Tou Thao has fled Minnesota, but there's a very good chance he'll be forced to return.
Tou Thao has fled Minnesota, but there's a very good chance he'll be forced to return.

History sacked officer can’t run from

Tou Thao stood and watched as three of his colleagues applied their full weight to the neck, torso and lower body of a handcuffed, gasping black man during his final moments.

The 34-year-old Minnesota police officer told bystanders to keep their distance while the officers continued to lean on George Floyd. Eventually, Floyd lost consciousness and slipped away. His death would later ignite a week of protests across the US.

For eight minutes and 46 seconds, Thao, a 10-year veteran of the force, did nothing else.

Thao has been fired from his job but not charged in relation to the death of the 46-year-old last Monday.

But Hennepin County prosecutor Mike Freeman anticipates charges will eventually be laid.

In the meantime, Thao has fled the state. Minnesota's Star Tribune reports he scrubbed his social media, turned off his phone and ran from retaliation.

 

His lawyer says he is "safely elsewhere". But no matter how far he goes, he cannot escape his past.

According to a database of complaints against police, Thao has been the subject of six separate investigations, one of which was pending at the time of his sacking.

Two years ago, Thao and another Minnesota officer were the subject of a police brutality case that was settled out of court when the city of Minneapolis paid black man Lamar Ferguson $25,000.

The Gurdian reports that according to the lawsuit, Thao and his fellow officer allegedly "punch(ed), kick(ed) and kneed" Mr Ferguson's "face and body" causing "broken teeth as well as other bruising and trauma".

Mr Ferguson told reporters this week the officers stopped him and his pregnant partner in October, 2014, because they thought he was acting suspicious.

"They had no reason to stop me, they started asking me a whole bunch of questions, where I was going," he told the US Sun.

 

 

"They didn't find no drugs or any weapons. [Thao] was the most aggressive one, I was in handcuffs within the first few minutes of the incident. I was horrified.

"I was still in the alleyway, they started swinging me around and slammed me on the ground."

Mr Ferguson claims Thao punched and kicked him in front of his partner.

While out of the state, a conspiracy emerged linking Thao to the wife of officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin was charged with manslaughter and murder after kneeling on Mr Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes.

The Associated Press reported on rumours suggesting Thao was the brother of Kellie Chauvin. Chauvin does have a brother who works in the nearby St Paul police force, but she is not related to Thao, according to her divorce lawyer.

Thao is not the only officer to have fled Minneapolis after vision of Mr Floyd's death began circulating and rioters descended on the Twin Cities.

 

George Floyd was killed last week at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. Picture: Christopher Harris via AP
George Floyd was killed last week at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. Picture: Christopher Harris via AP

According to the Tribune, officer Thomas Lane, who was first on scene at last Monday's arrest, "left (Minneapolis)" and "didn't tell anyone where he was going".

J Alexander Kueng, the fourth officer involved in Mr Floyd's death, is believed to be staying with family in Minneapolis.

Rioters targeted the home of Chauvin after a number of videos showed him pressing his knee into Mr Floyd's neck even after he passed out.

His townhouse front door was splashed with paint and the word "racist" was written on his doorstep. A poster with the words "I can't breathe" was left at his door.

Mr Floyd told Chauvin and the other officers 16 times that he could not breathe and begged them to take pressure off his neck and back. But Chauvin instead reached for his mace to keep bystanders away.

 

A protester throws paint onto the front door a townhouse owned by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Picture: Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/AP
A protester throws paint onto the front door a townhouse owned by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Picture: Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/AP

Protests which started in Minneapolis and St Paul last week have spread to dozens of cities across the US.

They continued on Monday despite President Donald Trump's increasing threats of a violent crackdown.

Protests against black deaths in custody were also held in several Australian cities including Sydney where thousands marched and chanted "I can't breathe."

Originally published as History sacked officer can't run from



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