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

A second case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at Vernon’s BX Elementary School. (Kerry Hutter photo)
Second COVID case confirmed at Vernon elementary school

Exposure at BX Elementary happened April 6 and 7

Highway 97 being converted to four lanes in April 1990. This photo taken in Lake Country. (Greater Vernon Museum and Archives Photo #14025)
HISTORY: How the old Highway 97 in Lake Country got new name

Pelmewash Parkway recognizes the First Nations history in Lake Country

Salmon Arm Silverbacks defenceman Kieran Ruscheinski (right) sticks close to Vernon Vipers forward Logan Lorenz during Salmon Arm’s 2-1 overtime win in B.C. Hockey League pod play Saturday, April 10, at Kal Tire Place. (Lisa Mazurek - Vernon Vipers Photography)
Mack attack paces Salmon Arm Silverbacks past Vernon

Sullivan Mack scores both goals, including beautiful OT winner, in Gorillas’ 2-1 BCHL pod play win over Snakes

Paddlewheel Park off Okanagan Landing Road, Vernon. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Vernon council looks to address parking shortage at Paddlewheel Park

City staff are looking into short, medium and long-term overflow parking options

(GVMA)
WATCH: A Royal procession through Vernon, 1959

Prince Philip, who died April 9 at 99, visited Vernon on a tour of Canada in 1959

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

These nails were collected off the Campbell Mountain bike trails in Penticton this weekend. Someone placed them all over the trail. (Facebook)
Hundreds of nails placed on popular Penticton bike trail

A mountain biker took to Facebook to warn others about the nails

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

Flight with COVID
Another Kelowna flight with COVID-19 exposure

Westjet flight on April 5 from Kelowna to Edmonton

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

Most Read