Expert: Chauvin never took knee off Floyd’s neck

Amy Forliti, Steve Karnowski And Tammy Webber Associated Press
Wednesday, April 7, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd’s neck — and was bearing down with most of his weight — the entire time the Black man was handcuffed behind his back and lying face-down, a use-of-force expert testified Wednesday at Chauvin’s murder trial.

Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant serving as a prosecution expert, said based on his review of video evidence, Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s neck from the time officers put Floyd on the ground until paramedics arrived — about 9 1/2 minutes, by prosecutors’ reckoning.

Prosecutor Steve Schleicher showed jurors a composite image of five photos taken from various videos of the arrest. Stiger went through each photo, saying it appeared Chauvin’s left knee was on Floyd’s neck or neck area in each one.

“That particular force did not change during the entire restraint period?” Schleicher asked.

“Correct,” Stiger replied.

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

Stiger said that after reviewing video of the arrest, “my opinion was that the force was excessive.”

Several experienced officers, including the police chief himself, have taken the stand as part of an effort by prosecutors to dismantle the argument that Chauvin was doing what he was trained to do when he put his knee on Floyd’s neck last May.

According to testimony and records submitted Tuesday, Chauvin took a 40-hour course in 2016 on how to recognize people in crisis — including those suffering mental problems or the effects of drug use — and how to use de-escalation techniques to calm them down.

Sgt. Ker Yang, the Minneapolis police official in charge of crisis-intervention training, said officers are taught to “slow things down and re-evaluate and reassess.”

Records show Chauvin also underwent training in the use of force in 2018. Lt. Johnny Mercil, a Minneapolis police use-of-force train, testified that those who attended were taught that the sanctity of life is a cornerstone of departmental policy and that officers must use the least amount of force required to get a suspect to comply.

Under cross-examination by Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson, Mercil testified that officers are trained in some situations to use their knee across a suspect’s back or shoulder and employ their body weight to maintain control.

But Mercil added: “We tell officers to stay away from the neck when possible.”

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.

In fact, Nelson sought to point out moments in the video footage when he said Chauvin’s knee did not appear to be on Floyd’s neck.

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