In the second week of the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, the jury heard critical, but not particularly shocking testimony from Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who had previously called the detainment of George Floyd “murder.” Arradondo testified on Monday that the type of restraint Chauvin used on Floyd and held for nine minutes and 29 seconds violated department policy. Force has to be “objectively reasonable,” he said, adding that once Floyd had stopped resisting Chauvin should have stopped restraining him.
“There’s an initial reasonableness in trying to just get him under control in the first few seconds,” Arradondo said, “but once there was no longer any resistance and clearly when Mr. Floyd was no longer responsive, and even motionless, to continue to apply that level of force to a person prone out, handcuffed behind their back, that, that in no way, shape, or form is anything that is by policy.
“It is not part of our training, and it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values.”
New York Times reporter John Eligon described the police chief pulling at his badge while explaining the role of a police officer in the community. “The first time that we interact with our community members may be the only time that they have an interaction. That has to count for something,” Arradondo said. “It’s very important for us to make sure that we’re meeting our community in that space, treating them with dignity, being their guardians.” Arradondo, who fired Chauvin and other officers who aided Chauvin in restraining Floyd, said in a statement last June that Floyd’s “tragic death was not due to a lack of training—the training was there.”
”Chauvin knew what he was doing. I agree with Attorney General (Keith) Ellison: What happened to Mr. Floyd was murder,” Arradondo said in the statement.
Arradondo’s account in court echoed the analysis of other officials called to testify in the case, particularly retired police sergeant David Pleoger who testified on Thursday that officers should have stopped kneeling on Floyd when he stopped resisting. “When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could have ended their restraint,” he said.
Katie Blackwell, an inspector who formerly led training for Minneapolis police, testified that keeping a handcuffed person on their stomach can make it difficult for them to breathe and that officers should get suspects out of the position “as soon as possible.”
“I don’t know what kind of improvised position that is. That’s not what we train,” Blackwell said of a photo of Chauvin restraining Floyd.
Lt. Richard Zimmerman, the most veteran Minneapolis police officer, testified on Friday that Chauvin’s actions were “totally unnecessary,” The New York Times reported. “Pulling him down to the ground facedown and putting your knee on a neck for that amount of time, it’s just uncalled-for,” Zimmerman said.
Dr. Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld, the emergency room doctor who pronounced Floyd dead at the Hennepin County Medical Center, testified that Floyd’s heart had stopped before he even made it to the hospital but the senior resident tried for 30 minutes to save Floyd, The New York Times reported. Wankhede Langenfeld said oxygen deficiency or asphyxia was “one of the more likely” causes of Floyd’s death whereas a county medical examiner ruled that Floyd died of “cardiopulmonary arrest.” Prosecutors have argued that everyone essentially dies of “cardiopulmonary arrest,” which means their heart and lungs stop.
New York Times reporters Eligon and Tim Arango wrote in their synopsis of the trial: “Prosecutors call all of their witnesses before the defense begins to lay out its case, so the trial’s first week was heavily weighted toward the state’s arguments.”
“Their case was expected to be presented in three phases, focused on witness testimony, police policies and medical evidence,” the journalists wrote. Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, indicated he would be attempting to prove that his client was adhering to his training, “that his knee was not necessarily on Mr. Floyd’s neck, and that Mr. Floyd’s death may have been caused by drugs,” Eligon and Arango wrote.
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