Witness: 3 officers at Floyd killing didn’t follow training
St. Paul, Minn. – Three former Minneapolis police officers charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights did not follow the department’s use-of-force policy or training when Floyd was killed, the department’s training division commander at the time testified Friday.
Inspector Katie Blackwell said officers are trained that they have a duty to intervene to stop fellow officers from using unreasonable force, and are trained on neck restraints, how they should be applied and that they must provide follow-up care because they can be dangerous. But she said former Officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao acted in a way that was “inconsistent” with the department’s policies.
Federal prosecutors say the officers failed to act to save Floyd’s life on May 25, 2020, as fellow officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on the Black man’s neck for 91/2 minutes while Floyd was handcuffed, facedown and gasping for air. Kueng kneeled on Floyd’s back, Lane held his legs and Thao kept bystanders back.
Officers had responded to a 911 call about Floyd, 46, trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill at a corner store. Bystander cellphone video of the killing triggered worldwide protests and a reexamination of racism and policing.
Blackwell testified for a second day about the department’s policies and training that the officers received.
She said officers have a duty to use the least amount of force necessary and must stop once the person is no longer resisting, then render any necessary medical aid they’re trained to provide until medical personnel arrive.
Officers also must tell paramedics or others who take custody of the person that a neck restraint was used, she said. And they must call for medical assistance and render aid while emergency medical responders are on the way “to make sure that we do everything we can to save a person’s life.”
Blackwell testified that Thao took repeated refresher courses on these policies, including as recently as 2018 and 2019, and that Lane and Kueng had repeated lessons on the same issues while attending the academy in 2019.
Whether the officers deprived Floyd of medical aid is a key element of the case, and prosecutors have sought to show jurors that responding paramedics were not given important information, and that Floyd should have been given medical attention immediately.
On Thursday, Blackwell testified that it is critical to move someone who is being restrained from a prone position onto their side, otherwise “the concern is that they would die in custody.” Body camera video shows that Lane twice asked if they should roll Floyd onto his side but was rebuffed.
On Friday, jurors saw a training video about breathing difficulties that can occur if a struggling person is facedown in the street, which Blackwell said Thao would have seen in 2012. The narrator says that breathing becomes more difficult if someone is applying weight and pressure, which could lead the person being restrained to struggle more and the officer to apply even more pressure in a “vicious cycle” that can end in death. The narrator says it is imperative to get a person into a side position as soon as safely possible.
Kueng, who is Black, Lane, who is white, and Thao, who is Hmong American, are charged with willfully depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights while acting under color of law or government authority. One count against all three officers alleges that they saw that Floyd needed medical care and failed to help. A count against Thao and Kueng contends that they didn’t intervene to stop Chauvin. Both counts allege that the officers’ actions resulted in Floyd’s death.
Prosecutors have argued that the “willful” standard can be met by showing “blatantly wrongful conduct” that deprived Floyd of his rights.
During opening statements, Kueng’s attorney, Tom Plunkett, said that Chauvin called “all of the shots” as the senior officer at the scene, and that Kueng and Lane had not been adequately trained. Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter in state court last year, and he pleaded guilty in December to a federal civil rights charge.
Lane, Kueng and Thao also face a separate state trial in June on charges alleging that they aided and abetted murder and manslaughter.
Webber contributed from Fenton, Michigan.