Week 2 begins in the Derek Chauvin trial: Police chief testifies that restraint of George Floyd 'absolutely' violated policy
MINNEAPOLIS —The city's top cop told jurors Monday that former officer Derek Chauvin's restraint of George Floyd "absolutely" violates department policy and goes against "our ethics and our values."
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo testified about police training and tactics, but he wasn't allowed to discuss the firing of Chauvin, who is charged in Floyd's death.
The doctor who provided emergency care to Floyd at Hennepin County Medical Center was the first person to testify Monday morning. He testified that at the time of the incident, he believed Floyd died from a lack of oxygen, rather than an overdose or heart attack, based on the information he had.
Last week, jurors heard from 19 people, including several who witnessed Floyd's death and broke down in tears as they described their attempts to intervene on his behalf. Friday, veteran officer Lt. Richard Zimmerman told jurors Chauvin's use of force on Floyd was "totally unnecessary."
Floyd, a Black man, died in police custody on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin, who is white, pinned his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
- Katie Marie Blackwell, who became the Inspector of the 5th Precinct in January, took the witness stand.
- Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo took the stand Monday. He told the court Chauvin's restraint of Floyd violated department policy.
- Dr. Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld took the stand Monday morning. He provided emergency care to Floyd at Hennepin County Medical Center and pronounced him dead.
- Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill on Monday ruled that portions of video from Chauvin's body camera will be admitted as evidence and shown to the jury.
- A small group of protesters has more or less taken up residence outside Hennepin County Government Center, and they promise they're staying put.
A former director of the Minneapolis police training academy questioned Chauvin’s use of a knee to Floyd's neck as a restraint tactic.
“I don’t know what kind of improvised position that is. It’s not what we train,” testified Inspector Katie Blackwell, who led departmental training before being promoted to her current job overseeing the Fifth Precinct. “What we train is one arm or two arms doing a neck restraint.”
A Minnesota National Guard sergeant major as well as a Minneapolis police superior officer, Blackwell testified Monday as a government witness on the department’s training about use of force, as well as about Chauvin’s training.
Blackwell testified that Minneapolis officers have received training for years in how to avoid positional asphyxia for a suspect who has been handcuffed behind the back and is lying face-down. That’s the position Floyd was in. “They are supposed to put them in the side recovery position … as soon as possible,” Blackwell said.
Answering questions from government prosecutor Steve Schleicher, Blackwell said she chose Chauvin as a training officer. After completing police academy training, cadets on the Minneapolis police force do months of field training in which they partner with veteran training officers.
Like all Minneapolis police officers, Chauvin was required to complete training even as he served as a training officer. Schleicher entered into evidence records showing Chauvin was trained in defensive tactics and patrol operations in 2018 and crisis intervention in 2016.
The chief said Chauvin's knee on Floyd's neck "absolutely" violated department policy.
Neck restraints are outlawed at many law enforcement departments, and they're no longer allowed in Minnesota. But at the time of Floyd's death, the Minneapolis Police Department did allow them.
Its policy differentiated between a conscious neck restraint, meant to simply control someone, and an unconscious neck restraint, which is designed to cause the person to lose consciousness. Arradondo said the second restraint was allowed only when an officer fears "great bodily harm."
Arradando said he believed Chauvin was trying to employ a conscious neck restraint, which involves using light to moderate pressure on a person who is actively resisting police, according to the department's policy.
But Floyd did not appear to be actively or passively resisting during the arrest, he said. "I didn't even know if Mr. Floyd was alive," Arradando said. Nor did Chauvin appear to be using light to moderate pressure as he kneeled on Floyd's neck, he said.
"I vehemently disagree that that's the appropriate use of force for that situation," he said.
Such uses of force require an officer to constantly reassess the situation for what is objectively reasonable, Arradondo said, citing a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court case.
The neck restraint should have stopped "once Mr. Floyd stopped resisting" and "once he was in distress and verbalized it." He added, "there's an initial reasonableness in trying to get him under control in the first few seconds" only.
"And clearly, when Mr. Floyd was no longer responsive and even motionless, to continue to apply that level of force to a person proned out, handcuffed behind their back — that ... is not backed by policy, it is not backed by our training, and it’s certainly not our ethics or our values," Arradondo said.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Eric Nelson tried to discredit Arradondo's testimony.
Officers initially decided to use the maximal restraint technique, which is known as a hobble or a hog tie and can involve using a cord to restrain someone's legs.
Noting that the officers decided not to tie Floyd's legs and arms together with a cord, Nelson asked whether that was evidence of them adjusting their level of force. Arradondo acknowledged there are variations to the technique.
He later told Schleicher that the maximal restraint technique can be used by officers without applying a cord, by simply using their hands to restrain the person's legs. According to department policy, officers using that technique must put a person in the side-recovery position as soon as possible to ensure the person can breathe properly.
Arradondo acknowledged that in a side-by-side comparison of Darnella Frazier's bystander video and Officer J. Alexander Keung's body-camera video, Chauvin appeared to have his knee more on Floyd's shoulder blade than on his neck.
Arradondo said Keung's body-camera video, which was filmed from behind Chauvin, was the first he saw that appeared to show that.
That moment in the video came at the end of the incident, after paramedics arrived and checked Floyd's neck for a pulse. In the bystander video, filmed facing Chauvin, he can be seen shifting his knees and leaning back slightly.
There were no arrests or damage to property over the weekend related to the trial, which has been going “smoothly,” officials said in a 10-minute press conference Monday afternoon.
“Nothing that we’re seeing indicates that there is an imminent threat to the court proceedings or to either of the Twin Cities,” Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said.
Harrington urged residents to take care of themselves amid the trial and said he’s seeing healing circles happening across the city. “We know that the images that you see and the testimony about how George Floyd died is disturbing and retraumatizing many people,” he said.
Matt Langer, colonel of Minnesota State Patrol, said officials were “thankful” for all of the peaceful protests thus far. “We’d like to see it continue exactly the way it has been happening,” he said.
Arradondo, 54, wore his dress uniform to testify Monday. He has been chief for about three years and joined the department in 1989 as a cadet. He is the city's first Black police chief.Arradondo fired Chauvin and three other officers involved the day after Floyd’s death. About a month later, in June, he called Floyd's death "murder." Floyd’s "tragic death was not due to a lack of training. ... The officers knew what was happening – one intentionally caused it and the others failed to prevent it. This was murder," he said in a statement at the time.
On Monday, Arradondo said officers are required to take certain training annually, which can include crisis intervention training, defensive tactics, basic CPR or first aid. Officers repeat the training to build muscle memory, Arradondo said. The department spent about $13 million on training last year, he said.
Schleicher showed the jury an orange paper signed by Chauvin on Dec. 28, 2001,committing to review the policy and procedure manual, even as it may evolve over time.
Arradondo said the department has policies to deal with people recording police on their smartphones. The policy informs officers that individuals have First Amendment rights to record video as long as they do not obstruct or physically interfere in officers' ability to carry out their duties. As irritating as it may be, recording is not obstruction, Arradondo said.
The policy in effect when Floyd died required officers to consider "whether a subject’s lack of compliance is a deliberate attempt to resist or an inability to comply based on factors, including" being under the influence of drugs or alcohol or experiencing a behavioral crisis, Arradondo said.
Arradondo said most police will have basic first-responder training, dealing with breathing or chest compressions.
“We recognize we might the first ones to respond to a medical situation,” Arradondo said. “We obviously have a duty to render aid.”
Arradondo said officers are required to apply their medical training and skills to attempt to save a person in acute medical need while awaiting emergency medical services. Schleicher is asking these questions to try to show that the officers failed to do their duty and provide medical aid to Floyd.
MPD policy states that "sanctity of life and the protection of the public shall be the cornerstones of the MPD’s use of force policy.” Jurors were shown this language in an exhibit.
Arradondo said that "while it’s absolutely imperative our officers go home after their shift we want to ensure our community members go home as well. So sanctity of life is absolutely a pillar."
Arradondo said passing a suspected counterfeit bill "would not rise to the level of the severity of the crime we experience here in the city."
Police officers are required to be objectively reasonable in terms of their use of force and are taught to constantly assess and reevaluate the situation in the field and make sure their use of force is reasonable the entire time it is being applied, Arradondo said.
Even if applying defense tactics on someone, as officers are trained on annually, “they're still in our custody. They have rights," he said.
Morries Hall, who was in vehicle with George Floyd before his struggle with police, to appear Tuesday
The man who was in the vehicle with George Floyd before his struggle with police officers will be allowed to wear civilian clothes for a Tuesday hearing over potential testimony.
Morries Lester Hall is being held at the Hennepin County Public Safety Facility on unrelated charges. He has been subpoenaed to appear as a witness in the Chauvin trial. However, Hall filed a March 31 motion to quash the subpoena on grounds that he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against incrimination and refuse to answer questions if he's forced to testify.
Hall asked to be allowed to wear civilian clothes, not jail scrubs, for the hearing, which will be conducted by Zoom. Cahill approved the request on Monday, a court filing shows.
Doctor tells jurors he believed lack of oxygen, not overdose or heart attack, was 'most likely' cause of death
Dr. Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld was the first witness called to the stand Monday, testifying that he directed the care of Floyd at Hennepin County Medical Center and spent about 30 minutes trying resuscitate him before pronouncing him dead.
Langenfeld, first licensed in May 2020, was a senior resident at the time who worked under attending physicians. Questioned by prosecutor Jerry Blackwell, Langenfeld said he "provided the majority of direct patient care" to Floyd under the supervision of another doctor, Dr. Ashley Strobel.
Langenfeld testified that the paramedics who brought Floyd to the hospital did not give him any information that Floyd might have overdosed on drugs or suffered a heart attack.
Langenfeld said Floyd had some electrical activity around the heart, but no pulse. His heart monitor eventually flat-lined, Langenfeld said, and Floyd's heart never resumed beating on its own "to a degree necessary to sustain life."
"Any time a patient spends in cardiac arrest without CPR markedly decreases the chances of a good outcome," he said. Langenfeld said there's approximately a 10-15% decrease in survival rate per every minute that passes without CPR.
Asked by Blackwell what was determined to be the cause of Floyd's cardiac arrest, Langenfeld said: "At the time, based on the history available to me, I felt that hypoxia was one of the most likely possibilities." Hypoxia is a lack of oxygen, which Lagenfeld said he believed led to Floyd's death from asphyxia.
During cross-examination by lead defense attorney Eric Nelson, Langenfeld acknowledged that a combination of fentanyl and methamphetamine could cause hypoxia. A toxicology screen of Floyd after his death found fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system.
Responding to a question from Nelson, Langenfeld testified that a "primary reason" fentanyl is so dangerous is that it depresses the respiratory system. Answering Nelson, Langenfeld agreed that a person could die from using fentanyl even if they had become accustomed to taking the drug.
The testimony was an important moment in the trial. The prosecution is trying to show that Floyd died because of how Chauvin restrained him with a knee to the neck area while the defense is trying to show that other causes – drug use and poor heart health – led to Floyd’s death.
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill on Monday ruled that portions of video from Chauvin's body camera will be admitted as evidence and shown to the jury.
The portion the defense wants jurors to see shows Chauvin after George Floyd was taken to the hospital. The prosecution said it was not relevant to the use of force and should not be admitted. However, Cahill said the video was relevant because "it shows Mr. Chauvin's demeanor and actions" immediately after the police struggle and subduing of Floyd.
Cahill said he would not decide until Wednesday on whether to admit additional video footage from the city camera across the street from the site of the struggle. The defense wants that admitted because it covers roughly three hours of video and provides fuller views of the struggle than has been seen so far in videos introduced by the prosecution.
Additionally, Cahill said he would hold a hearing Tuesday to discuss Morries Hall, a man who was in a car with Floyd when police first approached the vehicle. Hall has said he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against testifying as a witness in the trial.
Ten months after George Floyd's death, his face looks out across a city still raw: The intersection where he died under the knee of a police officer. The neighborhood burned and looted over the following days. The fortified courthouse where that former police officer is being tried on murder charges.
Although the streets are largely empty of mass protests like last summer, calls for justice and reform echo across the city.
"We will be here every day and every night until we see some justice," said protester Ashley Dorelus, 26, one of the people who have occupied the plaza outside the courthouse. "This is a revolution, ladies and gentlemen. It is not a parade.”
The intersection where Floyd died has become a metaphor for the city as a whole: Still grieving, and with no consensus on exactly how to move forward. City officials want to reopen the intersection when the trial's over. Activists worry allowing that to happen could permit Floyd to become just one more Black man killed by the cops.
Downtown, the fortified government center and courthouse complex is ringed with razor wire and soldiers. For many protesters and reform advocates, the razor wire, armored cars and camouflaged soldiers with rifles are the ultimate expression of the yawning chasm between the government and the people it's supposed to be representing.
Lake Street bore the brunt of the destruction last summer, as angry residents first attacked the 3rd Precinct police station where Chauvin and his colleagues were based, and then spread out to liquor stores, pharmacies, the Target and Cub foods stores.
Today, rebuilding is underway for some. Target and Cub have reopened, as have most of the liquor stores. While the broken glass has been swept away and the burned-out buildings demolished, scars linger from last summer's civil unrest and riots.
Pharmacy owner Elias Usso, 42, said he remains anxious that Lake Street will never be rebuilt as it was, but he said he's willing to have seen his pharmacy destroyed if that's what it takes to change the course of history.
"That's the price we pay for justice. I really see it that way. If there wasn't a cry out for a Black man getting killed on the street, who would have heard us?" he said. Read more.
— Trevor Hughes
Like millions of Americans, George Floyd lived with the torment of drug addiction.
He and his girlfriend, Courteney Ross, became addicted to opioids four years ago after they were both prescribed for chronic pain. When the prescriptions ran out, they turned to illegal drug use, she said. They tried to go clean, then failed. They tried again, but could not stop for long.
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the United States, Floyd, the father of two young daughters, started using again during a dark time: he lost his job as a nightclub security guard because of quarantine shutdowns, he was hospitalized for several days after an overdose, he found out he had the coronavirus. On the day he died, his neck trapped under the knee of former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin for more than nine minutes, he had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system, toxicology reports later showed.
Floyd's death helped launch a global civil rights movement over racial injustice and police violence. The trial over his death could similarly shape how Americans view drug addiction at a time when Black people continue to overwhelmingly be denied medical treatment compared to white Americans even as they suffer from disproportionately high rates of fatal opioid overdoses.
Chauvin's defense attorney, Eric Nelson, has sought to persuade jurors that drugs – not Chauvin's knee clamping down on Floyd's neck as he cried "I can't breathe" while handcuffed on the ground – contributed to Floyd's death.
"George was walking, talking, laughing, and breathing just fine before Derek Chauvin held his knee to George’s neck,” Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, lawyers for Floyd’s family, said in a statement Thursday morning. “Tens of thousands of Americans struggle with self-medication and opioid abuse and are treated with dignity, respect and support, not brutality.” Read more.
— Cristina Silva