Lieutenant Richard Zimmerman, head of the homicide unit for more than 12 years, testified on Friday that Derek Chauvin’s actions violated policy by pressing his weight on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes while the man was handcuffed and lying down. Police are not trained to kneel on a person’s neck, he said.
“Once the person has cuffs, the level of threat is completely reduced,” the lieutenant told jurors in the Chauvin murder case.
“How can this person hurt you?” He asked, adding that “hurting yourself is very low.” Keeping the person handcuffed and lying down “restricts breathing”, he said.
Asked by prosecutor Matthew Frank if he had ever been trained to kneel on a man, Zimmerman said no.
“Because if your knee is on someone̵
At that moment, Chauvin raised his head on the protective table and glanced at Zimmerman.
The potentially devastating testimony of the department’s top officer came on the shortened fifth day of testimony in the closely monitored trial. Judge Peter Cahill sent jurors home earlier as the trial was ahead of schedule. The readings resume on Monday.
Zimmerman said Chauvin’s actions were “unsolicited” and “completely unnecessary”.
“You have to take them off their chests,” the veteran investigator said at one point. “Lying on your chest makes your breathing even worse.”
In cross-examination, Zimmerman agreed that an unconscious person can become combative when he comes to life, kicks and beats around.
Attorney Eric Nelson tried to show that the police have changed significantly since Zimmerman went through his training. He tried to draw attention to Zimmermann’s limited use of force as an investigator compared to the patrol officer.
Although not trained to use a knee on a suspect’s neck, Zimmerman told Nelson that police officers in the fight for their lives were allowed to use any force that was reasonable and necessary.
Sergeant describes arrival at scene of “possible critical incident”
Earlier, jurors heard testimony from the sergeant who secured the area shortly after Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck.
Sgt. John Edwards, a 14-year-old police veteran, said he arrived at the scene of a “possible critical incident” shortly after 9:30 p.m., and had other officers patrol the area for potential witnesses.
At the scene, Edwards said, he asked two officers – J. Alexander Queng and Thomas Lane – to activate the cameras worn by their bodies. The two officers were later charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
Zimmerman arrived at the site of Chicago Avenue shortly before 10 p.m. Queng and Lane were taken to City Hall as part of an investigation into a critical incident, according to Edwards.
Then, call Sgt. David Pleodger, his supervisor at the time, was captured on camera and played during Pleoger’s testimony on Thursday. Chauvin called shortly after kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes on May 25 to explain his version of events.
“I was just about to call and get on our stage here,” Chauvin told Pleoger. “We just had to keep one man. He was going crazy. He wouldn’t … he wouldn’t get in the back of the team …”
The video ends, but for the rest of the conversation, Chauvin said Floyd had emergency medical care after fighting police officers trying to get him in a car, according to Pleoger. Chauvin did not mention that he kept his knee on Floyd’s neck and back, Pleoger said.
Pleoger came to the scene and asked officers to speak with witnesses. “We can try, but they’re all pretty hostile,” Chauvin said.
Later that evening, at Henpen County Medical Center, Chauvin told his supervisor that he had knelt on Floyd’s neck, Pleoger told the jury.
The video from Chauvin’s body camera, released for the jury on Wednesday, also shows him defending his actions from a bystander who calls for his treatment with Floyd.
“That’s one person’s opinion,” Chauvin said as he got into his car. “We had to control this guy because he’s pretty big. Looks like it’s probably something.”
Chauvin pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The defendant, in a suit and tie, sat at the defense table and took notes on a large legal basis.
Earlier Thursday, Floyd’s girlfriend talked about Floyd’s fight against opioid addiction, and a pair of first responders testified that Floyd looked dead when they arrived.
A supervisor says Chauvin’s use of force should have ended earlier
Pleoger’s testimony focused on police reports of the use of force. Employees may use force in certain circumstances, but this force must cease once the person is under control.
Pleoger testified that his review of camera footage showed that the use of Chauvin’s force should have ended earlier.
“When Mr Floyd no longer offered any resistance to the officers, they could end the restriction,” he said. “It would be wise to put a knee on someone’s neck until he no longer resists, but he should stop when he is no longer a fighter.”
He said employees should call an ambulance and provide emergency assistance while waiting for the ambulance. Restrained people should be set aside to help them breathe.
During cross-examination, Pleoger said he had not conducted a formal review of the force as the death investigation had moved up the chain of command.
“I thought he was dead”
A pair of paramedics from Henpen County said Floyd did not react, did not breathe and had no pulse when they arrived.
“I thought he was dead in a non-specialist way,” said paramedic Derek Smith.
Smith and his partner Seth Bravinder were called to the scene for the first time as emergency code 2 for a mouth injury. A minute and a half later, the call was upgraded to Code 3 – which means the ambulance uses lights and sirens.
Floyd doesn’t seem to be breathing or moving. Smith checked Floyd’s pulse and pupils as Chauvin kept his knee on him. The paramedic said he believed his heart had stopped. Bravinder motioned for Chauvin to lift his knee from Floyd to put him on a stretcher and in the ambulance.
Bravinder said bystanders were concerned about the crowd.
An employee boarded the ambulance and helped with chest compressions. Smith removed Floyd’s handcuffs, he testified. Bravinder stopped the ambulance at one point to help Floyd’s treatment, he testified.
In the ambulance, however, Floyd had leveled off – meaning his heart was showing no activity. Attempts to restart his heart with chest compressions, airway obstruction and electric shock failed. They left him in the hospital.
Floyd and a friend are struggling with opioid addiction
Courtney Ross, 45, told the jury that she met Floyd in August 2017. He worked as a security guard in the Salvation Army.
Floyd trains every day and never complains of shortness of breath, she said. He was a mother’s boy who was a “shell of himself” after his mother’s death in 2018.
They both struggled with opioid addiction, she said. They were prescribed opioid painkillers to treat chronic pain, which eventually led to their addiction and use of street drugs, she testified.
In March 2020, she discovered that Floyd was doubling in pain and taking him to the emergency room, she testified. He had overdosed, she said. Ross said he believes he started using it again in May 2020.
In their introductory statements, prosecutors acknowledged Floyd’s history of opioid addiction, but said it was irrelevant to his death last May. But Nelson argues that the real cause of Floyd’s death was drug use and several existing health problems.
CNN’s Eric Levenson contributed to this report.