A leading expert in use of force testified Tuesday that former Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin’s force on George Floyd was excessive.
Chauvin, who kneeled on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes during the May 25 arrest, has been charged with second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Floyd was in handcuffs and face down while in the restraint.
Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Jody Stiger, a use-of-force expert, testified that the force used on Floyd was justified when officers were trying to get him into the squad car. But the force became “excessive” once Floyd was on the ground.
“Once he was placed in the prone position on the ground, he slowly ceased his resistance, and at that point the ex-officers should have slowed down or stopped their force,” Stiger said.
Officers were initially called to the scene at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in South Minneapolis when Floyd reportedly attempted to use a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes at Cup Foods.
Other witnesses questioned Tuesday included MPD Lt. Johnny Mercil, who oversees use of force training with the department. Mercil told the prosecution that the restraint used by Chauvin was not a one trained by MPD.
Mercil said using a knee on a neck would be authorized depending on circumstances, including level of resistance. But the restraint would not be authorized if the subject was under control and handcuffed, Mercil said.
Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, questioned Mercil about whether angry bystanders would “raise alarm” in officers, which Mercil acknowledged. Mercil said bystanders could be a factor in officers choosing to keep a subject in a prone position.
Nelson has repeatedly brought up the potential effect of the crowd of bystanders present during Floyd’s arrest.
Nelson also questioned Mercil about images taken from body camera footage during the arrest. In the images, it appears as if Chauvin’s knee is on Floyd’s shoulder blade, rather than his neck, which Mercil acknowledged.
MPD medical support coordinator Nicole MacKenzie also testified Tuesday. MacKenzie told the prosecution that officers sometimes need to administer medical aid in difficult conditions, including around a hostile crowd.
MacKenzie said an officer would only be excused from administering emergency medical aid if bystanders were “physically getting themselves involved.”
She also said officers are trained to render emergency aid before medical help arrives. Floyd did not receive aid until an ambulance arrived at the scene.
As the trial began Tuesday, Judge Peter Cahill addressed testimony by Morries Hall, who was with Floyd the night of the arrest. Hall has indicated he plans to invoke his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.
Floyd’s girlfriend Courtney Ross testified last week that Hall had previously provided Floyd drugs. Hall also traveled to Texas shortly after Floyd’s death.
Cahill acknowledged that questioning could implicate Hall in Floyd’s death and agreed to limit questioning during the trial to his observations of Floyd’s behavior the night of the arrest.
Nelson will also have to run his questioning by the court prior to Hall’s testimony before the jury.
“The Fifth Amendment right is a broad one, and we have to think about potential links to prosecution,” Cahill said.