Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin violated department policy when he held his knee on George Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes during a May arrest, the city’s police chief testified Monday.
“It’s not part of our training and is certainly not part of our ethics or values,” Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo told jurors at Chauvin’s murder trial in Hennepin County court.
The chief insisted Chauvin should have stopped restraining Floyd the second he stopped resisting.
“That action is not de-escalation. And when you talk about the framework of the sanctity of life...that action goes contrary to what we’re taught,” he said.
“I absolutely agree it violates our policy,” Arradondo added.
The chief’s sharp rebuke of Chauvin’s actions comes after several current and former Minneapolis police officials also slammed the former law enforcer’s decision to use the excessive-force restraint position, insisting it was “totally unnecessary” after Floyd had stopped resisting.
Dr. Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld, emergency room doctor who pronounced Floyd dead, also testified at Chauvin’s trial on Monday, revealing that when paramedics brought the 46-year-old to the hospital, no one told him they suspected he’d had a drug overdose or heart attack.
Langenfeld, a senior resident at the Hennepin County Medical Center at the time, described to jurors how he tried to resuscitate Floyd when he was brought into the ER. He said that while he was immediately told that Floyd was “detained” by police at the time of “medical emergency,” paramedics did not mention anything about a possible drug overdose.
“Any amount of time a patient spends in cardiac arrest without immediate CPR markedly decreases the chance of a good outcome,” Langenfeld said, suggesting that officers at the scene should have provided medical attention. “Approximately 10 to 15 percent decrease in survival for every minute that CPR is not administered.”
Langenfeld said Floyd’s heart was not beating to a “degree sufficient to sustain life” when he was brought in, prompting his team to perform several life-saving measures, including chest compressions and artificial airways, as they tried to revive him.
After about 30 minutes, however, they declared him dead. The doctor said that hypoxia, or low oxygen, was the most likely cause of Floyd’s cardiac arrest based on the information he had at the time of his death. He added that oxygen deficiency is commonly known as “asphyxia.”
Chauvin, 45, is on trial for second and third-degree murder as well as second-degree manslaughter after holding his knee on Floyd’s neck during an arrest over a counterfeit bill. Three other officers—Tou Thao, Thomas K. Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng—have pleaded not guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree murder while committing a felony, as well as aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter with culpable negligence.
Eric Nelson, the former law enforcer’s defense lawyer, has argued that Floyd’s death was the result of health issues and drugs—and that his client was simply doing what “he was trained to do throughout his 19-year career.”
But Chauvin’s former peers who were involved in the aftermath of Floyd’s arrest disagreed with that assessment, stating that they would never use the kind of force the cop did on May 25, 2020—which was captured in a video shared around the world.
Prosecutors revealed Monday that three other MPD officials are expected to testify, including Inspector Lt. Katie Blackwell, who will insist officers are not trained to place knees on the necks of those in custody, and Sgt. Ker Yang, who will also testify about MPD’s crisis-intervention training given to all officers. Two use-of-force experts are also expected to testify against Chauvin’s actions on Monday.
Arradondo was the first of these officials to testify on Monday, walking jurors through the various trainings required by his department‚ including de-escalation techniques.
“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,” Arradondo, who was responsible for firing Chauvin last year, said.
Calling the training “vitally essential,” he added that the curriculum for new officers has changed over the last 30 years. For instance, in 2016, police were told that bystanders could record them under their First Amendment rights—even if it is “irritating.”
That training, Arradondo said, did allow Chauvin to hold Floyd for the first few seconds to get him under control. “To continue to apply that level of force to a person proned-out, handcuffed behind their back, that in no way, shape or form is anything that is by policy,” he added.
Minneapolis Police Inspector Katie Blackwell also rebuked Chauvin’s technique on Monday, telling jurors that a person’s ability to breathe is hindered when they are handcuffed face down and in a prone position.
“What we train is using one arm or two arms to do a neck restraint. I don’t know what kind of improvised position that is. That’s not what we train,” Blackwell said of Chauvin’s arrest.
On Friday, the longest-serving officer in the Minneapolis Police Department, Lt. Richard Zimmerman, testified that officers have never been trained to kneel on a person’s neck while they are handcuffed. Instead, officers are told to put people on their side or have them sit up after handcuffing them.
“Totally unnecessary. First of all, pulling him down to the ground face-down and putting your knee on a neck for that amount of time is just uncalled for,” Zimmerman, who has been with the department since 1985, said when asked about the videos of the incident. “I saw no reason why the officers felt they were in danger. And that’s what they would have to feel to be able to use that kind of force.”
Sgt. David Pleoger, a former shift supervisor with the Minneapolis Police Department who received a call about Floyd’s arrest from a concerned 911 dispatcher, also testified Thursday that Chauvin’s use of force went too far.
“When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could’ve ended the restraint,” Pleoger said.
Last week, several bystanders emotionally described to jurors how they repeatedly asked Chauvin to remove his knee and to check Floyd’s pulse during the arrest. Among the group were an off-duty Minneapolis firefighter and EMT—who said she was ignored after repeatedly offering her assistance—as well as an MMA fighter who tried to explain that Chauvin’s chokehold was cutting off Floyd’s circulation. Several teenagers also testified how they begged the officers to stop as Floyd was “gasping for air.”
When paramedics finally arrived at the scene, Chauvin had to be instructed to get off Floyd. Prosecutors stated that when Floyd was loaded into the ambulance, he had no pulse.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner concluded Floyd died of cardiac arrest from the restraint and neck compression, also noting that Floyd had heart disease and fentanyl in his system. An independent report commissioned by Floyd’s family, which will not be shown at trial, concluded that he died of strangulation from the pressure to his back and neck. Both reports determined Floyd’s death was a homicide.