Derek Chauvin Trial Updates: Top Lieutenant Calls Former Officer’s Response ‘Totally Unnecessary’

The longest-serving police officer in the Minneapolis Police Department says that what Derek Chauvin did to George Floyd was a violation of policy.,

LiveUpdated April 2, 2021, 2:30 p.m. ETApril 2, 2021, 2:30 p.m. ET

The longest-serving police officer in the Minneapolis Police Department says that what Derek Chauvin did to George Floyd was a violation of policy.

ImageFlags and signs adorn security fencing outside the Hennepin County Government Center on Friday.
Flags and signs adorn security fencing outside the Hennepin County Government Center on Friday.Credit…Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
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April 2, 2021, 1:42 p.m. ETApril 2, 2021, 1:42 p.m. ET
Kelly Sherman-Conroy and her son Ciaran Conroy write on a wall across from the Hennepin County Government Center on Friday.
Kelly Sherman-Conroy and her son Ciaran Conroy write on a wall across from the Hennepin County Government Center on Friday.Credit…Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Friday’s proceedings in the trial of Derek Chauvin ended with critical testimony from the longest-serving officer in the Minneapolis Police Department, who testified that Mr. Chauvin’s actions were “totally unnecessary.”

Police testimony against Mr. Chauvin, the former officer charged with killing George Floyd, could be crucial to the prosecution’s case as they move into next week. Friday’s proceedings ended early because the trial is ahead of schedule, the judge said. Here are the highlights.

  • Lt. Richard Zimmerman, who leads the department’s homicide unit, said Mr. Chauvin’s actions violated police policy. “Pulling him down to the ground facedown and putting your knee on a neck for that amount of time, it’s just uncalled for,” said Lieutenant Zimmerman, who joined the department in 1985. He was one of a group of 14 veteran police officers who published a public letter last June condemning the actions of Mr. Chauvin. The officers said the letter was representative of the opinion of hundreds of police officers. “This is not who we are,” they wrote.

  • The first witness of the day, Sgt. Jon Edwards, was sent to the Cup Foods convenience store after the arrest to secure the crime scene. Mr. Edwards said he followed protocol by telling officers who were still on the scene to turn on their body cameras and identify the areas where they interacted with Mr. Floyd. He also asked them to try and find witnesses, though most people had already left. Sergeant Edwards did find at least one witness, Charles McMillian, who gave an emotional testimony earlier this week. At the scene that night, Mr. McMillian asked Sergeant Edwards if he was under arrest. When Sergeant Edwards said that he wasn’t, Mr. McMillian said he wanted to leave.

  • Additional testimony from police officers will be an important tool for prosecutors, who are seeking to show that Mr. Chauvin violated use of force policies and that his actions were unnecessary and unlawful. Eric J. Nelson, Mr. Chauvin’s defense attorney, used his cross-examination of Lieutenant Zimmerman to temper those ideas. Mr. Nelson asked the lieutenant whether people can become combative after waking up from being unconscious. Lieutenant Zimmerman also said police officers are trained to kneel on people’s shoulders, in some circumstances, when they handcuff a person. Throughout the trial, Mr. Nelson has suggested that Mr. Chauvin’s knee was on Mr. Floyd’s back or shoulder, not on his neck.

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April 2, 2021, 1:30 p.m. ETApril 2, 2021, 1:30 p.m. ET
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo speaking at a news conference during jury selection for the trial of Derek Chauvin.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo speaking at a news conference during jury selection for the trial of Derek Chauvin.Credit…Nicholas Pfosi/Reuters

George Floyd’s death vastly compounded public anger at the Minneapolis Police Department. But conflict was present before officers ever came in contact with Mr. Floyd — so much so that the department’s own chief, Medaria Arradondo, the first Black person to hold the position, had once filed a lawsuit accusing it of tolerating racism.

Only about 20 percent of Minneapolis residents are Black, but about 60 percent of use-of-force incidents with the Minneapolis police involve Black people, according to a New York Times analysis. The city’s police officers use force against Black people at seven times the rate of white people.

Body-weight pinning, which Derek Chauvin used on Mr. Floyd, is one of the most popular use-of-force mechanisms in Minneapolis, and it, too, is employed in a racially disparate way. Since 2015, Minneapolis officers have used it about 2,200 times against Black people, more than twice as many times as they have used it against white people.

The influence of the city’s police union, the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, has made reforming the department a struggle, some analysts say. But since Mr. Floyd’s death, there have been some limited changes.

In December 2020, the Minneapolis City Council voted to divert $8 million dollars — almost 4.5 percent — from a proposed $179 million police budget. The diverted funds will go to the city’s Office of Violence Prevention, with the goal of building a team of mental health professionals and city workers to respond to crises and process minor complaints without police involvement.

Before Mr. Floyd, numerous others had reported abuse at the hands of Mr. Chauvin, including Zoya Code, who said Mr. Chauvin had forced her to the ground with his knee on her after he answered a call in a domestic dispute. Over almost 20 years with the police department, Mr. Chauvin had at least 22 complaints or internal investigations, but only one resulted in discipline.

That pattern is common: Since 2012, only 1 percent of adjudicated complaints against Minneapolis police officers resulted in disciplinary action, according to city records.

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April 2, 2021, 12:40 p.m. ETApril 2, 2021, 12:40 p.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

And that’s a wrap for the week. Court is adjourned until Monday morning.

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April 2, 2021, 12:39 p.m. ETApril 2, 2021, 12:39 p.m. ET

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

Reporting from New York

The last question a prosecutor asked Lt. Richard Zimmerman, the longest-serving Minneapolis Police officer, was whether he had seen “any need for Officer Chauvin to improvise by putting his knee on Mr. Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds.” Zimmerman answered: “No I did not.” The question came after Derek Chauvin’s lawyer had noted that officers are allowed to improvise in dangerous situations.

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April 2, 2021, 12:24 p.m. ETApril 2, 2021, 12:24 p.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

In cross-examining Lt. Richard Zimmerman, Derek Chauvin’s lawyer is making an argument he has with other witnesses: that when unconscious suspects are revived, they can become combative. Hard to see this resonating with jurors, who have seen George Floyd, over and over again in videos, limp and face down on the street.

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April 2, 2021, 12:09 p.m. ETApril 2, 2021, 12:09 p.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

“Totally unnecessary” and “uncalled for.” This is how Lt. Richard Zimmerman described Derek Chauvin’s actions against George Floyd last May.

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April 2, 2021, 12:01 p.m. ETApril 2, 2021, 12:01 p.m. ET
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‘Deadly Force’: Minneapolis Police Officer Describes Chauvin’s Actions

Lt. Richard Zimmerman, who responded to the scene of George Floyd’s arrest after he was taken away in an ambulance, testified in court that Derek Chauvin did not follow police protocol.

“Have you ever in all the years you’ve been working for the Minneapolis Police Department, been trained to kneel on the neck of someone who is handcuffed behind their back in a prone position?” “No, I haven’t.” “Is that, if that were done, would that be considered force?” “Absolutely.” “What level of force might that be?” “That would be the top tier, the deadly force.” “Why?” “Because of the fact that if your knee is on a person’s neck that can kill him. Once a person is cuffed, you need to turn them on their side or have them sit up. You need to get them off their chest.” “Why?” “Because of the — as I mentioned earlier, your muscles are pulling back when you’re handcuffed. And if you’re laying on your chest, that’s constricting your breathing even more.”

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Lt. Richard Zimmerman, who responded to the scene of George Floyd’s arrest after he was taken away in an ambulance, testified in court that Derek Chauvin did not follow police protocol.CreditCredit…Still image, via Court TV

The longest-serving police officer in the Minneapolis Police Department said on Friday that Derek Chauvin had violated department policy by kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as he lay handcuffed on his stomach.

Lt. Richard Zimmerman, who leads the department’s homicide unit and responded to the scene of Mr. Floyd’s death after he was taken away in an ambulance, testified in court that what Mr. Chauvin had done was “totally unnecessary.”

“Pulling him down to the ground facedown and putting your knee on a neck for that amount of time, it’s just uncalled for,” said Lieutenant Zimmerman, who joined the department in 1985.

His testimony came on the fifth day of the trial of Mr. Chauvin, the former police officer charged with murder in Mr. Floyd’s death, and it followed testimony from Mr. Chauvin’s supervisor, who also criticized his actions. That supervisor, Sgt. David Pleoger, said on Thursday that Mr. Chauvin should have stopped holding Mr. Floyd down once he became unresponsive and that Mr. Chauvin had not initially divulged that he knelt on Mr. Floyd.

Prosecutors have sought to show that Mr. Chauvin’s actions were unusually violent and that he failed to follow the department’s policies on force.

Lieutenant Zimmerman testified that officers are taught to move handcuffed people out of the prone position as quickly as possible — by turning them on their side or sitting them up — and that officers had never been trained to kneel on people’s necks while they were handcuffed and lying on their stomachs.

“You need to get them off their chest,” he said. “If you’re lying on your chest, that’s constricting your breathing even more.”

Eric J. Nelson, the lawyer for Mr. Chauvin, used his cross-examination of Lieutenant Zimmerman to note that he worked in the investigations unit and may not be as familiar with the force that uniformed officers have to use on patrol. Lieutenant Zimmerman agreed with Mr. Nelson when he asked if people can become more combative after waking back up from being unconscious. Lieutenant Zimmerman also said police officers had been trained to kneel on a person’s shoulder, in some circumstances, while they put handcuffs on the person.

Mr. Nelson suggested earlier this week that Mr. Floyd was turned slightly to his side; he has tried to move jurors’ attention away from the widely-seen video that shows Mr. Chauvin kneeling on Mr. Floyd for more than nine minutes.

Lieutenant Zimmerman said on Friday that police officers had a duty to take care of a person they had handcuffed.

“His safety is your responsibility,” Lieutenant Zimmerman said. “His well-being is your responsibility.”

Lieutenant Zimmerman acknowledged that people who are handcuffed can still be combative and try to hurt officers, such as by kicking them, but he said that they usually only present a minor threat.

“Once a person is cuffed, the threat level goes down all the way,” he said. “They’re cuffed; how can they really hurt you?”

Lieutenant Zimmerman was among a group of 14 veteran police officers who published a public letter last June to condemn Mr. Chauvin. “This is not who we are,” the letter said.

Friday was not the first time that Lieutenant Zimmerman had testified in a high-profile case involving police violence. In 2019, he testified that the scene of a fatal shooting by a Minneapolis police officer was well-lit, contradicting an argument from the officers’ lawyers that the lighting in the area was poor.

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April 2, 2021, 11:46 a.m. ETApril 2, 2021, 11:46 a.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

This testimony is devastating for Derek Chauvin: One of the Minneapolis Police Department’s most respected and longest-serving officers says what Chauvin did to George Floyd was a violation of policy.

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April 2, 2021, 11:38 a.m. ETApril 2, 2021, 11:38 a.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

The prosecutor is leading Lt. Richard Zimmerman to discuss use-of-force policies. He says all officers are required to take a training course once a year on what is proper and legal. This is likely leading to a direct question of Zimmerman about Derek Chauvin’s restraint of George Floyd.

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April 2, 2021, 11:18 a.m. ETApril 2, 2021, 11:18 a.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

On the stand now is Lt. Richard Zimmerman, chief homicide detective, who is among the longest-serving officers in the Minneapolis Police Department. He is well known in the city, and his credibility will help the state establish that Derek Chauvin’s actions were out of policy and, prosecutors say, unlawful.

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April 2, 2021, 11:20 a.m. ETApril 2, 2021, 11:20 a.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

The prosecution is slowly walking Zimmerman through his credentials, to build the case for the jury that he is credible. I expect the questioning to lead him to talk about whether or not he believed George Floyd’s death was a murder.

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April 2, 2021, 11:12 a.m. ETApril 2, 2021, 11:12 a.m. ET
The third precinct station of the Minneapolis Police Department sits vacant after being set on fire in May.
The third precinct station of the Minneapolis Police Department sits vacant after being set on fire in May. Credit…Aaron Nesheim for The New York Times

Lt. Richard Zimmerman, who is testifying in the Derek Chauvin trial on Friday, has been a homicide detective for more than 25 years and has run that department for the Minneapolis police for a dozen years.

The lieutenant was among a group of 14 veteran police officers who published a public letter last June to condemn the actions of Derek Chauvin, who is charged with killing Mr. Floyd by kneeling on him for more than nine minutes. The letter, addressed to the citizens of Minneapolis, said the officers were appalled at the way Mr. Floyd lost his life. “This is not who we are,” they wrote, noting that Mr. Chauvin had taken an oath to preserve the sanctity of life.

The officers, calling themselves representative of the opinion of hundreds of police officers, promised to work to regain public trust in the department. In a 2019 murder case against a police officer, Lieutenant Zimmerman’s testimony contradicted the officer’s account that the light in the alleyway where the victim was shot was murky.

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April 2, 2021, 11:01 a.m. ETApril 2, 2021, 11:01 a.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

Testimony now shows MPD’s chief homicide detective was on the scene at Cup Foods the night George Floyd died. This shows that while officers on the ground were treating the episode as a possible murder, top officials in the department were trying to cover it up: The first press release from MPD said only that a man died of a “medical incident during police interaction.”

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April 2, 2021, 10:48 a.m. ETApril 2, 2021, 10:48 a.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

Handling the questioning from the state this morning is Steve Schleicher, who is working pro-bono for the Minnesota Office of Attorney General. Schleicher handled most of the questioning of prospective jurors during jury selection.

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April 2, 2021, 10:38 a.m. ETApril 2, 2021, 10:38 a.m. ET
Sgt. Jon Edwards testifying during the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Friday.
Sgt. Jon Edwards testifying during the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Friday.Credit…Still image, via Court TV

Witness testimony resumed Friday morning in the Derek Chauvin trial with Sgt. Jon Edwards of the Minneapolis Police Department taking the stand. Sergeant Edwards was sent to Cup Foods to secure the crime scene after police officers pinned George Floyd to the ground outside of the convenience store.

In response to questions from the prosecution, Sergeant Edwards testified that he had arrived at the scene around 9:35 p.m. on May 25 after being notified of a possible “critical incident.” He said he had followed standard procedures to secure the area.

Those procedures included instructing two officers who were still at the scene, Thomas Lane and Alex Kueng, to turn on their body cameras; asking the officers to identify the locations where they had interacted with Mr. Floyd; and directing them to put crime-scene tape around the area to preserve potential evidence.

Sergeant Edwards also testified that he had summoned other officers to conduct a door-to-door “canvass” for anyone who had witnessed the events, because by that point, most onlookers had dispersed.

“I guess we were just trying to get lucky,” he said. “Maybe there was somebody still there that was willing to talk to us.”

He spoke personally with one witness, he said: Charles McMillian, who testified earlier this week. At the scene that night, however, Mr. McMillian refused to speak with the police. According to Sergeant Edwards’s testimony, he asked if he was under arrest, and when Sergeant Edwards said no, Mr. McMillian said he wanted to leave.

A Minneapolis native, Sergeant Edwards has been with the Minneapolis Police Department for more than 10 years and serves in the department’s Third Precinct, which protesters burned last year in the wake of Mr. Floyd’s death. He is currently on leave.

Sergeant Edwards was part of the Police and Black Men project, facilitated by the University of Minnesota, which “seeks to develop relationships of honesty and trust in semiweekly meetings between a small group of police officers and African-American men,” according to the university’s website.

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April 2, 2021, 10:32 a.m. ETApril 2, 2021, 10:32 a.m. ET

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

Reporting from New York

Sgt. Jon Edwards, testifying now, says he was at one time assigned to the Minneapolis Police Department’s community engagement unit for about two years, a community-oriented program that grew out of former President Barack Obama’s police reform initiatives.

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April 2, 2021, 10:26 a.m. ETApril 2, 2021, 10:26 a.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

Police testimony will continue today and into next week, underscoring one of the most unusual aspects of this case: so many officers testifying against one of their own. I’m told that many of them were more than willing to testify – no arm-twisting necessary from prosecutors – because they believe Derek Chauvin besmirched their profession.

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April 2, 2021, 10:25 a.m. ETApril 2, 2021, 10:25 a.m. ET

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

Reporting from New York

Day 5 of the trial has begun as prosecutors call Sgt. Jon Edwards to the witness stand. Sergeant Edwards secured the crime scene after George Floyd’s death and will likely spend his testimony describing what he saw that day outside of Cup Foods.

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April 2, 2021, 10:00 a.m. ETApril 2, 2021, 10:00 a.m. ET
Judge Peter Cahill said he planned to send jurors home early on Friday.
Judge Peter Cahill said he planned to send jurors home early on Friday.Credit…Court TV still image, via Associated Press

The judge overseeing the trial of Derek Chauvin told jurors that witness testimony would end early on Friday because the trial is running ahead of schedule.

Judge Peter A. Cahill said he expected witness testimony to end at about noon or 12:30 p.m. Central Time on Friday and that he would then send jurors home.

“We are actually ahead of what we planned the schedule to be, as far as the evidence coming in,” Judge Cahill said on Thursday. “For that and for other reasons that are not relevant, we are going to take tomorrow afternoon off.”

It was unclear what the additional reasons were and whether the lawyers would be hashing out legal issues on Friday afternoon without the jury or if the court would adjourn altogether.

“There are other things that have to be done without the necessity of bringing our jury in,” Judge Cahill said.

He added that because the jurors would be out of the building by about noon, the court would not be ordering lunch for them as usual.

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April 2, 2021, 9:32 a.m. ETApril 2, 2021, 9:32 a.m. ET
George Floyd's youngest brother, Rodney Floyd, left, and other family members outside the Hennepin County Government Center.
George Floyd’s youngest brother, Rodney Floyd, left, and other family members outside the Hennepin County Government Center.Credit…Kerem Yucel/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, when Charles McMillian, a witness to the death of George Floyd, broke down while recounting what he saw last May, Judge Peter Cahill called a short recess to allow Mr. McMillian to compose himself.

I was the pool reporter in the courtroom, and I walked into the hallway and sat down next to Rodney Floyd, Mr. Floyd’s youngest brother who came from Houston to attend that day’s testimony.

Mr. Floyd was in tears, after sitting through another presentation of video footage of his brother’s death. I explained to him that I was representing the news media that day and asked him if he wished to share anything with me about how he was feeling, which I would then in turn share with the rest of the news media — and then of course the wider world — or if he wished that I would leave him in silence.

He said he wished to talk, and as soon as I took out my notebook, a sheriff’s deputy walked over and said we were not allowed to talk.

It was the second time this has happened to me during the trial. One day during jury selection, I began speaking with Angela Harrrelson, Mr. Floyd’s aunt, whom I had met last summer at a pretrial hearing — and again a sheriff’s deputy intervened.

Lawyers who represent a number of news organizations, including The New York Times, have raised concerns with the court about its strict rules prohibiting the Floyd family from speaking to the news media outside the courtroom.

Toddrick Barnette, the chief judge for Hennepin County, sets the rules about access and security. He declined to comment.

Because of the pandemic restrictions that have severely limited attendance at the trial, on most days the only people allowed in to the room who are not either jurors or parties to the case are three people: a reporter representing digital media outlets; a reporter for the broadcast media; and a member of the Floyd family. (The court has also designated one seat for the family for Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged with murder in Mr. Floyd’s death, but so far no one from the Chauvin family has attended.)

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April 2, 2021, 4:54 a.m. ETApril 2, 2021, 4:54 a.m. ET
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Chauvin Trial: Day 4 Key Moments

As the murder trial of Derek Chauvin continued for a fourth day on Thursday, those who testified included George Floyd’s girlfriend and emergency responders who were on duty the day Mr. Floyd died.

“Floyd is what I would call a mama’s boy. I could tell from the minute I met him. He loved his mom. So much.” “Do you swear or affirm under penalty of perjury, the testimony will be the truth and nothing but the truth?” “I do.” “Both Floyd and I, our story, it’s a classic story of how many people get addicted to opioids. We both suffered from chronic pain. Mine was in my neck and his was in his back. We both had prescriptions. We got addicted and tried really hard to break that addiction many times.” “And then going forward to May of 2020 was there a time when you thought he might be using again?” “Yes.” “Do you recall telling the F.B.I. that you bought pills from Mr. Hall one week prior to Mr. Floyd’s death?” “Yes, but I wasn’t there. I wasn’t there. I didn’t see anything happen.” “Yesterday, when you met with prosecutors, did you tell them that you were in the car at a hotel?” “Yes.” “When those pills were purchased?” “Yes.” “And that you were on the phone with Mr. Floyd at that time?” “Yes.” “And you heard a voice in the background?” “Yes.” “And that was a voice you recognized to be from Mr. Hall?” “I thought so, yeah.” “From what I could see, where I was at, I didn’t, I didn’t see any breathing or movement or anything like that.” “Did he appear to be unresponsive to you at that point in time?” “From what I could tell, just standing from a distance, yes.” “And while your partner was checking for a pulse and checking people, were the officers still on top of George Floyd while that process was going on?” “Yeah.” “So you determined that his pupils were large and dilated. What about a pulse?” “I did not palpate a pulse.” “When you say palpate, it is that you didn’t feel or detect a pulse?” “Yeah, I did not detect a pulse.” “And what did his condition appear to be to you over all?” “In lay terms, I thought he was dead.” “Yeah, I was just going to call and have you come out to our scene here. Not really, but we just had to hold the guy down, he was, was going crazy. … not for the moment.” “Based on your review of the body-worn camera footage, do you have an opinion as to when the restraint of Mr. Floyd should have ended in this encounter?” “Yes.” “What is it?” “When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could have entered the restraint.” “And that was after he was handcuffed and on the ground and no longer resisting.” “Correct.” “Thank you. I have no further questions, your honor.”

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As the murder trial of Derek Chauvin continued for a fourth day on Thursday, those who testified included George Floyd’s girlfriend and emergency responders who were on duty the day Mr. Floyd died.

Derek Chauvin’s trial enters an abbreviated day of proceedings on Friday after efforts by the prosecution to humanize George Floyd, including testimony from his girlfriend about their first kiss and drug use.

The trial began this week with many witnesses who had watched George Floyd’s arrest, but lawyers on Thursday nudged the narrative toward a key discussion: whether drugs played a factor in how Mr. Floyd died.

Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged with killing Mr. Floyd, is expected to point to a drug overdose as his primary defense; a toxicology report found fentanyl and methamphetamine in Mr. Floyd’s system.

The prosecution used the testimony of Mr. Floyd’s girlfriend, Courteney Ross, in part to argue that Mr. Floyd had built up a tolerance for opioids, making him less likely to overdose. She said that they both had started using opioids to combat chronic pain, and that when the prescription ran out, the battle to stay sober began.

Mr. Floyd was hospitalized for several days after an overdose in March 2020, Ms. Ross testified. In the weeks leading up to his death in May, she said, she suspected that he began using drugs again.

Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, lawyers for the Floyd family, said in a joint statement that they had expected the defense to try degrading Mr. Floyd’s character. “We fully expected the defense to put George’s character and struggles with addiction on trial because that is the go-to tactic when the facts are not on your side,” they said.

Jurors will also enter the fifth day of proceedings with a more thorough understanding of exactly when Mr. Floyd died.

They had previously seen body camera footage that showed Mr. Floyd in his final moments — scared and begging for his life. On Thursday, they heard from two paramedics who said they did not see any signs of life when they arrived at the scene. That supports the prosecution’s argument that Mr. Floyd died under the knee of Mr. Chauvin.

One of the paramedics, Derek Smith, put it bluntly: “In lay terms, I thought he was dead.”

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April 1, 2021, 7:22 p.m. ETApril 1, 2021, 7:22 p.m. ET

By Matt Furber

A barricade outside the Third Police Precinct in Minneapolis last month.
A barricade outside the Third Police Precinct in Minneapolis last month.Credit…Kerem Yucel/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In the South Minneapolis neighborhood where protesters burned the Third Precinct police station and numerous commercial properties in the wake of George Floyd’s death last year, two longtime residents, Phillip Cox and Mario Pacheco Jr., described complicated feelings about the destruction and about the trial of Derek Chauvin.

It was difficult to see the wreckage of their local shopping area, Mr. Pacheco, an antique and collectibles merchant, said on Thursday. But, he added, “It’s sad when you miss the Arby’s that was destroyed more than you miss the precinct.”

Since last summer’s unrest, some properties have been gutted and renovated. The police station is surrounded by fences, and stacked concrete barriers block the melted front entrance. At many smaller establishments and damaged residences, restoration has yet to begin. Even a nearby post office is still in ruins.

Mr. Cox, a machinist, said he had been watching the trial of Mr. Chauvin, the former police officer charged with murder in Mr. Floyd’s death, on television.

“I’m catching the trial here and there,” he said. “I’m glad they didn’t move it out of the county and that everyone can see it. Hopefully that will help change things about policing everywhere, not just in Minneapolis.”

The men said they didn’t support calls to abolish the police, but described the neighborhood as a tough place to grow up and recalled being treated roughly by local officers.

Both men said it had been hard to watch the footage of Mr. Chauvin’s treatment of Mr. Floyd.

“I never met George Floyd, but he seemed like a regular guy, like us,” Mr. Pacheco said.

Mr. Cox said, “As I think about the trial more, I am ashamed of my local law enforcement for not putting a stop to this kind of behavior and policing practices.”

“There are good police,” Mr. Pacheco said. “I don’t wish harm upon no one. But with Chauvin, I really hope they do make an example, so then the next policeman will take this trial into consideration.”

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April 1, 2021, 5:52 p.m. ETApril 1, 2021, 5:52 p.m. ET
Seth Zachary Bravinder, a paramedic, testifies in the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin at Hennepin County District Court on Thursday.
Seth Zachary Bravinder, a paramedic, testifies in the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin at Hennepin County District Court on Thursday.Credit…Court TV

The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged with killing George Floyd in Minneapolis, entered a new phase on Thursday with the testimony of paramedics who responded to the scene, making it the first time that jurors heard about Mr. Floyd’s medical condition in the immediate aftermath of the arrest.

Their testimony supported the notion that Mr. Floyd died under the knee of Mr. Chauvin. Two paramedics, Derek Smith and Seth Bravinder, said they did not see any signs of life in Mr. Floyd upon their arrival. Mr. Smith was explicit: “In lay terms, I thought he was dead.”

The jury also heard from Mr. Floyd’s girlfriend, who talked about his struggle with drug addiction, as well as from a former police sergeant who arrived at the scene shortly after the arrest. Here are Thursday’s key moments.

  • Until Thursday, testimony has come mostly from witnesses who happened upon the arrest of Mr. Floyd by chance. While those witnesses provided powerful testimony on the arrest — and on the emotional scars it left on them — they were unable to speak with authority about Mr. Floyd’s medical condition. The lineup of witnesses on Thursday changed that. The questions of when Mr. Floyd died, and how, will be crucial to the jury’s ultimate decision. Though the two paramedics who testified on Thursday did not comment on what exactly killed Mr. Floyd, they provided new information on the key question of when.

  • Mr. Smith, one of two paramedics to testify on Thursday, said Mr. Floyd had no pulse and appeared to be dead by the time they arrived. Mr. Smith’s efforts to save Mr. Floyd, including the use of a defibrillator, were unsuccessful. His testimony could support the prosecution’s argument that the actions of Mr. Chauvin killed Mr. Floyd. The defense has suggested that drug use contributed to his death; an autopsy found fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system. Eric J. Nelson, Mr. Chauvin’s attorney, also suggested during Mr. Smith’s testimony that Mr. Chauvin’s knee was on Mr. Floyd’s back, not on his neck. In his response, Mr. Smith referred Mr. Nelson to videos of the arrest.

  • Courteney Ross, Mr. Floyd’s girlfriend for nearly three years, told the jury about his character and his struggle with addiction. She talked about their first kiss and Mr. Floyd’s adventurous nature. In a lighter moment, she talked about one of the most famous photos of Mr. Floyd, which she called “a dad selfie.” She called Mr. Floyd a “mama’s boy,” and said that his mother’s death left him “like a shell of himself, like he was broken.” Mr. Floyd called out “mama” while police officers pinned him to the ground. Ms. Ross also detailed their shared struggle with opioid addiction, saying that they started using after being prescribed medication for chronic pain. Once their prescriptions ran out, their use continued. Together, they fell in and out of sobriety. Mr. Floyd’s use of drugs, and whether that contributed to his death, is expected to be a crucial point of the trial.

  • The jury also heard from David Pleoger, a recently retired sergeant with the Minneapolis Police Department, who arrived at the scene just after Mr. Floyd was taken away in an ambulance. Mr. Pleoger spoke about the department’s policy on use of force and was probed by prosecutors on whether Mr. Chauvin complied with those policies. Asked whether police officers should remove their knees from a suspect’s neck when the suspect stops resisting, Mr. Pleoger said they should. According to video evidence, Mr. Chauvin kept his knee on Mr. Floyd for several minutes after Mr. Floyd became unresponsive. The defense objected when prosecutors tried to ask Mr. Pleoger whether Mr. Chauvin violated use of force policies, but the prosecution did ask him when, in his opinion, the police officers should have ended their restraint of Mr. Floyd. He replied, “When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could have ended their restraint.”

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April 1, 2021, 5:31 p.m. ETApril 1, 2021, 5:31 p.m. ET

The New York Times

Day 4 of the trial of Derek Chauvin drew protesters outside the Hennepin County courthouse and around the city of Minneapolis on Thursday.

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March 29, 2021, 5:42 p.m. ETMarch 29, 2021, 5:42 p.m. ET
The video of police beating Rodney King in March 1991 was one of the first capturing abuse by an officer. The videos have become key to trials where officers have been accused of misconduct.
The video of police beating Rodney King in March 1991 was one of the first capturing abuse by an officer. The videos have become key to trials where officers have been accused of misconduct.Credit…George Holliday/KTLA Los Angeles, via Associated Press

The trial of Derek Chauvin is the latest in a string of high-profile police misconduct cases in which the events were recorded on video, dating back to the beating of Rodney King in 1991. The graphic video of George Floyd’s death last year was seen by millions of people and was at the center of the prosecution’s case on Monday.

But similar evidence has not always guaranteed a conviction of police officers, said Dave Rudovsky, a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s law school with 50 years of experience in civil rights, including cases tied to police misconduct. Prosecutors are usually hesitant to take on these cases, and jurors tend to be sympathetic toward officers who they believe made split-second decisions when facing danger, he said.

Mr. Rudovsky called the video in the Chauvin case “very powerful.” But he cautioned that a conviction was not guaranteed, “even if these videos seem to show a high level of misconduct and no justification. None of these are sure things with jurors.”

Here are some of the most famous cases involving police officers caught on video and the outcomes:

  • Rodney King: The grainy, black-and-white video of police beating Rodney King in 1991 is the first memory people have of police misconduct on tape. Three of the officers involved were acquitted and a jury was unable to reach a verdict on the fourth, sparking violent clashes in Los Angeles that left dozens dead in 1992.

  • Eric Garner: In 2014, a white officer in New York held Eric Garner in a chokehold, which was filmed by a bystander. Mr. Garner died and some of his final words, “I can’t breathe,” helped galvanize a movement against police brutality. Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who choked him, was eventually fired, but both state and federal investigators declined to charge him.

  • Laquan McDonald: A police dashboard camera recorded Chicago police shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014. That video, which wasn’t released for 13 months after his death, prompted a series of state and federal cases against the officers involved. Jason Van Dyke, the officer who shot Laquan, was convicted of second-degree murder.

  • Walter Scott: A former police officer, Michael T. Slager, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the death of Walter Scott in North Charleston, S.C. Mr. Slager shot Mr. Scott, who was unarmed, in the back in 2015. A video of the shooting, which was taken by a bystander, was crucial in the trial.

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March 29, 2021, 8:49 a.m. ETMarch 29, 2021, 8:49 a.m. ET
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How George Floyd Was Killed in Police Custody

The Times has reconstructed the death of George Floyd on May 25. Security footage, witness videos and official documents show how a series of actions by officers turned fatal. (This video contains scenes of graphic violence.)

It’s a Monday evening in Minneapolis. Police respond to a call about a man who allegedly used a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes. Seventeen minutes later, the man they are there to investigate lies motionless on the ground, and is pronounced dead shortly after. The man was 46-year-old George Floyd, a bouncer originally from Houston who had lost his job at a restaurant when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Crowd: “No justice, no peace.” Floyd’s death triggered major protests in Minneapolis, and sparked rage across the country. One of the officers involved, Derek Chauvin, has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder. The other three officers have been charged with aiding and abetting murder. The Times analyzed bystander videos, security camera footage and police scanner audio, spoke to witnesses and experts, and reviewed documents released by the authorities to build as comprehensive a picture as possible and better understand how George Floyd died in police custody. The events of May 25 begin here. Floyd is sitting in the driver’s seat of this blue S.U.V. Across the street is a convenience store called Cup Foods. Footage from this restaurant security camera helps us understand what happens next. Note that the timestamp on the camera is 24 minutes fast. At 7:57 p.m., two employees from Cup Foods confront Floyd and his companions about an alleged counterfeit bill he just used in their store to buy cigarettes. They demand the cigarettes back but walk away empty-handed. Four minutes later, they call the police. According to the 911 transcript, an employee says that Floyd used fake bills to buy cigarettes, and that he is “awfully drunk” and “not in control of himself.” Soon, the first police vehicle arrives on the scene. Officers Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng step out of the car and approach the blue S.U.V. Seconds later, Lane pulls his gun. We don’t know exactly why. He orders Floyd to put his hands on the wheel. Lane reholsters the gun, and after about 90 seconds of back and forth, yanks Floyd out of the S.U.V. A man is filming the confrontation from a car parked behind them. The officers cuff Floyd’s hands behind his back. And Kueng walks him to the restaurant wall. “All right, what’s your name?” From the 911 transcript and the footage, we now know three important facts: First, that the police believed they were responding to a man who was drunk and out of control. But second, even though the police were expecting this situation, we can see that Floyd has not acted violently. And third, that he seems to already be in distress. Six minutes into the arrest, the two officers move Floyd back to their vehicle. As the officers approach their car, we can see Floyd fall to the ground. According to the criminal complaints filed against the officers, Floyd says he is claustrophobic and refuses to enter the police car. During the struggle, Floyd appears to turn his head to address the officers multiple times. According to the complaints, he tells them he can’t breathe. Nine minutes into the arrest, the third and final police car arrives on the scene. It’s carrying officers Tou Thao and Derek Chauvin. Both have previous records of complaints brought against them. Thao was once sued for throwing a man to the ground and hitting him. Chauvin has been involved in three police shootings, one of them fatal. Chauvin becomes involved in the struggle to get Floyd into the car. Security camera footage from Cup Foods shows Kueng struggling with Floyd in the backseat while Thao watches. Chauvin pulls him through the back seat and onto the street. We don’t know why. Floyd is now lying on the pavement, face down. That’s when two witnesses begin filming, almost simultaneously. The footage from the first witness shows us that all four officers are now gathered around Floyd. It’s the first moment when we can clearly see that Floyd is face down on the ground, with three officers applying pressure to his neck, torso and legs. At 8:20 p.m., we hear Floyd’s voice for the first time. The video stops when Lane appears to tell the person filming to walk away. “Get off to the sidewalk, please. One side or the other, please.” The officers radio a Code 2, a call for non-emergency medical assistance, reporting an injury to Floyd’s mouth. In the background, we can hear Floyd struggling. The call is quickly upgraded to a Code 3, a call for emergency medical assistance. By now another bystander, 17-year-old Darnella Frazier, is filming from a different angle. Her footage shows that despite calls for medical help, Chauvin keeps Floyd pinned down for another seven minutes. We can’t see whether Kueng and Lane are still applying pressure. Floyd: [gasping] Officer: “What do you want?” Bystander: “I’ve been –” Floyd: [gasping] In the two videos, Floyd can be heard telling officers that he can’t breathe at least 16 times in less than five minutes. Bystander: “You having fun?” But Chauvin never takes his knee off of Floyd, even as his eyes close and he appears to go unconscious. Bystander: “Bro.” According to medical and policing experts, these four police officers are committing a series of actions that violate policies, and in this case, turn fatal. They’ve kept Floyd lying face down, applying pressure for at least five minutes. This combined action is likely compressing his chest and making it impossible to breathe. Chauvin is pushing his knee into Floyd’s neck, a move banned by most police departments. Minneapolis Police Department policy states an officer can only do this if someone is, quote, “actively resisting.” And even though the officers call for medical assistance, they take no action to treat Floyd on their own while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Officer: “Get back on the sidewalk.” According to the complaints against the officers, Lane asks him twice if they should roll Floyd onto his side. Chauvin says no. Twenty minutes into the arrest, an ambulance arrives on the scene. Bystander: “Get off of his neck!” Bystander: “He’s still on him?” The E.M.T.s check Floyd’s pulse. Bystander: “Are you serious?” Chauvin keeps his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost another whole minute, even though Floyd appears completely unresponsive. He only gets off once the E.M.T.s tell him to. Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes, according to our review of the video evidence. Floyd is loaded into the ambulance. The ambulance leaves the scene, possibly because a crowd is forming. But the E.M.T.s call for additional medical help from the fire department. But when the engine arrives, the officers give them, quote, “no clear info on Floyd or his whereabouts,” according to a fire department incident report. This delays their ability to help the paramedics. Meanwhile, Floyd is going into cardiac arrest. It takes the engine five minutes to reach Floyd in the ambulance. He’s pronounced dead at a nearby hospital around 9:25 p.m. Preliminary autopsies conducted by the state and Floyd’s family both ruled his death a homicide. The widely circulated arrest videos don’t paint the entire picture of what happened to George Floyd. Crowd: “Floyd! Floyd!” Additional video and audio from the body cameras of the key officers would reveal more about why the struggle began and how it escalated. The city quickly fired all four officers. And Chauvin has been charged with second degree murder. Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao were charged with aiding and abetting murder. But outrage over George Floyd’s death has only spread further and further across the United States.

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The Times has reconstructed the death of George Floyd on May 25. Security footage, witness videos and official documents show how a series of actions by officers turned fatal. (This video contains scenes of graphic violence.)

On May 25, Minneapolis police officers arrested George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, after a convenience store employee called 911 to report that Mr. Floyd had bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Seventeen minutes after the first squad car arrived at the scene, Mr. Floyd was unconscious and pinned beneath three police officers, showing no signs of life.

By combining videos from bystanders and security cameras, reviewing official documents and consulting experts, The New York Times reconstructed in detail the minutes leading to Mr. Floyd’s death. Our video shows officers taking a series of actions that violated the policies of the Minneapolis Police Department and turned fatal, leaving Mr. Floyd unable to breathe, even as he and onlookers called out for help.

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March 29, 2021, 8:15 a.m. ETMarch 29, 2021, 8:15 a.m. ET
The Derek Chauvin trial plays on a television at a gym in Georgia on Monday.
The Derek Chauvin trial plays on a television at a gym in Georgia on Monday.Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

The trial of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd is unusual for many reasons: It is being livestreamed from Minneapolis, attendance is severely limited because of the coronavirus and the public’s interest in the case may make this one of the highest-profile trials in recent memory.

The trial can be watched on nytimes.com, via a livestream provided by Court TV, which is also airing the trial in full. Witness testimony and lawyers’ presentations of evidence should last several weeks before the jury begins to deliberate over the verdict.

Among the people allowed in the courtroom, on the 18th floor of the Hennepin County Government Center, are: the judge, jurors, witnesses, court staff, lawyers, Mr. Chauvin and only a handful of spectators.

The judge, Peter A. Cahill, wrote in an order on March 1 that only one member of Mr. Floyd’s family and one member of Mr. Chauvin’s family would be allowed in the room at any time. Two seats are reserved for reporters, and various journalists, including from The New York Times, are rotating throughout the trial.

The lawyers, spectators, jurors and witnesses are required to wear masks when they are not speaking. Spectators are prohibited from having any visible images, logos, letters or numbers on their masks or clothing, according to Judge Cahill’s order.

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