appeared to be kind of holding at the base of the neck and shoulder,” Lane testified.
Lane said he couldn’t see Floyd’s face until the paramedics arrived and placed him on a stretcher.
He testified that while he, Kueng and Chauvin held Floyd down, he suggested rolling Floyd on his side to help his breathing, but Chauvin told him, “Nope, we’re good like this.” He said that when he asked a second time, Chauvin “deflected” his question.
Lane testified that he also asked Kueng to check Floyd’s pulse and that he also tried to check Floyd’s ankle for a pulse.
He claimed that when paramedics arrived and checked Floyd’s pulse, he was assured he had a pulse. Later, under cross-examination, Lane said paramedics told him Floyd was unresponsive.
Under cross-examination from Assistant U.S. District Attorney Samantha Trepel, Lane agreed that fear of repercussions or angering his field training officer was not an exception to his duty as a police officer to render aid to Floyd.
“Despite your training, you deferred to your colleagues?” Trepel asked.
Lane replied, “It seemed reasonable at the time with an ambulance coming.”
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