Ex-MPD officer J. Alexander Kueng testifies in federal civil rights trial

J. Alexander Keung testifies at his federal civil rights trial in St. Paul, Minn. (Courtroom sketch provided by Cedric Hohnstadt Illustration, L.L.C.) (Cedric Hohnstadt Illustration, L.L.C.)

For the first time, former Minneapolis police officer J. Alexander Kueng is publicly telling his story of what happened when he and three others responded to 38th and Chicago on May 25, 2020, which resulted in the murder of George Floyd in police custody.

Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao all face federal charges of depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights. The three are accused of failing to provide medical aid to George Floyd as he slowly died while restrained. Kueng and Thao are also charged with failing to intervene in a deadly use of force. Derek Chauvin, who held his knee on Floyd’s neck and was convicted of murder last year, pled guilty to similar federal charges in December.

Kueng’s testimony on Wednesday morning detailed growing up in north Minneapolis as the oldest of five siblings. His two brothers and two sisters are adopted. He is not. His mother, Joni Kueng, is white. There was no testimony about his father, but Joni Kueng has previously given interviews saying he was from Nigeria. His adopted siblings are all African-American, but in testimony they were only described as a diverse family.

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Kueng testified his decision to become a police officer came after high school, as he tried to figure out what to do with his life.

"Prior to that decision, I was not a fan of police whatsoever," he said, explaining he’d seen some negative interactions between officers and his family members, and that "rubbed me the wrong way for a while."

He went to Minneapolis Community Technical College and worked in loss prevention at the downtown Macy’s. He then transferred to the University of Minnesota, where he graduated with a four-year degree in Sociology of Law, Criminology and Justice. While at the university, he became a Minneapolis Police Department Community Service Officer. After graduation, he attended Hennepin Tech for law enforcement training.

His skills training at Hennepin Tech is where questioning first addressed specifics of this case. Kueng was asked by his attorney, Thomas Plunkett, if the side-recovery position was practiced in skills training, Kueng said, "Not that I recall, sir."

Multiple witnesses for the prosecution testified that officers are trained that once a person is restrained they should be placed on their side to breathe.

Kueng testified that in their role-playing skills classes, the scenarios would end once the handcuffs were on. Occasionally, they practiced standing a person up. They never practiced turning someone on their side.

Asked about a duty to intervene, Kueng testified it was merely a mention at Hennepin Tech. It was also never practiced in any scenario.

Kueng’s training at the Minneapolis Police Academy and his testimony about what happened on May 25, 2020 will come during afternoon questioning.

Lane is expected to testify as well. Thao testified on Wednesday. 

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