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Minneapolis police offer critical testimony on Chauvin's actions with Floyd

Testimony from Minneapolis police officers criticizing Derek Chauvin’s actions in the arrest of George Floyd dominated the former officer’s murder trial on Tuesday for the second consecutive day.

Sgt. Ker Yang, who is the force’s crisis training coordinator, and Lt. Johnny Mercil, head of the department’s use of force training, both took the stand during the court’s morning session, bringing the total number of Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officers to testify as prosecution witnesses in Chauvin’s murder trial to six.

That number rose to seven in the afternoon, when officer Nicole Mackenzie, MPD’s medical support coordinator, testified.

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All of the police witnesses, including police Chief Medaria Arradondo, have testified to the extensive continuing education program that MPD runs for its veteran officers. Officers said that Chauvin’s kneeling on Floyd’s neck for roughly nine minutes, which the prosecution says led to Floyd’s death, was not in line with the department’s use of force standards.

Yang told the court that Chauvin went through a 40-hour crisis intervention course in 2016 that was mandated for all serving officers.

“When it is safe and feasible, we shall de-escalate,” Yang told the court, explaining that the crisis intervention training revolves around voice, neutrality, respect and trust.

MPD officers are instructed to “continuously review and reassess the situation to see if our technique on de-escalation or other techniques is working,” Yang added, saying that providing medical care to someone who needs it would become “the immediate goal.”

Graphic bystander footage of the fatal arrest has been repeatedly played throughout the trial. Floyd can be heard pleading with Chauvin that he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin knelt on his neck even after Floyd became unresponsive, not getting off of Floyd until paramedics arrived.

Mercil said that the department teaches two forms of neck restraints: conscious and unconscious, but that the way in which Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck was not a technique that MPD teaches its officers.

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“No, sir,” Mercil replied after prosecutor Steve Schleicher asked him if it was appropriate for Chauvin to continue his restraint on Floyd after he had become unresponsive while prone and handcuffed.

The lieutenant said the department doesn’t explicitly prohibit Chauvin’s action, but that the use of force should have stopped once Floyd became handcuffed and stopped resisting.

During his cross-examination, Chauvin defense attorney Eric Nelson displayed image captures from former officer Thomas Lane’s body camera while Chauvin was kneeling on Floyd. Mercil acknowledged that at times in the images it appears that Chauvin’s knee and leg are more on Floyd’s neck and shoulders than just his neck. In those images, Mercil said, Chauvin didn’t appear to have Floyd in a neck restraint.

However, in response to questions from the prosecutor on redirect, Mercil agreed with Schleicher that Chauvin’s conduct became inappropriate once Floyd, who was already handcuffed before being taken to the ground, stopped resisting.

In her testimony, Mackenzie told the court that MPD officers have an obligation to call paramedics and perform the first aid they know on a person once it becomes reasonable to do so.

“If there was really no need for immediate first aid, maybe like a small cut or abrasion, you know, it would be appropriate to just wait for EMS to arrive, but if it's a critical situation … you have to do both,” Mackenzie said.

Chauvin never administered any first aid to Floyd, though paramedics were called, eventually arriving and transporting Floyd to Hennepin County Medical Center where he was pronounced dead shortly after.

Pleading the fifth

Before the Jury was seated on Monday, the court heard from Morries Hall, Floyd’s friend who was in his car when police first approached.

Hall has been identified as a potential witness by both the prosecution and defense, though a motion made last week by his counsel stated that Hall would invoke his 5th Amendment right to not self-incriminate to prevent him from testifying.

Hall’s lawyer Adrienne Cousins told Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill Tuesday that her client “has been provided no immunity, no protection for his testimony whatsoever.”

“I cannot envision any topics Mr. Hall would be called to testify on that would be relevant to the case that would not incriminate him,” Cousins said.

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Hall is currently in jail on other charges and appeared in the courtroom via video call.

Cahill instructed Nelson, who disclosed the general questions he would like to ask Hall, to submit the questions to him by Thursday, when the judge would examine the issue of Hall testifying further.

Lunch break prayer

During the court’s lunch break, civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton led a prayer service for Floyd’s family outside the Hennepin County Courthouse in downtown Minneapolis.

Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney who’s representing the Floyd family, was present along with Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, a Black man who was killed by a New York City police officer using an unauthorized chokehold in 2014. Like Floyd, Garner could be heard saying that he couldn’t breathe while being restrained and became unresponsive before ultimately being pronounced dead at an area hospital.



Early dismissal

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After Mackenzie finished testifying, the prosecution called Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Jodi Stigler, their first stated expert witness. Stigler, 50, has been with the LAPD for 28 years.

Schleicher, the prosecutor, didn’t get far into questioning Stigler before Cahill abruptly adjourned the trial for the day just before 3:30 p.m. local time. He will return in the morning to finish his testimony.

In his short time on the stand, Stigler explained his experience and credentials to the court before describing Chauvin’s use of force on Floyd as “excessive.”