MINNEAPOLIS — Two paramedics took the witness stand Thursday afternoon in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and told jurors George Floyd appeared to be in medical distress or dead when they arrived at the scene.
Jurors listened to their testimony and watched body camera footage from an officer inside the ambulance. On Wednesday, they sat through hours of police body-camera videos.
When viewing video of Floyd’s final moments, bystander and witness Charles McMillian, 61, broke down sobbing on the witness stand as he recounted his memories of last Memorial Day. Videos shown to the jurors reveal McMillian confronted Chauvin as the ambulance carrying Floyd pulled away from the scene, sirens blaring. McMillian told Chauvin he didn’t respect what Chauvin had done.
“That’s one person’s opinion,” Chauvin said from inside his squad car to McMillian on the sidewalk, according to body-camera video. “We gotta control this guy ’cause he’s a sizable guy … and it looks like he’s probably on something.”
Floyd, a Black man, died in police custody on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin, who is white, pinned his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
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Court was expected to resume at 9:15 a.m. CST Friday and end early, a little after noon.
Sgt. David Pleoger, a recently retired Minneapolis police officer, testified Thursday afternoon.
Jeremy Norton, a Minneapolis Fire Department captain, took the stand Thursday afternoon.
Derek Smith, a paramedic with Hennepin County EMS, told jurors he thought George Floyd “was dead” Thursday afternoon.
Seth Bravinder, Smith’s partner paramedic, testified Thursday morning.
Minneapolis native Courteney Ross, 45, also testified Thursday morning about her three-year relationship with Floyd.
Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother from Houston, was in court Thursday.
Jurors have heard from17 witnesses to the death of George Floyd, and several have cried on the stand describing their attempts to intervene on his behalf.
Witnesses have included, an off-duty firefighter, 911 dispatcher, a cashier working across the street, the teenager who recorded the now viral video of Floyd’s death and her 9-year-old cousin.
The prosecution on Wednesday played videos from the body-cams of former officers Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, as well as part of Chauvin’s video.
Jury won’t hear about 6 other times Chauvin used force on arrestees
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Meet the jurors who will decide if Chauvin is guilty of murder
‘They could have ended their restraint,’ says MPD cop who reviews officers’ use of force
David Pleoger, recently retired after serving as afternoon sergeant for Minneapolis’s third police precinct, took the stand Thursday afternoon. He was the supervising officer the day George Floyd died and the one who 911 dispatcher Jena Scurry, who testified Monday, alerted to a possible use of force incident after seeing officers on top of someone through city surveillance cameras.
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As a sergeant, Ploeger would review officers’ uses of force, but he did not do a use of force review in the May 25, 2020 incident, as it involved a death in police custody and elavated to internal affairs, he said.
Prosecutor Steve Schleicher replayed Scurry’s call to Pleoger on Thursday — the second time jurors have heard it played in court. After receiving that call from Scurry, Pleoger said he rang Chauvin on his cell phone to inquire about what had happened. “We just had to hold a guy down. He was going crazy,” Chauvin can be heard telling Pleoger on body-camera recording.
The rest of the conversation was not recorded because Chauvin turned off his body camera, as allowed per policy. Pleoger tried to remember the rest of his conversation with Chauvin that day, saying he believed Chauvin told him officers had tried to put Floyd in the car and he became combative. “I think he mentioned either his nose or his mouth. A bloody lip I think,” he said.
Pleoger said Chauvin told him Floyd suffered a medical emergency and they had called an ambulance. Pleoger said Chauvin did not say anything about placing a knee on Floyd’s neck.
After the call with Chauvin, Pleoger said he went to the scene with the intention of doing a use of force review. When he arrived, he became the senior officer on the scene. He instructed Chauvin and another officer to come with him to Hennepin County Medical Center “to check on the party’s condition” and told the two officers to get witness information.
Schleicher played a segment of police body-cam video in which Pleoger asks Chauvin to talk to witnesses. “We can try,” Chauvin said. “They’re pretty hostile.”
Once he arrived at the medical center, Pleoger said he was told by staff that Floyd was “doing poorly,” and, later, that Floyd had died. Pleoger said he called the liteunant in charge of the city at night to inform him of the critical incident, and that lieutenant prodded Pleoger to ask the officers involved if they used additional force.
Only then did Chauvin tell Pleoger that “he knelt on Floyd or knelt on his neck,” Pleoger said. Asked if that was the first time he became aware force had been applied to Floyd’s neck, Pleoger said “yes.” He said he helped arrange rides to send the officers to city hall to be interviewed.
“Would you agree that a person may be restrained only to the degree necessary to keep them under control,” Schleicher asked. “Yes and no more restraint,” Pleoger said.
Schleicher asked when the restraint of Floyd shoud have ended. Pleoger replied, “When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could have ended their restraint.”
Under the medical assistance provision, officers are required to render medical aid and request EMS, if necessary. Asked by Schleicher if the dangers of positional asphyxia are “generally known” in the department, Pleoger said “yes.”
“If your restrain somebody or leave somebody on their chest and stomach for took long, their breathing can become compromised, so you want to get them up out of that position after a while,” Pleoger said, adding that the prone position can be dangerous even if there is no additional pressure.
On cross examination, Nelson asked if Pleoger had ever been in a situation as an officer where a crowd starts to “yell” or become “volatile.” Pleoger said yes. Asked if it had ever caused him “concern,” Pleoger said yes. If someone was having a medical emergency at the same time, Pleoger said, officers would have to “deal with both kind of simultaneously.”
Nelson appeared to compare a crowd of bystanders with a “gun battle,” asking Pleoger how he would handle a situation when there was a “threat” and someone in need of medical assistance, such as CPR. “I’d mitigate the threat,” Pleoger said
Later, Schleicher asked Pleoger, based on his review of police body camera video of the incident, “You didn’t see a gun battle?”
“No,” Pleoger said.
Minneapolis Fire Department captain Jeremy Norton testifies
Jeremy Norton, a Minneapolis Fire Department captain who has been with the department for 21 years, told jurors about communications mix-ups as he and his engine crew received a radio dispatch to go to the Cup Foods location where the police struggle with Floyd had occurred.
He said the call was initially classified as Code 2, a non-emergency response without lights and sirens, for someone who might have a mouth injury. There was little other information, Norton testified. Shortly after leaving the fire station, a second radio dispatch raised the alert to Code 3, an emergency call with lights and siren. But there was no supplemental information, he said.
After arriving outside Cup Foods, Norton said he saw a couple of Minneapolis police cars, off-duty firefighter Genevieve Hansen in a group of upset and angry bystanders, but no patient. From speaking with Hansen, and a police officer inside the store, Norton learned that an ambulance carrying Floyd had left he scene. Seconds later, he received a new radio dispatch to rendezvous with the ambulance.
When he reached the new location blocks away, Norton said he saw Floyd, “unresponsive,” lying face up inside the ambulance.
He and his crew, all of whom had emergency medical technician certifications, joined the paramedics trying to resuscitate Floyd. Norton said he and one of his crew members did continual pulse checks until the ambulance reached the hospital. Asked if they ever managed to get a pulse from Floyd, Norton told prosecutor Erin Eldridge “No, ma’am.”
Afterward, Norton told his crew to return to Cup Foods to check and check on Hansen – who testified as a prosecution witness against former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin earlier this week – and “make sure she was ok.”
“I understood the justification for her duress,” he said.
Norton said he and his crew did a short debriefing after the incident. He filed a fire department report on the incident.
“I was aware that a man had been killed in police custody and I wanted to inform my supervisors at the Fire Department,” he said.
Second paramedic who responded to George Floyd ‘thought he was dead’
Derek Smith, a paramedic with Hennepin County EMS and the partner of Seth Bravinder, responded to 38th and Chicago said he heard “elevated tones used.”
“It didn’t seem like a welcoming environment,” Smith told prosecutor Erin Eldridge.
Smith said he noticed on the scene that Floyd wasn’t moving, was handcuffed and was being given no medical attention. He checked for a pulse and found none. He said Floyd’s pupils were large and dilated.
“In lay terms, I thought he was dead. I told my partner, I think he’s dead, and I want to move this out of here,” he said.
Smith checked for a pulse again, found none and took off Floyd’s handcuffs with his handcuff keys before removing him from the scene.
He said one officer rode with paramedics to the hospital. He told the officer in the ambulance to start compressions and he checked for pulse again.
“I was confirming my initial assessment,” he said. I was just hoping to find a pulse.”
Smith said he was working the cardiac arrest “essentially alone,” so he called for backup. When he checked the heart, he noticed Floyd was in “flatline,” which “means they’re dead.”
In this image from video, witness Derek Smith answers questions as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides Thursday, April 1, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd.
Smith then described how dire the situation was with Floyd in the ambulance.
“I was just handing out drugs,” to revive Floyd, he said.
Smith administered a shock to Floyd and said he saw some pulseless electrical activity on the way to the hospital during a periodic check-in.
“It just delivered a shock and he remained in his quote-unquote dead state. … I was trying to give him a second chance at life.”
Smith referred to Floyd as “deceased,” when he was dropped off at the hospital.
Smith said he saw Chauvin, when he was first checking for pulse on the scene, still “at the head of the patient.”
As for why an officer rode with Smith to the hospital and he ordered that officer to do chest compressions, he told defense attorney Eric Nelson:
“Any lay person can do chest compressions,” he said.
Paramedic who responded to George Floyd ‘didn’t see any breathing or movement’
Seth Zachary Bravinder, a paramedic for Hennepin County EMS who responded to the 911 call last Memorial Day, took the witness stand Thursday morning.
Bravinder said he initially was responding to a non-urgent, code 2, call for someone with a mouth injury, but within a minute-and-a-half, it was upgraded to an urgent code 3 and they were on their way with lights and sirens.
When paramedics arrived, Bravinder saw multiple officers on the side of the road on top of “our patient lying on the ground next to a squad car.” He said he “assumed there was potentially some struggle still since they were still on top of him.”
Bravinder parked the ambulance while his partner checked Floyd’s carotid pulse and pupils.
“From what I could see where I was at, I didn’t see any breathing or movement or anything like that,” Bravinder said. He said Floyd appeared unresponsive, in handcuffs.
Bravinder said he asked his partner “‘is he in cardiac arrest?” — meaning was Floyd unresponsive, not breathing and without a pulse. “He said, ‘I think so.'”
Bravinder said a crowd of people had gathered on the sidewalk and they appeared very “upset” and were yelling.
“We wanted to get away from that” because trying to resuscitate someone can be difficult and requires focus, he said.
Prosecutor Erin Eldridge played a clip of officer Thomas Lane’s body camera video, which shows Floyd lying handcuffed, flat on the ground, on his stomach and unmoving as the paramedics bring over a stretcher.
Bravinder is seen making a gesture with his hand, indicating that Chauvin needs to move his knee so that Floyd can be put on the gurney. Bravinder also tries to ensure Floyd’s head doesn’t slam into the ground while he’s moved because his body is limp, according to the video.
Bravinder parked the ambulance about two blocks away. Once in back of the ambulance, he saw the cardiac monitor showing a flat line – indicating no heart activity.
An officer’s body camera video shows Floyd lying shirtless on his back on the gurney in the ambulance as Bravinder places a large device on him to do compressions. Bravinder is seen placing another device on Floyd’s mouth to help deliver oxygen. Meanwhile, Bravinder’s partner is working on an IV for Floyd to give him medications like epinephrine, which is a treatment for cardiac arrest because it helps restart the heart.
Floyd’s condition never changed, Bravinder said, despite efforts to try to pump blood to his organs and restart his heart.
Bravinder said that once there is no pulse, it’s important to begin resuscitative efforts like chest compressions, breathing aid to the patient and IV medication as quickly as possible. A delay “is not good for the outcome,” Bravinder said.
Floyd was never revived, Bravinder said.
On cross examination, lead defense attorney had Bravinder parse the qualifications of a CPR certification, which police have, compared to an EMTs chest compression, and Bravinder agreed the EMTs underwent more training.
Bravinder told Nelson police can respond to overdose calls with EMS because when people are resuscitated from an overdose, they can become violent or aggressive. Bravinder said, “it can happen sometimes” and he has personally seen it happen.
Courteney Ross, who dated Floyd, recounts meeting: ‘We had our first kiss in the lobby’
Minneapolis native Courteney Ross, 45, who had a relationship with George Floyd for about three years, took the witness stand for the prosecution Thursday morning. She gave jurors their first glimpse at Floyd’s personal life, including times good and bad.
Ross said she met Floyd in August 2017. “It’s one of my favorite stories,” she said, getting emotional and stifling tears as she recounted the romantic beginning.
The day they met, Ross had gotten off work at the coffee shop where she has worked part-time for 22 years. She went to see her son’s father who was staying at a shelter and was waiting in the lobby for him. Floyd worked there as a security guard.
“Floyd came up to me. Floyd had this great deep Southern voice, raspy. ‘You OK, Sis,’ he said. I wasn’t OK. He said, ‘Can I pray with you?’ We’d been through so much, my sons and I. And this kind person asks if he can pray with me. It was so sweet. …We had our first kiss in the lobby.”
Ross said that during early 2020, they had separated for a while. But from March to early May, they were together every day. She stifled tears again after being shown a photo of Floyd.
Ross acknowledged that drug use was part of their relationship. “Floyd and I both suffered from opiate addiction,” she said. “We both suffered from chronic pain. Mine was in my neck. His was in his back. We both had prescriptions. After prescriptions were filled, we got addicted, and we both tried, very hard, to break the addictions, many times,” she said.
In this image from video, witness Courtney Ross answers questions as Hennepin County Judge PeterÂ Cahill presides Thursday, April 1, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd.
On cross-examination by lead defense attorney Eric Nelson, Ross agreed that she and Floyd went through ups and down during which one or the other of them, or both of them, used pain pills.
On redirect examination, Frank tried to show that Floyd had not been in immediate danger of dying from the drugs he’d taken in the weeks before his death. “He had a lot of energy. He was playing football, eating, hanging out,” Ross said.
George Floyd pleads in body-cam video
During intense testimony Wednesday afternoon, prosecutors introduced body-camera footage showing George Floyd pleading for his life. Taken together with the store and street surveillance videos, the videos provide a compelling 360-degree view of the encounter, as well as what happened before and after the actual struggle with police.
First to be shown was the body-cam video from officer Thomas Lane, who can be seen on video walking over to Floyd’s SUV. Lane quickly drew his firearm and yelled at Floyd through Floyd’s closed car window to raise his hands. The video became more intense as Floyd appeared to only raise one hand to the steering wheel, seemingly angering Lane, who had been on the job only four days by the May 25 incident.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Floyd cried.
“Let me see your hands,” Lane said. “Put your f*** hands on the wheel.”
Soon, Floyd pleads, “Officer, please don’t shoot me.”
Officers then take Floyd over to sit on the sidewalk, according to the video from officer J. Alexander Keung, showing a different angle of the same moments. The incident grew more tense as the officers try to force Floyd into the squad car as Floyd pleads with the officers, saying he’s claustrophobic and has anxiety.
Body-cam video from officer Tou Thao gives a view of Floyd sliding across the back seat of the patrol car and out the other side. Then, Floyd is forced to the ground, with nearby bystanders heard warning officers Floyd is going to have a heart attack.
Lane can be seen with what looks like the equipment for a hobble restraint, which is part of the “maximal restraint technique” for a resisting person.
“He’s got to be on something,” one of the officers said, at times guessing if it was PCP because Floyd’s eyes were shifting back and forth.
As Floyd shouts that he can’t breathe, Lane says, “You’re talking fine, man. Deep breaths.”
“I’m through, I’m through,” Floyd says. “You’re doing a lot of talking … it takes an awful lot of oxygen,” an officer says.
Rodney Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, shook his head from side to side, and at one point glared briefly at Chauvin. When prosecutors played the first video, Floyd looked stoic and sad, hugging his midsection lightly and swiveling in his chair. He sat through the second, third, fourth videos of the incident, all from different angles.
According to the videos, Lane is the first person who gets off of Floyd. Chauvin continues to keep his knee on Floyd while a paramedic checks his neck for a pulse. He appears to slightly ease up pressure, but does not take his knee off until the paramedics are ready to load Floyd onto the gurney.
Watching George Floyd die had a ‘profound’ impact on witnesses
On Wednesday, Judge Peter Cahill had to call a 10-minute recess when Charles McMillian, 61, began to sob as he watched the video showing Floyd struggling with police and calling out for his mother. “I feel helpless,” McMillian said, struggling to regain his composure in court. “My mom died June 25th.”
Almost everyone who has testified in Chauvin’s trial became choked up on the witness stand Tuesday and Wednesday as they described watching Floyd go unconscious and lose his pulse. Many expressed regret that they couldn’t help Floyd.
Sometimes survivors of traumatic events hold a “false belief” about their role – for example, that they could’ve saved Floyd from dying, said Nadine Kaslow, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory School of Medicine.
Witnessing a severely traumatic event – such as Floyd’s death – in person can have “profound” psychological effects, both short and long term, she said.
“It will impact them for the rest of their lives,” Kaslow said. “When people are telling the story, it’s almost like they are reliving a lot of memories.