ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Three officers on trial for allegedly violating George Floyd’s civil rights were trained to use the least amount force necessary and had a duty to intervene against inappropriate force, the commander of the Minneapolis police training division at the time of Floyd’s killing testified Thursday.
Inspector Katie Blackwell said officers are required to try to de-escalate a situation and, if force is used, to stop once the person is no longer resisting, then render any necessary medical aid they’re trained to provide.
Federal prosecutors say former Officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao failed to act to save Floyd’s life on May 25, 2020, as fellow Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the Black man’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes while Floyd was handcuffed, facedown and gasping for air. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, Lane held his legs and Thao kept bystanders back, according to prosecutors.
Blackwell testified that it is critical to move someone from a prone position onto their side, otherwise “the concern is that they would die in custody.” According to previous testimony, Lane twice asked if they should roll Floyd onto his side but was rebuffed by Chauvin.
Officers had responded to a 911 call that Floyd, 46, tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill at a corner store. The videotaped killing triggered worldwide protests and a reexamination of racism and policing.
Whether the officers deprived Floyd of medical aid is a key element to the charges. On Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Manda Sertich sought to show jurors that responding paramedics were not given important information, and that Floyd should have been given medical attention immediately.
Paramedic Derek Smith testified that he wasn’t told Floyd wasn’t breathing and had no pulse when officers upgraded the urgency of an ambulance call. Smith agreed with Sertich that CPR should have been started as soon as possible — something the officers were trained to do.
Paramedics put Floyd in the ambulance and took him to another location to be treated.
Robert Paule, Thao’s attorney, got Smith to say that he would have not have done that if it weren’t for the bystanders, who were yelling at officers to help Floyd.
Minneapolis firefighter and trained emergency medical technician Genevieve Hansen, who was off-duty when she came upon the scene that day, testified that officers ignored her requests to render medical aid to Floyd.
And Minneapolis Fire Department Capt. Jeremy Norton — who arrived after paramedics had moved Floyd — testified that his department would have started CPR on the scene, and that providing care as early as possible would have been the best chance to save Floyd. A 911 dispatcher testified earlier in the week that she would have sent the Fire Department instead of an ambulance if the officers had told her Floyd wasn’t breathing because they could have gotten there faster.
Kueng, who is Black; Lane, who is white; and Thao, who is Hmong American, all are charged with willfully depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights while acting under color of law. One count against all three officers says they saw Floyd needed medical care and failed to help. A count against Thao and Kueng says they did not intervene to stop Chauvin. Both counts allege the officers’ actions resulted in Floyd’s death.
Prosecutors have argued that the “willful” standard can be met by showing “blatantly wrongful conduct” that deprived Floyd of his rights.
During opening statements, Kueng’s attorney, Tom Plunkett, said that Chauvin called “all of the shots” as the senior officer at the scene. Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter in state court last year and also pleaded guilty in December to a federal civil rights charge.
Lane, Kueng and Thao also face a separate state trial in June on charges they aided and abetted murder and manslaughter.
Webber contributed from Fenton, Michigan.
Find Court TV’s full coverage of the death of George Floyd here: www.courttv.com/the-death-of-george-floyd-murder-trial/