Story at a glance

  • As the Derek Chauvin trial proceeds, pulmonologist Martin Tobin said Floyd ultimately died from a lack of oxygen.
  • His death stemmed from factors including his body positioning and pressure imposed by Chauvin’s knee on his neck, back and side.
  • Tobin added the drugs found in Floyd’s system were not connected to the lack of oxygen.

In one of the most critical testimonies during the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin regarding his role in the fatal arrest of George Floyd, a pulmonology expert confirmed that Floyd died due to a lack of oxygen in his body.

“Mr. Floyd died from a low level of oxygen, and this caused damage to his brain...and it also caused a [pulseless electrical activity] arrhythmia that caused his heart to stop,” Martin Tobin said.

The official autopsy report stated that Floyd died due to “Cardiopulmonary Arrest Complicating Law Enforcement Subdual, Restraint, and Neck Compression.”


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Tobin, who testified on Thursday, intricately linked Floyd’s lack of oxygen to his shallow, short breathing during the arrest. 

A bevy of factors contributed to the short breaths, including his body positioning on the street during his arrest, handcuffs being placed upon him and Chauvin’s knee on his neck and eventually his back and side. 

This ultimately culminated in a 43 percent reduction in oxygen in Floyd’s body.

“All of these four forces are ultimately going to result in the low tidal volume, which gives you the shallow breaths that we saw here,” Tobin said.

Thus, with each breath, Floyd had to fight, exerting over a threefold increase in effort to breathe.

He also disavowed the idea that because Floyd spoke, saying “I can’t breathe” several times, that he was able to breathe.

“Certainly at the moment that you are speaking, you are breathing, but it doesn't tell you that you're going to be breathing, five seconds later,” Tobin noted on the televised trial, adding that the notion is “highly misleading.”


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Published on Apr 08, 2021