MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (NewsNation Now) — Paramedics who treated George Floyd said he was not breathing and had no pulse when they arrived at the scene of his deadly arrest last May in testimony on Thursday at the murder trial of former policeman Derek Chauvin.
“In lay terms, I thought he was dead,” Derek Smith, one of the paramedics, told the jury. By the time Smith arrived, Chauvin, who is white, had been pressing his knee into the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man in handcuffs, for about nine minutes, a scene that ignited global protests against police brutality.
A now-retired police sergeant who was supervising Chauvin at the time of Floyd’s death, David Pleoger said during his testimony that officers are required to report use of force but the former officer didn’t immediately indicate he had kneeled on Floyd’s neck, or for how long.
Chauvin, 45, has pleaded not guilty to murder and manslaughter charges. In a central dispute of the trial, his lawyers have argued that Floyd’s death, which the county medical examiner ruled was a homicide at the hands of police, was really an overdose caused by the fentanyl found in his blood at autopsy.
Prosecutors from the Minnesota attorney general’s office have told the jury they will hear evidence to contradict this, including testimony from his girlfriend about his drug tolerance, and that Floyd’s drug use is irrelevant to the charges against Chauvin.
Paramedics who treated Floyd testify
Floyd appeared to be not breathing and had no pulse when Seth Bravinder and Derek Smith of Hennepin Emergency Medical Services arrived in an ambulance outside Cup Foods, where Floyd was suspected of passing a fake $20 bill earlier in the evening.
They had to ask Chauvin and other officers to move.
“They were still on top of him,” Bravinder told the jury. His first thought was that some kind of struggle was going on, but it quickly became clear that Floyd was limp.
Smith could not find a pulse, and his pupils were dilated. Bravinder cradled Floyd’s head as they transferred him to a gurney. They stopped two blocks away to continue resuscitation efforts on Floyd. Bravinder saw a flat line on the heart monitor.
“It’s not a good sign,” Bravinder said.
Jurors were shown images of paramedics checking Floyd inside the ambulance, congealed blood below his nose and red scrape marks on his left shoulder. The paramedics could not revive him. (Reporting by Jonathan Allen Editing by Alistair Bell)
Chauvin’s supervisor said he didn’t immediately indicate he kneed Floyd’s neck
In other testimony, David Pleoger, a now-retired Minneapolis police sergeant who was on duty the night Floyd died, said that based on his review of the body camera video, officers should have ended their restraint after Floyd stopped resisting.
He also said officers are trained to roll people on their side to help with their breathing after they have been restrained in the prone position.
“When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could have ended the restraint,” Pleoger said.
“And that was when he was handcuffed and on the ground and no longer resistant?” prosecutor Steve Schleicher asked.
Yes, Ploeger replied.
Pleoger received a call from a 911 dispatcher notifying him that they had witnessed officers on the scene “sitting” on Floyd for an extended period of time, but the sergeant said it initially sounded like a serious takedown.
After he received word of Floyd’s death, Pleoger said it was declared a “critical incident” and the scene of his arrest was marked off as a crime scene and officers including Chauvin and Thao were separated for interviews.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.