Minneapolis Police Lt. Richard Zimmerman testified Friday in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged with murdering George Floyd, that Chauvin’s use of force in that situation was “totally unnecessary.”
“Pulling him down to the ground facedown and putting the knee on the neck for that amount of time is just uncalled for,” Zimmerman said.
Bystander video of Floyd’s arrest in May 2020 showed Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on Floyd’s neck as Floyd, who is Black, repeatedly stated that he couldn’t breathe. Minutes later, Floyd ceased breathing. His death sparked a worldwide reckoning on racial injustice.
Chauvin is charged with second- and third-degree murder as well as second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Zimmerman, who helped secure the scene of the arrest hours after Floyd was transported to the hospital, took the stand on day five of witness testimony in the high-profile trial.
Prosecutor Matthew Frank asked Zimmerman whether in his more than 30 years with the Minneapolis Police Department he had ever been trained to kneel on a person’s neck while that person is handcuffed and in the prone position. (Prone position is when a person lies flat with their chest down.)
Zimmerman said no, adding that doing so would “absolutely” be considered a use of “deadly force.”
“If your knee is on a person’s neck, that can kill him,” Zimmerman testified.
He said a person could still be combative when they are handcuffed but that the threat level against an officer would be very low.
“They’re cuffed ― how can they really hurt you, you know?” Zimmerman said. He added that an officer should move a person, once handcuffed, out of the prone position “as soon as possible” because such a position hinders the person’s ability to breathe.
“Once a person is cuffed, you need to turn a person on the side or sit them up,” Zimmerman said. “You need to get them off their chest.”
Chauvin and two other officers pinned Floyd to the ground while he was handcuffed and in the prone position for more than nine minutes.
On Thursday, retired Minneapolis police Sgt. David Pleoger, who was Chauvin’s supervisor at the time of Floyd’s arrest, testified that he believed the officers involved could have stopped restraining Floyd so severely once Floyd stopped resisting.
Video recorded by three of the officers’ body-worn cameras showed them continuing to pin down Floyd for several minutes after he ceased moving.
Earlier Thursday, Derek Smith, one of the paramedics who transported Floyd to the hospital after his arrest, testified that Floyd appeared to be dead when he arrived on the scene. He said there was “no reason” officers couldn’t have initiated chest compressions.
Zimmerman on Friday said Minneapolis police officers receive CPR training, which includes instruction on how to perform chest compressions, every other year or so.
Officers “need to provide medical care for a person that is in distress” ― even if an ambulance has already been called to the scene, Zimmerman testified.