The cause of George Floyd’s death is the crux of contention between the prosecution and the defense.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo followed the witness stand Monday, following testimony from Dr. Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld who was the one who finally pronounced George Floyd dead.
“Once Mr. Floyd had stopped resisting — and certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalize that — that should have stopped,” Arradondo said after going through department policies on excessive use of force. He said he’s had to use force and de-escalate tensions, and added that training has vastly improved since he was a cadet more than 30 years ago.
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The chief said every officer must know the contents of the department’s policy manual that outlines requirements regarding force and then sign a document to that effect. The prosecution then showed the court Chauvin’s signature on that confirming document.
Arradondo testified Chauvin defied his own training last May and the department’s mission of compassion by keeping his knee on Floyd’s neck for what is now more than nine minutes vs 8:46.
“In no way should’ve kept George Floyd pinned by the neck,” he said.
“There’s an initial reasonableness of trying to just get him under control in the first few seconds,” Arradondo continued, “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 proned out, handcuffed behind their back, that in no way shape or form is anything that is by policy, part of our training and is certainly not part of our ethics or values.”
Arradondo’s testimony dovetailed with veteran Police Lt. Richard Zimmerman’s, the head of the department homicide unit who called Chauvin’s restraint of Floyd “uncalled for.” Considering that the police traditionally stick together with a pack mentality, this ganging up on Chauvin is unusual.
Arradondo added that after reviewing bystander Darnella Frazier’s viral video and Floyd’s facial expression, it does not appear “in any way shape, or form” that Chauvin used “moderate pressure” as department policy requires.
“A community member contacted me and said ‘Chief, have you seen the video of your officer choking and killing that man at 38th and Chicago?’ And so once I heard that statement, I just knew it wasn’t the same milestone camera video that I saw. Eventually, within minutes after, I saw for the first time what is now known as the bystander video,” Arradondo said.
When interacting with someone who is noncompliant, as Floyd was accused of being by Chauvin, the chief said that sometimes that lack of cooperation is out of a person’s ability. He pointed to several reasons the policy lists for the inability to comply with an officer but highlighted two: being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and suffering a “behavioral crisis.”
Officers at the scene suspected drug use and Chauvin’s body-camera video captured him that night calling Floyd “crazy.” Interesting that again no one mentions that these two worked at the same nightclub.
Under cross-examination, defense attorney Eric Nelson asked him the last time he arrested a suspect. “It’s been many years, sir,” the chief admitted.
Nelson said the department’s use of force policy includes the phrase “In light of facts and circumstances known to that employee at the time the force was used.”
Under continued questioning, Arradondo acknowledged that officers sometimes need to take control of a situation.
“Would you agree that the use of force is not an attractive notion?” Nelson asked.
“I would say the use of force is something that most officers would rather not use,” Arradondo said.
Earlier it was established that no one on the scene gave Floyd medical attention, so Nelson played a body-camera video that revealed one officer saying at 8:20 p.m., “We’ve got an ambulance coming.”
Nelson went on to introduce the concept of “camera perspective bias” showing two views at the moment the paramedics arrived.
One angle, from Frazier’s bystander video, appears to show Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck. While the other angle, coming from an officer’s body-camera video, reveals Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s shoulder blade. Arradondo agreed Chauvin’s knee looks like it’s on Floyd’s neck in the bystander video, but appears to be on his “shoulder blade” in the body-cam video.
The prosecution returned with another round of questions.
The city’s first Black police chief condemned and fired Chauvin and the other three officers involved soon after Floyd’s death, which led to widespread riots in the city and elsewhere.
In an earlier interview, Arradondo called Floyd’s death “absolutely pivotal” in the city’s history.
In June 2020, Arradondo issued a statement:
“Mr. George Floyd’s tragic death was not due to a lack of training — the training was there,” he said. “This was murder — it wasn’t a lack of training. This is why I took swift action regarding the involved officers’ employment with MPD.”
Fifth Precinct Inspector Katie Blackwell, in charge of training for the department on May 25, was the day’s final witness. Blackwell was shown an image from the video taken that day of Chauvin on Floyd’s neck and asked whether that is a tactic the police are taught.
“I don’t know what kind of improvised position this is,” said Blackwell. She said she’s known Chauvin for about 20 years, when they were both community service officers.
She also discussed records showing the various training that Chauvin received in 2016 and 2018, which included what to do when a suspected is detained face down, and handcuffed. She confirmed that in Nov. 2018, Chauvin received defensive tactics training.
The prosecution asked, “What are officers trained to do, or supposed to do, to prevent positional asphyxia?”
Blackwell responded that they’re supposed to put the person “in the side recovery position or an upright position … as soon as possible,” or run the risk of “asphyxiation.” This is something we’ve heard from others on the prosecution’s side.
Nelson asked a few questions during cross-examination, including whether she turned over a large number of training documents in response to a search warrant affidavit. She did.
The trial was adjourned at about 4:30 p.m. CST and starts up again Tuesday morning with motions followed by more prosecution witnesses.
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