A retired Minneapolis Police Department sergeant said former officer Derek Chauvin should have lifted his kneel from George Floyd’s neck when he stopped responding in court Thursday.
MPD Sgt. David Pleoger was the Third Precinct supervisor at the time when Floyd died in police custody at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in south Minneapolis on May 25. Pleoger was called regarding the incident by a 911 operator who witnessed it via live MPD video and had become concerned by Floyd's treatment.
Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes during the arrest. Floyd was face down and in handcuffs at the time. Floyd was initially arrested over reportedly attempting to use a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes at Cup Foods.
Chauvin has been charged with third and second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Pleoger said Chauvin did not mention kneeling on Floyd’s neck in conversations shortly after the incident. He said he did not learn what had happened until Floyd was at the Hennepin County Medical Center. Body camera footage shown to jurors Thursday showed Chauvin and former officer Tou Thao at HCMC after the incident.
The prosecution questioned Pleoger about when he believed the use of force by Chauvin should have ended.
“When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering any resistance to the officers, they could have ended the restraint,” he said.
Floyd’s girlfriend, Courteney Ross, also gave an emotional testimony Thursday.
Ross said she and Floyd met in August 2017 while she was visiting her son’s father at a Salvation Army shelter. Floyd was working as a security guard at the shelter at the time.
Ross said Floyd approached her and offered to pray with her while she was having a difficult moment.
“I was so tired, and we had been through so much, my sons and I. And for this kind person to come up to me and say ‘Can I pray with you?’ It was so sweet,” Ross said.
Chauvin's defense attorney Eric Nelson questioned Ross about the couple’s challenges with opioid use. Ross confirmed that Floyd had gone to the hospital for five days in March of last year after overdosing.
Other witnesses questioned Thursday included two paramedics who were called to the scene at 38th and Chicago.
Derek Smith said Floyd was in handcuffs and three officers were on top of him when he arrived at the scene. Smith said Floyd did not appear to be moving when he first approached him. After checking Floyd’s pulse and pupils, Smith said he assumed Floyd had died.
“In lay terms, I thought he was dead,” Smith said.
Smith said he and his partner treated Floyd in an ambulance following the incident, administering a shock to give him a “second chance at life.”
Smith said the shock did not change Floyd’s state and that he was “still deceased” when they arrived at the hospital.