ST. PAUL: Prosecutors in the federal trial of three former Minneapolis police officers in the murder of George Floyd have probed the department’s use of force training, a key issue at the heart of charges that officers violated the civil rights of Floyd.
The department’s training division commander testified Thursday that officers are trained to use the least amount of force necessary and that they have a duty to respond to inappropriate force.
Inspector Katie Blackwell said officers are required to try to de-escalate a situation and, if force is used, to stop once the person is no longer resisting and then provide any medical assistance necessary to which they are trained until the arrival of medical personnel.
Federal prosecutors say former officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao failed to act to save Floyd’s life on May 25, 2020, as fellow officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck. black man for 9 1/2 minutes while Floyd was handcuffed, face down and out of breath. Kueng knelt on Floyd’s back, Lane held his legs, and Thao held back passers-by. Testimony resumes Friday.
Blackwell testified that it is essential to move someone who is restrained from a side-lying position, otherwise “the concern is that he will die in custody.” Body camera video shows Lane twice asking if they should roll Floyd to the side but was pushed away.
Blackwell reviewed department policy and the training required of all officers and noted that Thao, who has worked with the department since 2012, was certified in CPR and had completed several hours of training on defensive tactics, training on use of force and crisis response training while he was in the force. Blackwell did not go into Lane and Kueng’s specific training records until the end of testimony for the day.
Officers had responded to a 911 call indicating that Floyd, 46, had attempted to use a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store. The videotaped killing sparked global protests and a re-examination of racism and policing.
The question of whether officers deprived Floyd of medical help is a key part of the case, and prosecutors have sought to show jurors that paramedics were not given important information and that Floyd allegedly had to receive medical attention immediately.
An emergency physician on duty at the Hennepin County Medical Center when Floyd was brought in testified Thursday that it was too late to save Floyd.
Dr Bradford Langenfeld said paramedics told him that although they tried to resuscitate Floyd for around 30 minutes, he never found a pulse. He said further attempts to restart Floyd’s heart at the hospital had failed, and he pronounced Floyd dead after about half an hour.
Kueng, who is black; Lane, who is white; and Thao, who is Hmong American, are all charged with willfully depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights while acting under the guise of the law. A charge against the three officers says they saw Floyd needing medical attention and did not help. A tally against Thao and Kueng says they didn’t intervene to stop Chauvin. Both counts allege that the officers’ actions resulted in Floyd’s death.
Prosecutors argued that the “voluntary” standard can be met by showing “patently wrongful conduct” that disenfranchised Floyd.
During opening statements, Kueng’s attorney, Tom Plunkett, said Chauvin called “all the blows” as the senior officer at the scene. Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter in state court last year and also pleaded guilty in December to a federal civil rights charge.
Lane, Kueng and Thao will also face a separate trial in June for aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.