Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides, Wednesday, March 31, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, in the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. (Court TV via AP, Pool)

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides, Wednesday, March 31, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, in the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. (Court TV via AP, Pool)

Police lieutenant tells court that kneeling on George Floyd’s neck was ‘totally unnecessary’

‘If your knee is on a person’s neck, that can kill him,’ said Lt. Richard Zimmerman, adding that officers have a duty to provide care for a person in medical distress

Kneeling on George Floyd ‘s neck while he was handcuffed and in the prone position was “top-tier, deadly force” and “totally unnecessary,” the head of the Minneapolis Police Department’s homicide division testified Friday.

“If your knee is on a person’s neck, that can kill him,” said Lt. Richard Zimmerman, adding that when a person is handcuffed in the prone position, “your muscles are pulling back … and if you’re laying on your chest, that’s constricting your breathing even more.”

Zimmerman also testified at Derek Chauvin’s murder trial that once Floyd was handcuffed, he saw “no reason for why the officers felt they were in danger, if that’s what they felt, and that’s what they would have to feel to be able to use that kind of force.”

“So in your opinion, should that restraint have stopped once he was handcuffed and thrown on the ground?” Prosecutor Matthew Frank asked.

“Absolutely,” Zimmerman replied.

He also testified that officers have a duty to provide care for a person in distress, even if an ambulance has already been called.

Under cross-examination, Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson peppered Zimmerman with questions about use of force, pointing out that officers must consider the entire situation when deciding about whether to use force — including what is happening with a suspect, whether the suspect is under the influence, and other surrounding hazards, such as a crowd.

Zimmerman agreed with Nelson that a person who is handcuffed can still pose a threat and can continue to thrash around.

His testimony came a day after a Minneapolis police supervisory sergeant who was on duty the night Floyd died testified that he believes the officers restrained him for too long.

David Pleoger testified Thursday that officers are trained to roll people on their side to help with their breathing after they have been restrained in the prone position. He said the officers could have ended their restraint of Floyd after he stopped resisting.

Chauvin, 45 and white, is accused of killing Floyd by pinning his knee on the 46-year-old Black man’s neck for 9 minutes, 29 seconds, as he lay face-down in handcuffs. Floyd had been accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a neighbourhood market.

His death triggered large protests around the U.S., scattered violence and widespread soul-searching over racism and police brutality. The since-fired Chauvin is charged with murder and manslaughter, and most serious charge him carries up to 40 years in prison.

On Friday, Minneapolis police Sgt. Jon Edwards, the overnight supervisor the night Floyd died, said he secured the scene at the request of Pleoger, who was still at the hospital with Floyd. Edwards said Pleoger told him the encounter had the potential to become a “critical incident,” which could mean someone died or was seriously injured.

The defence has argued that Chauvin did what he was trained to do when he encountered Floyd last May and that Floyd’s death was caused not by the knee on his neck, as prosecutors contend but by drugs, his underlying health conditions and adrenaline. An autopsy found fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system.

On Thursday, two paramedics who arrived on the scene that day said they saw no signs that Floyd was breathing or moving. One of them, Derek Smith, testified that he checked for a pulse and couldn’t detect one: “In layman’s terms? I thought he was dead.”

United States

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo city council voted unanimously Monday to pass a bylaw establishing the foundation for a new downtown business improvement association. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
City of Nanaimo adopts bylaw to create new downtown business improvement association

Chamber of commerce says next steps will be a board of directors and five-year strategic plan

Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district teachers’ union, and its counterparts from Mount Arrowsmith district, seek stricter COVID-19 rules. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith teachers’ union asks health authority for stricter COVID-19 measures

Teachers ask for vaccine, more online learning, mask mandate for primary students

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
Island Health seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

VIHA says Chakalaka Bar and Grill also violating water and sewer regulations with RV hook-ups

Nanaimo Fire Rescue investigator Mark Jonah probes the scene of a blaze that destroyed two apartments on Sunday, April 18. The cause of the blaze has not been determined. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
UPDATE: RCMP say Wakesiah Avenue fire was arson, suspect has been arrested

35-year-old man arrested for allegedly starting fire lived in the complex

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

The City of Nanaimo will further investigate an initiative to set up two 12-cabin sites to create transitional emergency housing for people experiencing homelessness. (Black Press file photo)
City of Nanaimo will ask for expressions of interest to operate tiny cabin sites

Staff expresses concern about workload, councillor says sheltering people must take priority

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Police executed a search warrant at the Devils Army Clubhouse on Petersen road in Campbell River on August 10, 2017.
Murder trial into 2016 Campbell River killing underway in Victoria

Ricky Alexander is charged with the first-degree murder of John Dillon Brown

Most Read