Officer was kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for entire time he was handcuffed face down, expert claims

John Dunne
·3-min read
<p>Derek Chauvin (right) at the start of the trial.</p> (Reuters)

Derek Chauvin (right) at the start of the trial.

(Reuters)

Derek Chauvin was kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for the full nine and a half minutes he lay handcuffed face down, a use of force expert told his murder trial.

Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant serving as a prosecution witness, said that based on his review of video evidence the officer knelt on Mr Floyd’s neck from the time officers put Floyd on the ground until paramedics arrived.

That particular force did not change during the entire restraint period?” prosecutor Steve Schleicher asked as he showed the jury a composite image of five photos taken from the various videos of the arrest.

“Correct,” Mr Stiger replied.

Once George Floyd was on his stomach in handcuffs, police should’ve used “no force,” he said.

“My opinion was that no force should’ve been used once he was in that position,” Mr Stiger, an expert witness for the state, said. “He was in the prone position. He was handcuffed. He was not attempting to evade. He was not attempting to resist. And the pressure that was being caused by the body weight could cause positional asphyxia, which could cause death,” he added.

Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson sought to point out moments in the video footage when, he said, the knee did not appear to be on Mr Floyd’s neck but on his shoulder blade area or the base of his neck.

Mr Stiger replied that the officer’s knee in some of the contested photos still seemed to be near Floyd’s neck.

The defence attorney also asked the witness whether the video showed Mr Floyd picked up his head and moved it at times.

“Slightly, yes. He attempted to,” Ms Stiger replied.

In this clip from bodycam footage an officer approaches George FloydAP
In this clip from bodycam footage an officer approaches George FloydAP

Chauvin, 45, is charged with murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death May 25.

Mr Floyd, 46, was arrested outside a neighborhood market after being accused of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill.

Mr Floyd struggled and claimed to be claustrophobic as police tried to put him in a squad car, and they pinned him down on the pavement.

Bystander video of Floyd crying that he couldn’t breathe as onlookers yelled at Chauvin to get off him sparked protests and scattered violence around the US and triggered a reckoning over racism and police brutality.

Mr Nelson has argued that the now-fired white officer “did exactly what he had been trained to do over his 19-year career,” and he has suggested that the illegal drugs in Floyd’s system and his underlying health conditions are what killed him, not Chauvin’s knee.

Mr Nelson seized on the drug theory in cross-examining Stiger, playing a snippet of then-officer J Kueng’s body-camera video and asking whether Stiger could hear Floyd say, “I ate too many drugs.”

MStiger replied that he could not make out those words in the footage.

It was Stiger’s second day on the stand. On Tuesday, he testified that the force used against Floyd was excessive. He said police were justified in using force while Floyd was resisting their efforts to put him in the squad car. But once Floyd was on the ground and stopped resisting, officers “should have slowed down or stopped their force as well.”

The trial in Minneapolis continues.

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