Chauvin trial: Police supervisor says force on Floyd went too long
Thursday's court proceedings have ended for the day
MPR News is streaming live coverage of the trial. Some images or material discussed during the trial will be disturbing to many viewers. Watch the morning proceedings here. Watch the afternoon proceedings here.
3 things to know:
Paramedic says he believed Floyd was dead; police supervisor says force wasn’t needed after Floyd stopped resisting
Floyd’s girlfriend testifies on their struggles with opioid addiction
Case expected to hinge on who or what is responsible for Floyd’s death
Updated 6 p.m.
The force used by Minneapolis police to subdue George Floyd wasn’t needed after Floyd stopped resisting, Derek Chauvin’s then-supervisor testified Thursday during Chauvin’s murder and manslaughter trial.
David Pleoger, now a retired police sergeant, told the court that he called Chauvin after hearing concerns raised by a 911 operator who felt something didn’t seem right as she glanced at streaming video of Floyd’s arrest from a public safety camera outside Cup Foods.
Pleoger said Chauvin told him only that Floyd “suffered a medical emergency” and nothing about keeping his knee pressed against Floyd’s neck as the man lay handcuffed and face down on the pavement.
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"I was going to call you and have you come out to our scene here,” Chauvin can be heard on a taped call with Pleoger played for jurors. “We just had to hold the guy down, he was going crazy … wouldn’t go in the back of the squad."
Using a knee is appropriate only until an officer is able to handcuff an individual, Pleoger told jurors. He said Chauvin acknowledged the use of force on Floyd only after he’d met up with Chauvin at the hospital on the orders of a police lieutenant.
Prosecutors tried to get Pleoger to speak to whether the length of time Chauvin knelt on Floyd was too long, based on his review of the video footage. Chauvin’s defense objected. After legal arguments outside the presence of the jury, Judge Peter Cahill let the prosecution ask.
"When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could've ended the restraint," Pleoger replied.
Chauvin faces murder and manslaughter charges in Floyd’s killing while in police custody last May.
Bystander video showed Chauvin with his knee pressed against Floyd’s neck for about 9 minutes as the man lay pinned to the street, pleading that he couldn’t breathe.
On Wednesday, prosecutors played video from Chauvin’s body camera where a local resident at the scene criticized the officer afterward for the way he restrained Floyd.
“That's one person's opinion,” Chauvin responds on the video. “We gotta put force, gotta control this guy because he's a sizable guy. Looks like he's probably on something.”
‘I thought he was dead’
Pleoger’s testimony capped a day in court that included testimony from paramedics who believed Floyd was dead at the scene yet still tried to revive him and from Floyd’s girlfriend who, with laughter and tears, told of their life together and their addiction struggles.
One of them Derek Smith checked for a pulse on Floyd when he arrived. Asked what he thought when he couldn't find one on Floyd, he told the court: "In layman's terms, I thought he was dead."
Smith also said he administered an electric shock to Floyd in the ambulance to try to restart his heart, adding: "As a human being, I was trying to give him a second chance at life."
Smith’s testimony followed fellow paramedic Seth Bravinder, who told the court that they decided to get him in the rig where the equipment used to resuscitate people was located.
He drove the ambulance a few blocks away from the scene at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue to try and resuscitate Floyd, partially, he said, out of concern the paramedics might be unable to focus given the tension at the scene.
Jurors again watched graphic video as prosecutor Erin Eldridge played a clip from former officer Thomas Lane's body camera.
The footage showed Bravinder gesturing with his hand in an attempt to get Chauvin's attention. Bravinder testified that he was signaling that they needed to move the patient. He can be seen in the footage gently supporting Floyd's head as he was loaded onto a stretcher.
“He was limp,” Bravinder said. “He was unresponsive and wasn’t holding his head up."
Under cross examination, Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson asked Bravinder if he'd ever responded to police calls where people are struggling with officers, and whether overdose patients can be violent or aggressive. Bravinder said he had.
But when prosecutor Eldridge got another opportunity to question the paramedic, she emphasized that Floyd wasn't struggling with police when the ambulance arrived.
"Was Mr. Floyd struggling or violent in any way? Did it appear to you that he was already dead when you got there?” she asked.
“I wouldn’t know when I pulled up on scene, but I did not see him, as I testified earlier, I didn’t see him moving or breathing," Bravinder said.
Girlfriend recalls life with Floyd, their addiction struggles
Thursday morning began with George Floyd’s girlfriend taking the stand.
Courteney Ross, 45, testified about how she met Floyd, his kindness, and their mutual struggle with chronic pain that led to an addiction to opioids.
She choked up as she recalled their first interaction in 2017. She was waiting in the lobby of the Harbor Light Center, a homeless outreach shelter, where the father of her son was living at the time.
“I was pretty upset and started fussing in the corner of the lobby,” she said. That’s when Floyd noticed her and approached. In his “deep southern voice,” Floyd asked her if he could pray with her.
“It was so sweet,” she said, holding back tears.
Ross went on to describe how the two of them shared an addiction to opioids. She said both suffered from chronic pain, which led them to get hooked on prescription medication. Ross said that at times they got drugs that were not prescribed to them. One or both of them would stop taking drugs, she said.
Under cross-examination from defense attorney Eric Nelson, Ross said Floyd overdosed and went to the hospital in early March 2020.
Ross also said they had gotten drugs from Morries Hall, who was in the car with Floyd on May 25, 2020. On Wednesday, Hall filed a notice to the court that if called to testify, he will invoke his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.
Ross said Floyd was close to his mother and struggled with grief when she died in May 2018.
‘This could have been avoided’
The fatal encounter started with a counterfeit $20 and a phone call.
Floyd had gone into Cup Foods at Chicago Avenue and 38th Street in south Minneapolis to buy cigarettes.
The 19-year-old store clerk who suspected Floyd had handed him a fake $20 for the purchase testified Wednesday that he first thought about just eating the cost himself but changed his mind and called over his supervisor.
The decision would lead to Floyd’s spiraling arrest outside Cup Foods.
The clerk, Christopher Martin, said that he was haunted by how his own actions played into Floyd’s killing. In security video footage shown to jurors, Martin could be seen outside the store watching with his hands on his head as the police restrain Floyd.
He told prosecutor Matthew Frank he was in disbelief and felt a sense of guilt — and that if he had not taken the bill, "this could have been avoided."
Martin said that he had chatted briefly with Floyd when he walked into the store, asking the big man if he played baseball. “He said he played football.” Martin described him as friendly, as if he seemed to be enjoying his Memorial Day, although he did “seem high.”
After selling Floyd the cigarettes, Martin said he noticed a blue tint on the $20 bill he got from Floyd and assumed it was fake. Under store policy, he said, clerks who took counterfeit money had to pay the cost. He wrestled with whether to tell his boss.
He said he kept looking at the bill and finally thought to talk to his manager. When he did, the manager told him to find Floyd outside and ask him to make it right.
Jurors viewed the store camera video of Floyd buying cigarettes and seemed riveted by the sight of him as a customer, like anyone else.
Who’s who: A look at the key players in the trial.
Need to know: Key questions about the trial, answered.
What we know about the jurors: The 12 jurors and two alternates picked to review the case include a chemist, a youth volunteer, a cardiac nurse and an IT professional.
Chauvin's lawyer is outnumbered, but has help: No fewer than four attorneys have appeared for the prosecution so far, compared to a single attorney to defend Derek Chauvin.
MPR News on its coverage: Nancy Lebens, the newsroom’s deputy managing editor, answered audience questions about our reporting plans.
George Floyd and his legacy
Remembering George Floyd, the man: Before he became a symbol in the fight for racial justice, friends say Floyd was a “gentle giant” who sought a fresh start.
Making George Floyd Square: Here’s how the site of Floyd’s killing — 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis — is being reshaped.
Rescuing the plywood — and memorializing a movement: Two Black women are leading the effort to preserve the murals painted on storefront boards in the Twin Cities.
Calls for change: Here’s what some Floyd activists tell MPR News about their experiences with race in Minnesota, why they march and what they hope for the future.
Video dominates trial in George Floyd's death: A worldwide audience has been shown more than just the widely seen bystander video that set off nationwide protests last year.
Minneapolis considered hiring DJ, soccer coach in 'influencer' plan: The city had planned to pay six "trusted messengers” up to $2,000 apiece to share city updates and dispel misinformation during the trial. The plan was scrapped after news coverage and backlash online. (Axios)
Jurors will consider Floyd's death — not the issue of race — in Chauvin trial: The proceedings set to begin with opening statements Monday are unlikely to address those themes directly, even as the case has become a flashpoint for racial justice in America. (Star Tribune)
Televised Chauvin trial due to pandemic yields wide access — and concern: For the first time, the world will be able to see every twist and turn of the case from a Minnesota courtroom, thanks to an unprecedented decision by Judge Peter Cahill.
NPR’s live blog: The latest from the murder trial of Derek Chauvin.