A Minneapolis homicide detective has described Derek Chauvin’s decision to press his knee against George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as a totally unnecessary use of “deadly force.”
Lt. Richard Zimmerman, who heads the Minneapolis homicide department, said in testimony Friday that in four decades as a police officer he had never been trained to place a knee on someone’s neck as a means of restraining them during an arrest.
“If your knee is on a person’s neck, that can kill them,” he said.
As evidence likely to be highly damaging to the defense’s claim that Chauvin was acting out of concern for his own safety when he arrested Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, in Minneapolis last May, Zimmerman described the level of force used by the officers. after Floyd was handcuffed for being “totally unnecessary.”
“Once a person is handcuffed, the threat level drops completely. They are handcuffed, how can they really hurt you? ” he said.
The video shows that Floyd was already handcuffed when he was forced to the ground.
“I didn’t see any reason why the officers felt they were in danger, if that’s what they felt. And that’s what they have to feel to use that level of strength, ”Zimmerman said.
Chauvin, 45, has denied charges of second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. He faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge. Three other officers face separate charges.
Zimmerman was one of 14 police officers who published a public letter to the citizens of Minneapolis a month after Floyd’s death, to “wholeheartedly condemn” Chauvin’s actions.
“Like us, Derek Chauvin took an oath to keep the sanctity of life most precious”, wrote. Derek Chauvin failed as a human and stripped George Floyd of his dignity and his life. This is not who we are. “
Zimmerman said trial officials are trained on the dangers of keeping a detained person in a prone position on the ground. Floyd was held for more than nine minutes with Chauvin’s knee on his neck and two other officers restraining his torso and legs.
“Once a person is secured or handcuffed, they need to be taken out of the prone position as soon as possible because it restricts their breathing,” Zimmerman said.
Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, told Zimmerman that “in a fight for your life, you, as an officer, can use whatever force is necessary.”
Nelson challenged the detective’s claim that he had never been trained to put a knee on a suspect’s neck, but Zimmerman said the training was to place the knee on a person’s shoulder and only while handcuffing them.
Zimmerman also told the court that police did not follow critical incident procedures designed to ensure officers are properly questioned. Zimmerman said that procedure meant that the officers involved in Floyd’s death should have been taken in separate squad cars to an interview room for questioning. However, he found two of the officers, Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, still at the scene. He ordered them brought in for questioning.
Earlier, a Minneapolis police sergeant Jon Edwards, who secured the scene after Floyd’s death, said at trial that he found Kueng and Lane on their patrol together. He ordered them to leave and turn on the body cameras to record their conversations.
Zimmerman’s evidence followed similar testimony from Chauvin’s shift supervisor, Sergeant David Pleoger, on Thursday. He said there was no justification for the officer to keep his knee on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes or for the other officers to continue to hold him once he stopped resisting.
“When Mr. Floyd no longer offered resistance to the officers, they could have ended his immobilization,” said Pleoger, who arrived at the scene shortly after Floyd was taken away by ambulance.
He also said that Floyd should not have been in the prone position due to the danger of “positional suffocation.”
“If they are left on the chest or stomach for too long, your breathing can be compromised,” he said.
Pleoger said police officers are trained on the danger of a suspect suffocating if they don’t roll over to the recovery position.
The police evidence came at the end of a week that began when the prosecution put witnesses on the stand who gave emotional evidence about Floyd’s fight for life under Chauvin’s knees.
Some of the most emotional testimonies were heard Thursday when Floyd’s girlfriend, Courteney Ross, spoke about their shared struggle with opioid addiction. Ross, who dated Floyd for about three years, said the two became hooked after being prescribed narcotics to treat chronic pain.
Three other officers involved in Floyd’s death are scheduled to stand trial together later this year on charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.
The trial continues. Minneapolis department chief Medaria Arradondo is expected to testify next week. In a very unusual move, he will testify against his own former officer. Arradondo fired Chauvin shortly after Floyd’s death.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism