Ex-cop Tou Thao charged in George Floyd's death says he was watching 'hostile' crowd instead of the arrest

A 100-minute video in which Tou Thao is interviewed by investigators has been released in which the former officer gives a detailed description of his version of George Floyd's death

                            Ex-cop Tou Thao charged in George Floyd's death says he was watching 'hostile' crowd instead of the arrest
Tou Thao (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

A 1 hour, 40-minute video interview of former Minneapolis Police Department officer Tou Thao has been released. Thao, one of the officers charged in George Floyd's death, claims that he wasn't watching his fellow officers, and was instead keeping an eye on the "hostile" crowd that was surrounding them.

The voluntary interview was filed with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) in court, in the prosecution's attempt to get all four officers involved in the killing of George Floyd to be tried together. The video is the first time that footage has been released from the interview of an officer who has been charged with the murder of a civilian in Minessota.

In the video, Thao attempts to absolve himself of responsibility as he recounts the details of the incident, claiming that his attention was elsewhere. "As the crowd is starting to grow and become loud and hostile toward us, I decided to forgo [monitoring] traffic and put myself in between the crowd and the officers… and just spend the majority of my attention looking at the crowd — make sure they don’t charge us or bull rush us as the officers on the ground are defenseless," Thao said in the video, adding that he was a "human traffic cone".

Thao's body camera video of the same event shows that the officer displayed aggression towards bystanders, pushing two men who stepped off the sidewalk into the street. As he recounted the events in the BCA video, Thao says that Floyd appeared to be on drugs, resisted getting into a squad car and kicked himself out of the squad onto the street. When asked about why there was such urgency to arrest Floyd, and whether or not there could have been an alternative method of handling things, Thao said, "First, this wasn't our call. We were just the backup officers, so we don't — I don’t have the back information as far as what happened prior to us arriving."

Thao and his partner, former officer Derek Chauvin, had both responded to a call for backup from former officers J Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane. "It sounded like it was something urgent, like they were struggling with somebody," said Thao. Thao and Chauvin responded immediately. Though dispatch had canceled the backup request before the two arrived at the scene, Thao was compelled to respond as Kueng and Lane were rookies — on their third and fourth day on the job, respectively. 

The investigators asked Thao what Floyd said while he was being restrained. "He was saying that he couldn’t breathe," Thao said, "but then he was obviously yelling and talking." Thao was asked if he checked in on Floyd at any point. "No, because my job is scene security," Thao replied. "I would trust [the other officers]...God only gave me one body and two hands and two legs. I can’t be in two places at once, so." 

Thao, Kueng and Lane are each charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter. Chauvin is charged with one count each of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

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