The Minneapolis police chief testified on Monday that now-fired officer Derek Chauvin violated departmental policy in pinning his knee on George Floyd’s neck and keeping him down after Floyd had stopped resisting and was in distress.
Continuing to kneel on Floyd’s neck once he was handcuffed behind his back and lying on his stomach was “in no way, shape or form” part of department policy or training, “and it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values,” Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said.
Arradondo, the city’s first Black chief, fired Chauvin and three other officers the day after Floyd’s death last May, and in June called it “murder.” At that time, the police chief said Floyd’s death was not due to a lack of training and that “Chauvin knew what he was doing.”
Chauvin, 45, is charged with murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death on May 25. The white officer is accused of pinning his knee on the 46-year-old man’s neck for nine minutes, 29 seconds, as Floyd lay face-down in handcuffs outside a corner market, where had been accused of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill for a pack of cigarettes.
De-escalating should be ‘layered’ into use of force
Under questioning from prosecutor Matthew Frank, Arradondo said it’s the police department’s policy that officers should consider minimizing physical force during an arrest even while force is being used to restrain a suspect.
“The goal is to resolve the situation as safely as possible. So you want to always have de-escalation layered into those actions of using force.” the police chief said.
Chauvin, who had been on the force for 19 years, failed to follow his training in several respects, Arradondo said. He could tell from Floyd’s grimaces that Chauvin was using more than the maximum “light-to-moderate” pressure an officer is allowed to use on someone’s neck.
The officer did not relent in using force even as Floyd fell unconscious and he did not provide mandated first aid to a dying Floyd, Arradondo said.
“It’s contrary to our training to indefinitely place your knee on a prone, handcuffed individual for an indefinite period of time,” he said.
Arradondo’s testimony came after the emergency room doctor who pronounced Floyd dead testified that he theorized at the time that Floyd’s heart most likely stopped because of a lack of oxygen.
Dr. Bradford Langenfeld, who was a senior resident on duty that night at Hennepin County Medical Center and tried to resuscitate Floyd, earlier took the stand at the beginning of Week Two at Chauvin’s murder trial.
Langenfeld said Floyd’s heart had stopped by the time he arrived at the hospital. The doctor said that he was not told of any efforts at the scene by bystanders or police to resuscitate Floyd but that paramedics told him they had tried for about 30 minutes.
Under questioning by prosecutor Jerry Blackwell, Langenfeld said that based on the information he had, death by asphyxiation was “more likely than the other possibilities.”
The defence argues that Chauvin did what he was trained to do and that Floyd’s use of illegal drugs and his underlying health conditions caused his death.
Chauvin lawyer Eric Nelson questioned Langenfeld about whether some drugs can cause hypoxia, or insufficient oxygen. The doctor acknowledged that fentanyl and methamphetamine, both of which were found in Floyd’s body, can do so.
The county medical examiner’s office ultimately classified Floyd’s death a homicide — that is, a death at the hands of someone else.
Opioid antidote of no use during cardiac arrest
The full report said Floyd died of “cardiopulmonary arrest, complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.” A summary report listed fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use under “other significant conditions” but not under “cause of death.”
Under cross-examination from Nelson, Langenfeld said Floyd’s carbon dioxide levels were more than twice has high as levels in healthy person, and he agreed that that could be attributed to a respiratory problem. But on questioning from the prosecutor, the doctor said the high levels were also consistent with cardiac arrest — the stopping of the heart.
Langenfeld also testified that neither he nor paramedics administered a drug that would reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. The doctor said giving Narcan once a patient is in cardiac arrest would provide no benefit.
The doctor also told the court that paramedics made no mention that Floyd may have suffered a drug overdose before he was brought to the hospital.
Floyd’s treatment by police was captured on widely seen bystander video that sparked protests that rocked Minneapolis and quickly spread to other U.S. cities and beyond and descended into violence in some cases.
Langenfeld said that “any amount of time” a patient spends in cardiac arrest without immediate CPR decreases the chance of a good outcome. He said there is an approximately 10 per cent to 15 per cent decrease in survival for every minute that CPR is not administered.
The city of Minneapolis moved soon after Floyd’s death to ban police chokeholds and neck restraints. Arradondo and Mayor Jacob Frey also made several policy changes, including expanding requirements for reporting use-of-force incidents and documenting attempts to de-escalate situations.
Prosecutors have already called supervisory officers to build the case that Chauvin improperly restrained Floyd. A duty sergeant and a lieutenant who leads the homicide division both questioned Chauvin’s actions in pinning Floyd to the ground.
“Totally unnecessary,” Lt. Richard Zimmerman, the longest-tenured officer on the force, testified Friday. He said once Floyd was handcuffed, he saw “no reason for why the officers felt they were in danger, if that’s what they felt, and that’s what they would have to feel to be able to use that kind of force.”
With files from Reuters and CBC News
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