Chauvin's supervisor says there was no justification to keep knee on neck
Derek Chauvin’s police supervisor has told his murder trial that there was no justification for the officer to keep his knee on George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes. Sgt David Pleoger, who arrived at the scene shortly after Floyd was taken away by ambulance, said that Chauvin and other officers holding down the 46-year-old Black man should have stopped using force once Floyd stopped resisting. “When Mr Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers they could have ended their restraint,” he said.
Video recording showed that Chauvin kept pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck even after the detained man pleaded that he could not breathe and then stopped moving. Two other officers were also holding Floyd down.
Chauvin, 45, who is white, has denied charges of second- and third-degree murder, and manslaughter, over Floyd’s death. He faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge.
Pleoger is among a number of officers expected to be called as witnesses for the prosecution including the chief of the Minneapolis police department, Medaria Arradondo, who, in a highly unusual move, will give evidence against his own former officer. Arradondo fired Chauvin shortly after Floyd’s death.
Pleoger was alerted to concerns about the arrest by a 911 emergency operator and called Chauvin on his cellphone.
In the conversation, Chauvin can be heard saying: “We just had to hold a guy down. He was going crazy.”
The supervisor then headed to the scene to determine whether an appropriate level of force has been used. Pleoger said that the first he became aware that Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck was when one of the other officers suggested he ask Chauvin about it. Even then, he said, Chauvin did not reveal its full extent.
Pleoger said all police officers are trained that if a suspect is restrained with handcuffs on the ground, they should be turned on to their side as soon as possible because of the danger of “positional asphyxia”.
“If they are left on chest or stomachs for too long, their breathing can be compromised,” he said.
Floyd was kept in a prone position throughout despite his evident difficulty breathing.
Earlier on Thursday, Floyd’s girlfriend told the trial that the couple shared an addiction to opioid painkillers that they struggled to overcome in the weeks before his death.
Courteney Ross said that Floyd had been clean for a while after she took him to hospital when he overdosed, but that he started using again about two weeks before his arrest by Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, last May.
The bulk of Ross’s often tearful testimony on the fourth day of the trial focused on the pair’s opioid use, as the prosecution sought to head off defense claims that Floyd was killed by drugs because he had opioids and methamphetamine in his system.
Ross’s account helps establish that Floyd built up a tolerance to opioids, and that the relatively small amount recorded in the official autopsy would not have been enough to kill him.
The prosecution is also seeking to undermine defense claims that the level of force used by Chauvin in kneeling on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes was justified because the detained man was high on drugs.
Ross, who dated Floyd for about three years, said they both became hooked after being prescribed opioids to treat chronic pain. “We got addicted and we both tried to break that addiction many times,” she said.
Ross said sports injuries led to Floyd’s addiction to prescription pills obtained legally before the pair started buying black market drugs, including from Maurice Hall, the man who was in the car with Floyd at the time of his death.
These included oxycodone pills, including the powerful prescription opioid OxyContin.
Chauvin’s defense has claimed Floyd was overdosing at the time and that it contributed to his death from heart failure.
The state medical examiner’s report on Floyd’s death recorded that he had the powerful opioid fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system when he died, but it did not list them as a cause of his death.
On Thursday, Derek Smith, the first paramedic on the scene, said that when he arrived he saw three police officers on top of Floyd but no one giving medical treatment. “He wasn’t moving. I didn’t see any chest rise or fall,” he said.
The paramedic tried to find a pulse in Floyd’s neck but could not find one.
The trial continues.
The jury’s guilty verdict on the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for killing George Floyd signaled the conclusion of a historic police brutality trial and a key moment for policing and for the battle for racial equality in America. Observers have talked about this case being so significant that it will stand as a watershed between the way law enforcement was held to account in the US before George Floyd was pinned by the neck under Chauvin’s knee, and after.
The jury has found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all the counts he faced over the death of George Floyd. The trial has been one of the most closely watched cases in recent memory, setting off a national reckoning on police violence and systemic racism even before the trial commenced. Chauvin has been found guilty of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin, only his eyes visible as the rest of his face was hidden behind a surgical mask, watched as the verdict was returned.
The city of Minneapolis and the nation at large began a tense waiting game Monday after closing arguments were heard in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, who’s charged with the murder of George Floyd. Prosecutor Steve Schleicher told the jury that Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes was murder, not policing.
“George Floyd was not a threat to anyone. He wasn't trying to hurt anyone. He wasn't trying to do anything to anyone,” Schleicher said.
A data breach at a Christian crowdfunding website has revealed that serving police officers and public officials have donated money to fundraisers for accused vigilante murderers, far-right activists, and fellow officers accused of shooting black Americans. In many of these cases, the donations were attached to their official email addresses, raising questions about the use of public resources in supporting such campaigns.