Three Minneapolis police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights sat by and “chose to do nothing” as Floyd pleaded for air and then went silent, a federal prosecutor said Tuesday at the start of closing arguments in their trial.

Prosecutor Manda Sertich singled out each former officer — Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane — as the government wrapped up its case in the monthlong trial. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, Thomas Lane held his legs and Tou Thao kept bystanders back.

Also read: Officer charged in George Floyd’s killing says his role was crowd control

Thao stared directly at Officer Derek Chauvin as Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes, Sertich said, noting that Thao also ignored bystanders’ pleas to help a man who was dying “right before their eyes.” She said Kueng casually picked gravel from a police SUV’s tire as Chauvin “mocked George Floyd’s pleas by saying it took a heck of a lot of oxygen to keep talking.” And Lane’s remarks showed that he knew Floyd was in distress but “did nothing to give Mr. Floyd the medical aid he knew Mr. Floyd so desperately needed,” the prosecutor said.

All three are charged with depriving Floyd of his right to medical care as Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes. Lane held the 46-year-old Black man’s feet, Kueng knelt on his back and Thao held back bystanders.

Also read: 2 cops plan to testify about George Floyd killing; prosecutors rest

Kueng and Thao are also charged with failing to intervene to stop Chauvin during the May 25, 2020, killing that triggered protests worldwide and a reexamination of racism and policing.

Prosecutors have argued that the officers violated their training by not rolling Floyd onto his side or giving him CPR, and by not intervening to stop Chauvin.

Sertich discounted Lane’s attempt to perform CPR after the ambulance arrived, saying the officers chose to do nothing for 2 1/2 “precious minutes” after Floyd became unresponsive and before the ambulance arrived.

“They chose to do nothing, and their choice resulted in Mr. Floyd’s death,” she said. 

Also read: Trial to resume for cops accused of violating Floyd’s rights

Defense attorneys argued that the Minneapolis Police Department’s training was inadequate. They also attacked a police culture that they said teaches officers to defer to their seniors, saying that Chauvin called all the shots at the scene. Lane and Kueng, who were both rookies, argued that they deferred to Chauvin.

But Sertich rejected those arguments: “Officer Chauvin isn’t ordering these defendants around, he’s barely talking to them,” she said. “The officers knew George Floyd couldn’t breathe, and was dying.”

The prosecutor ran through the elements necessary to prove that Thou and Kueng failed to intervene, saying they did nothing, “not one statement, not one gesture, not one physical intervention,” to stop Chauvin. She also highlighted Thou’s status as a veteran officer: “He certainly had the means to save Chauvin from himself.”

Both counts include language that the officers “willfully” deprived Floyd of his constitutional rights. Sertich told jurors the government doesn’t have to prove the officers acted with ill will toward Floyd or intended to hurt him.

On the intervention charge, she said, prosecutors merely had to prove that the officers knew the force Chauvin was using was unreasonable and that they had a duty to stop it but didn’t. And on the charge that Floyd was denied medical care, the fact that the officers knew Floyd was in distress but did nothing is proof of willfulness, she said.

Also read: 3 officers at George Floyd killing didn’t follow training, defense says

Sertich contrasted the officers’ inaction with the desperate cries of bystanders pleading with them to get off Floyd and to check for a pulse: “Even though they had no power, no authority, no obligation, they knew they had to do something.”

Those bystanders, Sertich said, gave Thao and Kueng “play by play commentary” that should have raised their awareness that Floyd was in trouble — shouting that Floyd could not breathe, that he wasn’t responsive and urging the officers to look at him.

“Anyone … can recognize that someone with a knee on their neck, who has slowly lost their ability to speak, stopped moving and has gone unconscious has a serious medical need,” Sertich said, urging jurors to review videos of what happened, including a widely seen bystander video, that she said show more than what any witness could describe.

During the trial, Lane testified that he asked twice if Floyd should be rolled over but was rebuffed, and that he held his position because an ambulance was on the way.

Kueng testified that Chauvin was his former training officer and that he had considerable sway over his career. He said he trusted Chauvin’s advice.

Thao testified that he was watching the bystanders and he trusted that the officers behind him were caring for Floyd.

Chauvin pleaded guilty in the federal case in December, months after he was convicted of state murder and manslaughter charges.

Closing arguments in the current trial were expected to take most of Tuesday before the case goes to the jury.

At the start of the trial, U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson selected 18 jurors, including six alternates. Fourteen remain — 12 who will deliberate and two alternates. The court did not release demographic information, but the jury appeared largely white.

Lane, who is white, Kueng, who is Black, and Thao, who is Hmong American, also face a separate trial in June on state charges alleging that they aided and abetted murder and manslaughter.

The trial was wrapping up just as another major civil rights trial in Georgia resulted in the conviction of three white men on hate crimes charges in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was chased and shot in February 2020.