The Minneapolis Police Department’s co-ordinator on the use of force told jurors on Tuesday the neck restraint applied by former policeman Derek Chauvin in the deadly arrest of George Floyd was unauthorized and that officers are trained to use the least amount of force necessary.
Prosecutors in Mr. Chauvin’s murder trial presented two witnesses to try to further illustrate that he disregarded training on the appropriate use of force and dealing with crisis situations when he knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. The handcuffed 46-year-old Black man fell limp and stopped breathing during the May, 2020, arrest.
Steve Schleicher, one of prosecuting lawyers, showed Lieutenant Johnny Mercil, who teaches the proper use of force for the department, a photograph of Mr. Chauvin kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck and asked if he was using an authorized neck restraint under the circumstances.
“I would say no,” Lt. Mercil testified.
Mr. Chauvin, who is white, has pleaded not guilty to murder and manslaughter charges for Mr. Floyd’s arrest on suspicion that Mr. Floyd had used a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes at a store. The incident prompted protests in cities across the United States and around the world against racism and police brutality.
Here is some testimony and highlights from court on Tuesday:
LIEUTENANT JOHNNY MERCIL, USE-OF-FORCE INSTRUCTOR WITH MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT
Lt. Mercil testified that officers are trained to use a proportional amount of force and on how to properly use neck restraints, handcuffs and straps.
“If you can use the least amount of force to meet your objectives, it is safer and better,” Lt. Mercil testified.
“It’s very important to be careful,” Lt. Mercil told jurors.
Lt. Mercil testified that a neck restraint designed to render a suspect unconscious neck is authorized only when the suspect is actively and aggressively resisting.
On cross examination, Lt. Mercil agreed with Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer Eric Nelson when asked whether officers must protect themselves when arresting unruly subjects during evolving situations.
Mr. Nelson also questioned Lt. Mercil about safety precautions officers need to take when using neck restraints and using body weight to restrain individuals.
“We tell them to stay away from the neck when possible,” Lt. Mercil told jurors.
The city’s police chief testified on Monday that Mr. Chauvin violated department rules and its ethics code while arresting Mr. Floyd.
SERGEANT KER YANG, CRISIS INTERVENTION TRAINING CO-ORDINATOR
Sergeant Ker Yang, a crisis intervention training co-ordinator for the department, testified as the day’s first witness that Mr. Chauvin completed 40 hours of training on dealing with suspects going through a crisis.
Sgt. Yang said police are trained to use principles such as neutrality, respect and trust in crisis intervention situations, and how to spot and interact with suspects going through a crisis.
“The ultimate goal in action for someone in crisis is to see if that person needs help,” Sgt. Yang testified.
HEARING ON REQUEST TO QUASH SUBPOENA
Before the jury was brought into the courtroom, Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill heard arguments on a request by a friend of Floyd to quash a prosecution subpoena for him to testify.
The friend, Morries Hall, was in the car with Mr. Floyd when police arrived, setting the stage for the attempt to arrest Mr. Floyd. Mr. Hall has said that he would invoke his constitutional right against self-incrimination if he had to appear in the witness stand.
Mr. Nelson told Justice Cahill he planned to ask Mr. Hall whether he gave Mr. Floyd any controlled substances and why Hall left Minnesota immediately after the incident. Mr. Floyd’s girlfriend testified last week that she and Mr. Floyd struggled with opioid addiction, and that she thought Mr. Hall sometimes illegally sold pills to Mr. Floyd.
Justice Cahill decided that most questions Mr. Nelson wanted to ask could incriminate Mr. Hall. Even so, the judge said Mr. Hall should be able to testify on Mr. Floyd’s condition in the car and whether he fell asleep suddenly after possibly taking opioid pills. Justice Cahill gave Mr. Nelson until Thursday to draft potential questions.
The county medical examiner has ruled Mr. Floyd’s death a homicide at the hands of the police, and noted Mr. Floyd had also taken the fentanyl and methamphetamine before his death. Mr. Chauvin’s lawyers argue that Mr. Floyd’s death was a drug overdose, though prosecutors have said medical evidence would contradict that.
Mr. Hall attended the hearing by a video link from a county jail where he is being held on unrelated charges of domestic abuse, according to court and county jail records.
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