Johnny Mercil

Police lieutenant says Derek Chauvin’s knee on George Floyd’s neck was NOT department-approved maneuver

A high-ranking Minneapolis police official testified on Tuesday that officers are specifically trained to avoid neck pressure and that Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s was not a department-approved tactic.

Minneapolis police lieutenant Johnny Mercil — who oversees the department’s use of force training — told the jury about the two approved neck restraints: one that renders an actively aggressive suspect unconscious and one that allows the suspect, who is posing “active resistance” to remain conscious while the officer regains control.

Upon being shown a picture of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd, Mercil said Chauvin’s maneuver was not one taught to officers. While Mercil said department policy does not specifically forbid the position used by Floyd, he testified that Chauvin should have stopped kneeling on Floyd once Floyd was in handcuffs.

Before court adjourned for the day, the jury also heard testimony from Los Angeles police Sergeant Jody Stiger, who the prosecution hired to review video footage of last year’s deadly arrest in addition to court records and training policy.

Stiger testified that responding officers were fine to force Floyd out of his SUV and into the back of the police cruiser. According to the sergeant, officers should have lowered or completely stopped using force once Floyd was placed on the ground in a prone position.

Referring to Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck, Stiger told the court, “My opinion is that the force was excessive.”

On May 25, Minneapolis police officers were filmed arresting Floyd, 44, on suspicion that he used a counterfeit bill at the Cup Foods supermarket. After police pulled Floyd out of his car and handcuffed him, Chauvin was filmed forcing his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.

Floyd was heard gasping for air and repeatedly saying he could not breathe before he lost consciousness and died.

Hennepin County’s official autopsy report stated that Floyd’s blood had a fentanyl concentration of 11 nanograms per milliliter. While the medical examiner described the concentration as high and potentially fatal, they stressed that it does not mean Floyd died of an overdose. The report also stated that there was no evidence “to support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation” in Floyd’s death.

However, an independent autopsy asserted that sustained forceful pressure on Floyd’s neck and back led to his death.

Both the county’s and the independent report mentioned drugs in Floyd’s system. However, the two reports listed his cause of death as a homicide.

The defense has argued that a “speedball” — an opioid and a stimulant combination —  along with hypertension led to Floyd dying of cardiac arrhythmia. However, the prosecution said video evidence and expert testimony disproves Floyd was dying from a drug overdose, and that Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes killed him.

Chauvin is charged with third-degree murder, second-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in connection with Floyd’s death. In addition to Chauvin, three other ex-officers, Thomas Lane, 37, J. Alexander Kueng, 26, and Tou Thao, 34 are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in connection with Floyd’s death.

Chauvin is being tried separately from the other three former officers, who will stand trial together. Their trial is scheduled to begin this summer.

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[Featured image: Johnny Mercil/Court TV via AP, Pool]