Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo testified Monday in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin that the now-fired officer defied his own training and the department’s mission of compassion when he kept his knee on the neck of George Floyd for more than 9 minutes last spring.
“Once Mr. Floyd had stopped resisting — and certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalize that — that should have stopped,” the chief said after spelling out department policy on when to use force vs. calming a situation through de-escalation tactics.
“There’s an initial reasonableness of trying to just get him under control in the first few seconds,” the chief 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.”
Earlier Monday, the HCMC doctor who declared Floyd dead late last spring testified that there was not a heartbeat “sufficient to sustain life” upon arrival and believed his patient’s cardiac arrest was due to a lack of oxygen.
“Is there another term for that?” prosecutor Jerry Blackwell asked Dr. Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld, who was senior medical resident at the time Floyd was transported to HCMC and eventually pronounced him dead.
“Asphyxia,” Langenfeld said.
The cause of Floyd’s death is poised to be potentially pivotal point of contention between the prosecution and the defense.
In his testimony, Arradondo said that he saw the viral video of Floyd’s arrest that same night, and “when I look at [the bystander’s video] and when I look at the facial expression of Mr. Floyd, that does not appear in any way shape or form [to be] moderate pressure” as department policy requires.
The chief’s assessment during several hours on the witness stand complemented the testimony last week from veteran Police Lt. Richard Zimmerman, the head of the department homicide unit who called Chauvin’s restraint of Floyd as “uncalled for.”
Arradondo testified that after he learned of the incident, he viewed the street cameras, which were farther away and didn’t have audio, so it was difficult to deduce what was happening. Not long after that, he said, he learned of the bystander Facebook video of Floyd’s final moments seen throughout the world.
“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?'” Arradondo said. “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.”
Under cross examination, defense attorney Eric Nelson asked Arradondo the last time he arrested a suspect. “It’s been many years, sir,” Arradondo said.
Nelson said the department’s use of force policy includes the phrase “In light of facts and circumstances known to that employee at time the force was used.”
“Do people like to be arrested?” Nelson asked, pointing out that people will come up with reasons why they should be arrested, such as a need to attend to a family member.
“Typically not,” Arradondo said.
Under continued questioning, Arradondo acknowledged that officer 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.
The chief also agreed that department policy affords an officer flexibility for when to use force or choose to de-escalate an encounter with someone resisting arrest.
“Its different in every case?” Nelson asked. The chief agreed, as he did when the defense attorney brought up choosing one path or another “when reasonable and practical” or “advisable and feasible.”
Nelson returned to an earlier strategy by bringing up the degree of agitation of the witnesses standing close by and screaming their objections laced with profanities at times. The chief agreed that bystanders in certain situations could be distressed to the point of experiencing a crisis and not just the person who has the direct attention of the officers on the scene.
On another contention raised by the prosecution that the officers fell short of giving Floyd the medical attention he needed, Nelson had one of the officer’s body camera video and audio played that revealed one officer saying at 8:20 p.m., “We’ve got an ambulance coming.”