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Minneapolis police chief gives dramatic testimony on Chauvin trial

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo testified Monday that former city police officer Derek Chauvin was not using the defense tactics taught by his police department with suspects resisting arrest when he pinned George Floyd to the street, placing his knee to Floyd’s neck.

“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 in person, proned out, handcuffed behind their back, that in no way shape or form is anything that is by policy, is not part of our training, and it is certainly not part of our ethics,” Arrandondo said in testimony to prosecutor Steve Schleicher.

Asked if he believed that Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for an extended period of time followed the department’s de-escalation policy, Arradondo, who like Floyd is Black, responded, “I absolutely do not.”

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When Schleicher asked if Chauvin’s conduct was part of the defense tactics that the department teaches, Arradondo replied: “It is not.”

The testimony by the police chief was a rarity in cases involving police officers accused of violence, in that the chief was testifying against the former officer.

Chauvin is facing murder charges in the trial for Floyd’s killing, which spurred a nationwide reckoning with police tactics and racial justice in the summer of 2020.

Graphic cellphone footage showing Chauvin kneeling on Floyd has frequently been on display throughout the trial. Floyd, 46 when he died, can be heard pleading with Chauvin multiple times, saying that he couldn’t breathe.

Overall, the former police officer faces three criminal counts — second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Going into Monday, Arradondo, 54, was perhaps the prosecution’s most important witness that had yet to testify.

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He’s the third police officer to testify in the trial, following Sgt. Jon Edwards and Lt. Richard Zimmerman who both took the stand on Friday.

Arradondo’s testimony was well over two hours long, split into two parts by the court’s lunch break. Prior to speaking explicitly on Chauvin’s actions, the police chief stressed the importance of de-escalation techniques. 

Per Minneapolis’s departmental policy, officers are mandated to look for ways to de-escalate a situation, even when using force. The police official explained that a litany of reasons must be taken into account when trying to ascertain a person’s level of compliance, including the presence of drugs and alcohol in someone’s system.

It is known that Floyd struggled with opioid addiction; trace amounts of fentanyl and methamphetamine were found in Floyd's system but were not listed as a cause of death.

Footage shows Floyd being uncooperative with police at times, and that he became especially anxious when officers attempted to get him to sit in the squad car. 

His refusal to get in the car prompted officers to put him on the ground, leading Chauvin to kneel on his neck.

“It's recognizing that when we get the call from our communities, it may not often be their best days, and they may be experiencing something that is very traumatic,” Arradondo said.

“We're going to respond, but we have to take that into consideration, because … we may be the first and last time they have an interaction with a Minneapolis Police officer, and so we have to make it count,” the head of police added.

Arradondo also explained the department’s use of force policy, telling the court that “sanctity of life” is a vital pillar of thought when determining what level of force an officer carries out.

“While it is absolutely imperative that our officers go home at the end of their shift, we want to make sure and ensure that our community members go home, too,” Arradondo said, noting the importance of officers using “objectively reasonable force” when using force becomes necessary.

Cardiac arrest

The first witness to testify Tuesday was Bradford Langenfeld, the emergency doctor who attempted to resuscitate Floyd when he arrived at Hennepin County Medical Center. Langenfeld, who now practices in Grand Rapids, Minn., was at the time a senior resident at the Minneapolis hospital.

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He told the court that Floyd arrived at the medical center in cardiac arrest. Paramedics had informed him that Floyd had no pulse when they arrived on the corner of 38th and Chicago.

“It's well known that any amount of time that a patient spends in cardiac arrest without immediate CPR markedly decreases the chance of a good outcome,” Langenfeld noted.

The physician also said that paramedics worked for half an hour to try to resuscitate Floyd and he spent an additional 30 minutes, but Floyd’s heart never resumed activity "sufficient to sustain life."

Based on the information that he had at the time, Langenfeld said that he believed asphyxia — lack of oxygen — to be a leading candidate for what caused Floyd’s cardiac arrest and eventual death.

Floyd’s cause of death is a crucial part of the case.

In its autopsy report, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office stated that Floyd died of “cardiopulmonary arrest [the stopping of both the heart and lungs] complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”

Chauvin defense attorney Eric Nelson has pushed back against this during the trial, pointing to the drugs in Floyd’s system and his underlying heart problems as the reasons behind his death.