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Former police officer pleads guilty to manslaughter in George Floyd killing

Thomas Lane helped to restrain George Floyd, who was handcuffed (Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office via AP)
Thomas Lane helped to restrain George Floyd, who was handcuffed (Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

A former Minneapolis police officer has pleaded guilty to a state charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd.

As part of a plea deal, Thomas Lane will have a count of aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder dismissed.

Lane, along with J Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, has already been convicted on federal counts of wilfully violating Mr Floyd’s rights during the May 2020 restraint that led to his death.

The state is recommending a sentence of three years for Lane and has agreed to allow him to serve the time in a federal prison.

Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office prosecuted the case, issued a statement saying he was pleased that Lane accepted responsibility for his role in Mr Floyd’s death.

“His acknowledgment he did something wrong is an important step toward healing the wounds of the Floyd family, our community, and the nation,” Mr Ellison said.

“While accountability is not justice, this is a significant moment in this case and a necessary resolution on our continued journey to justice.”

The George Floyd memorial mural in Stevenson Square, Manchester
A George Floyd memorial mural in Stevenson Square, Manchester (Manchester City Council/PA)

Their former colleague, Derek Chauvin, pleaded guilty last year to a federal charge of violating Mr Floyd’s civil rights and faces a federal sentence ranging from 20 to 25 years.

Chauvin was earlier convicted of state charges of murder and manslaughter and sentenced to 22-and-a-half years in the state case.

Mr Floyd, 46, died on May 25 2020, after Chauvin pinned him to the ground with a knee on his neck, as Mr Floyd repeatedly said he could not breathe.

Lane and Kueng helped to restrain Mr Floyd, who was handcuffed. Lane held down Mr Floyd’s legs and Kueng knelt on Mr Floyd’s back. Thao kept bystanders from intervening during the nine-and-a-half-minute restraint.

Lane was convicted along with Kueng and Thao of federal charges in February, after a month-long trial that focused on the officers’ training and the culture of the police department.

People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest in Brighton, sparked by the death of George Floyd
A Black Lives Matter protest in Brighton, sparked by the death of George Floyd (Aaron Chown/PA)

All three were convicted of depriving Mr Floyd of his right to medical care and Thao and Kueng were also convicted of failing to intervene to stop Chauvin during the killing, which was caught on video and sparked protests around the world.

After their federal conviction, there was a question as to whether the state trial would proceed.

At an April hearing in state court, prosecutors revealed they had offered plea deals to all three men, but they were rejected.

At the time, Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, said it was hard for the defence to negotiate when the three still did not know what their federal sentences would be.

Kueng and Thao are also scheduled to go to trial in June on state charges.

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