A forensic pathologist testified on Friday that police officers’ use of restraint caused the oxygen deprivation that killed George Floyd — not his drug use or an underlying heart condition.
Dr. Lindsey C. Thomas, who has performed more than 5,000 autopsies, told the court that she agreed with Hennepin County medical examiner Dr. Andrew Baker’s finding that Floyd died from “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement’s subdual restraint and neck compression.” Thomas said the determination meant Floyd’s heart stopped because police forced him into a position that made him unable to get oxygen to his major organs.
The New York Times reported that Thomas helped train Baker, who also testified on Friday. Thomas noted that Baker’s autopsy report stated there was no indication Floyd suffered a fatal heart attack.
“There’s no evidence to suggest he would have died that night, except for the interactions with law enforcement,” she testified.
DR. LINDSEY THOMAS ON THE STAND: Veteran forensic pathologist testified, "there was nothing sudden" about #GeorgeFloyd death. And it was not a fentanyl death, "it was not peaceful, sleepy…" She concludes law enforcement actions led to Floyd's death. #DerekChauvinTrial @FOX9 pic.twitter.com/VbeAAKt7Td
— Paul Blume (@PaulBlume_FOX9) April 9, 2021
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. Conversely, 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.
"The activities of the law enforcement officers resulted in Mr. Floyd's death," forensic pathologist Dr. Lindsey Thomas testifies in Derek Chauvin trial. "Specifically those activities were the subdual, the restraint and the neck compression." pic.twitter.com/uLt0L1OqCe
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) April 9, 2021
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, 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: Lindsey Baker/Court TV via AP, Pool]