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Tou Thao Identified as One of the Officers Involved in George Floyd’s Death, Another Hmong American Mistaken for One of the Officer’s Relatives

Authorities have identified the four officers involved in the death of 46-year-old George Floyd, Star Tribune reports. One of the officers is Hmong American Tou Thao.

The officer seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck in the video of his death has been identified as Derek Chauvin. The other two officers are Thomas Lane and Alexander Kueng. All four officers have been fired for their involvement in the death of an unarmed black man.

Thao began his work at the Minneapolis Police Department as a community officer, Star Tribune reports. He graduated from the police academy in 2009 but was laid off in 2010. He made his return to the force in 2012.

According to the Daily Beast, Thao and Chauvin have been involved in multiple incidents of excessive police force throughout his time with the department. Minneapolis’ Communities United Against Police Brutality reports that six complaints have been filed against Thao, but no disciplinary action was taken.

In 2017, 26-year-old Lamar Ferguson sued Thao and another officer for use of excessive force.

Ferguson and his girlfriend were walking home from his grandmother’s house in October 2014 when Thao and his fellow officer stopped the pair to search them. The lawsuit claimed that the two officers had no probable cause.

The pair of officers arrested Ferguson claiming that there was a warrant out for his arrest. Ferguson alleged that when the two officers arrested him they “punch[ed], kick[ed], and kn[eed]” him “to the face and body” while he was handcuffed. He says he was not resisting arrest and had been pinned to the ground before they began assaulting him.

In the video of George Floyd’s death, Thao can be seen standing guard in front of Chauvin as Chauvin presses his knee into Floyd’s neck.

The Asian American community has begun addressing Thao’s involvment in Floyd’s death. Many are calling for Asian Americans to reckon with their complicity in anti-blackness and white supremacy.

“We must reckon with Asian American complicity in white supremacy,” Jason Wu, a lawyer for Legal Aid New York wrote in a tweet. “Some us try to do the work of building solidarity and fighting anti-Black racism, but many of us don’t.”

Michelle Kim, the CEO of Awaken, a company dedicated to improving corporate inclusivity and diversity, listed ways Asian Americans could be allies to Black Americans.

Quyen Dinh, the executive director of a Southeast Asian American civil rights organization called SEARAC, released a statement on Wednesday condemning the death of George Floyd:

Dear SEARAC supporters,

Today, we stand with communities and families across the country to condemn the death of George Floyd who was killed in Minneapolis on Monday after a violent police encounter. His horrific death was every bit preventable, and every bit enabled by a deeply rooted system of racial inequity, oppression, and discrimination here in the United States.

As Asian Pacific American Heritage Month comes to a close, in the 45th year of Southeast Asian American resettlement, during a wave of escalated anti-Asian racism, SEARAC joins the call across the country to demand justice for George and other victims of police violence in solidarity with the Black community…

As refugees and descendants of refugees, as survivors of war and genocide, our communities also know the devastating impacts of police force. It is incumbent on us as Southeast Asian Americans to show up for the Black community. We must acknowledge that our own paths to equity are a direct product of their historic civil rights wins and struggles, that they continue to build, as well as to endure, to this day. We must name the systems that have benefited from having communities of color pitted against one another, and we must boldly resist them. In this 45th year anniversary, we stand with George Floyd’s family and community to call for justice.

Advancing Justice, AAJC also released a statement of unity with the Black community.

“George Floyd’s cries of ‘I can’t breathe’ parallel the words of Eric Garner, who was killed by police in 2014. As George Floyd lay struggling to breathe, Officer Tou Thao had the opportunity and the authority to stop the situation. It is unconscionable that he chose to do nothing.”

“We are in a time where doing anything while Black garners unwanted attention and unnecessary law enforcement interaction – and too often death. We are also in a time where being Asian Americans means being harassed, attacked, and blamed for COVID-19. As many Asian Americans are speaking out about this hate, we must also show up for the African American community,” Advancing Justice, AAJC said.

Like Kim’s twitter thread, the statement also listed meaningful ways in which Asian Americans could demonstrate solidarity.

As the country condemns Thao’s actions, another Hmong American is being misidentified as a relative of one of the officers. George Xiong says he received a Facebook message from a woman

“Your step father is a murder and if you support him it makes you a believer in him and a hater of Jesus Christ!” the woman wrote in her message. “MURDERER!!!!!!!”

Xiong said the message confused him. At first he thought she might be confusing him for Thao. Then he learned Chauvin, the officer who was stepping on Floyd’s neck, was rumored to have a step son named George Xiong.

“FYI I am not him,” Xiong wrote in a Facebook post. “Please do not message me with threats.”

Xiong said the message has given him “a lot to think about.”

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