A longtime police instructor testified Tuesday for the defense that Derek Chauvin was justified in using his knee to detain George Floyd late last spring, but the expert also acknowledged that the now-fired Minneapolis officer maintained that position for minutes after resistance to the arrest had ceased.
Barry Brodd, who is now a private consultant and expert in use of force, said during Chauvin's murder trial in Hennepin County District Court that he reviewed all the video and other evidence dealing with Floyd's detention at 38th and Chicago and said, "I felt that Derek Chauvin was justified and acting with objective reasonableness following Minneapolis Police Department policy and current standards of law enforcement in his interactions with Mr. Floyd."
During cross examination by prosecutor Steve Schliecher, Brodd pointed out that Floyd was even "resting comfortably" in one moment on the pavement with three officers restraining him, an observation that had not been made during any of the previous 11 days of testimony by witnesses, members of law enforcement or experts in medicine or police training.
"Based on your view of the defendant kneeling on Mr. Floyd ... the defendant did not alter the level of force that he was using on Mr. Floyd, did he?" Schleicher asked.
Schleicher: "Even though Mr. Floyd had become as you put, at this point, compliant, fair?"
Brodd: "More compliant, yes."
Schleicher: "Well, what part of this is not compliant?"
Brodd: "So I see his arm position in the picture that's posted, that a compliant person would have both their hands in the small of their back and just be resting comfortably, vs. like he's still moving around."
Schleicher: "Did you say resting comfortably?"
Brodd: "Or laying comfortably."
Schleicher: "Resting comfortably on the pavement?"
When asked about his opinion earlier under defense questioning, Brodd brought up a scenario he taught at his academy of a domestic violence incident when an individual is tased, falls to ground and strikes his head. That's not deadly force, that's an accidental death, Brodd contended.
Brodd, who for served 22 years in the Santa Rosa Police Department before his retirement in 2004, testified that police used force in attempting to get Floyd in the squad and while getting him to the ground. But once Floyd was on the ground, Brodd said, he didn't believe the "prone control" position was use of force.
He said officers must always keep their head on a swivel and engage in "one upmanship," meaning police do not have to fight fair: "They're allowed to overcome your resistance by going up a level to gain control," he said.
"I can't imagine how many times I've been exposed to personally or seen other officers dealing with a traffic stop or jaywalking or some minor offense and they end up in a fight for their life because of the conduct of the individual," he said.
Brodd also pointed to other factors that supported Chauvin keeping Floyd on the pavement for more than 9 minutes.
"In this situation there were space limitations: Mr. Floyd was butted up against a patrol car, there was traffic still driving down the street, there were crowd issues that took the attention of the officers and Mr. Floyd was still somewhat resisting," he said.
He also said the agitated crowd played a justifiable role in Chauvin continuing to keep Floyd in he prone position, given that the bystanders had distracted and concerned him to the point that he reached for his Mace.
Under cross examination, prosecutor Schleicher showed Brodd a photo of Chauvin pinning Floyd to the pavement. Brodd acknowledged that "I see his knee on the upper spine and neck area."
Schleicher then went after Brodd's contention that using "prone control" was actually not use of force. Brodd did agree that if Floyd was feeling pain, then Chauvin's actions would indeed be a use of force despite a lack of resistance for most of the 9-plus minutes.
"Seen in this picture," Brodd said, looking at Chauvin's body erect over a handcuffed Floyd and the knee on the neck, "that could be use of force."
The prosecutor then steered Brodd into slightly changing what he earlier described as the position of Chauvin's knees on Floyd. When questioned by Nelson, Brodd described the officer's left knee on Floyd's neck or back area and the right knee on Floyd's left arm and next to his torso.
Brodd came to agree with Schleicher that Chauvin was "on top" of Floyd with both knees for the entire time, with the right knee more on the back than anywhere else.
Shown a photo of Chauvin on top of Floyd and directed to look at the officer's left toe off the ground, Brodd said "it's possible" that this put more pressure on Floyd's back, but Floyd's movements might have caused the toe to rise slightly.
"I saw the officer reach out for a little balance with his hand against the squad car" at that moment, Brodd said.
Schleicher then walked Brodd through videos showing the first several minutes after Chauvin positioned himself on Floyd's prone body while at the same time bystanders for the most part quietly and passively standing by before turning more vocal and agitated.
Brodd agreed that Floyd was saying his stomach and "everything hurts" while at the same time saying, "I can't breathe."
"Did you note at all ... at any time note Mr. Floyd saying that 'my neck hurts?' the prosecutor asked. Brodd said, "I heard it, but I didn't note it."
On redirect examination, Nelson had Brodd note that Chauvin would have seen upon arrival at the intersection two officers struggling with Floyd, in what he called "active resistance" and becoming involved in a scene that was subject to change at any moment.
"Is that the problem with snippets?" Nelson asked, referencing the video clips the prosecution played.
"They don't show the whole picture," Brodd said.
Earlier Tuesday, the woman with Floyd when he was first confronted by police that day testified that she awakened her friend to warn him that a Minneapolis officer was at his window with a gun drawn.
Shawanda Hill testified that she and Floyd crossed paths at Cup Foods on May 25, and he appeared normal, was talking and alert. But when they went to his SUV after he offered to give her a ride home, "he fell asleep," she said, in her first public statements about her friend's arrest.
When store employees approached the vehicle about Floyd passing a fake $20 bill, according to Hill, "they were trying to wake him up ... over and over. He woke up, he'll say something, made a little gesture and nodded back off."
She added that Floyd told her "he was tired because he had been working."
Several minutes later, the police arrived and Floyd awoke at her urging, she said.
Defense attorney Nelson ended his questioning there, and prosecutor Matthew Frank began his cross examination roughly where Hill's account left off.
Hill said Floyd woke up the second time she tried to rouse him and told him, " 'The police is here. It's about the $20 bill that wasn't real.' "
She testified that she went on to tell Floyd, " 'Baby, that's the police. Roll down the window.' ... The man had a gun at the window. [Floyd] instantly grabbed the wheel, and he said, 'Please, please don't shoot me.' "
Hill said she saw nothing to indicate Floyd was having any health problems such as shortness of breath or chest pains.
"Did he seem startled when the officer pulled the gun on him?" Frank asked. "Very," Hill said.
Minneapolis Park Police officer Peter Chang testified next as the jury saw for the first time his perspective of the incident through his body camera video. Chang said he was stationed at a nearby park when he responded to assist. When he arrived, Floyd was handcuffed and seated on the sidewalk. He was asked to run Floyd's information on the computer. He then returned to the squad car where Lane and Kueng were struggling with Floyd. They told Chang instead to watch Floyd's SUV.
Chang said he then spoke with Hill and Morries Hall, another person with Floyd, who saw the initial struggle but later could not see his friend being held to the pavement.
"Damn, he still won't get in the car; just sit down, George," Hill was heard saying on the officer's video. "He's fighting to get out, what is he doing? Now he going to jail."
According to Chang's video:
The park officer continued to talk with the Hill and Hall, asking them how they knew Floyd. At one point, Hall gave his name as "Ricardo."
They attempted to look on as witness Donald Williams and others can be heard yelling at the officers to get off of Floyd.
"Something's going on. They're taking pictures over there," Hill said.
"Everybody recording this shit, man." Hall said.
By the time the ambulance arrived, Hill walked to the corner to attempt to see what happened.
"Can I just see what y'all did to him? He on the ground and everything? Oh my God."
"Shawanda, you're not helping," Chang said. "Once my partners get over here, they can explain to you guys."
After the ambulance left, Hall and Hill tried to get Floyd's phone from the SUV, but witness Charles McMillian told them they needed to call Floyd's family. "He's [messed] up!" McMillian said, using an expletive.
"They kept ... on his neck," he said, gesturing.
"What?" Hill asked.
Asked by Nelson about why Chang moved away from Floyd's car, he testified, "I was concerned for the officers' safety because of the crowd, so I wanted to make sure the officers were OK."
People were at every corner of the intersection, he said, testifying that the crowd was "very aggressive toward the officers, yes."
Chang agreed under cross examination that his attention was on Hill, Hall and the SUV while Floyd struggled with the other officers.
While the crowd became more aggressive, Chang's focus did not change, because there were four officers dealing with Floyd? Frank asked. Chang concurred.
"You assumed they were OK?" Frank asked. Chang said, "Yes."
"They never radioed for help, did they?" Frank continued.
Chang said his radio would have aired such a call, and he replied, "No," they never called for additional officers to come to the scene.
The defense has contended all along during the trial that Floyd died from heart problems and recent illicit drug use. Nelson started his case with two witnesses who testified in connection with Floyd's drug-related arrest a year earlier in Minneapolis.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the killing of Floyd. Three other fired officers who assisted in Floyd's arrest — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — are scheduled to be tried in August on charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.
The morning's final defense witness, Minneapolis police medical support coordinator Nicole Mackenzie, was questioned about "excited delirium," a syndrome in dispute among health professionals that is taught to MPD cadets. Lane, who helped Chauvin during the restraint, raised this condition at the scene as a potential explanation for Floyd's behavior.
Mackenzie said the training points out that the syndrome leads to psychotic behavior, agitation, incoherent speech, superhuman strength and hyperthermia among other symptoms.
She said cadets are trained to have an ambulance stage at a safe distance from the scene where a suspect might be experiencing excited delirium. She said an ambulance is needed because a "suspect can rapidly go into cardiac arrest." Nelson has contended that Floyd's ailing heart led to his death, along with illicit drug use, and not from any of his client's actions.
Frank pointed out that excited delirium's training emphasizes that the suspect should be put in a more safe side recovery position, which did not happen during Floyd's arrest. Mackenzie, who testified earlier during the prosecution's case, also said that CPR is also taught under this situation. Floyd was not given CPR on May 25 until after he was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.
Nelson first called retired Minneapolis police officer Scott Creighton to the stand to introduce portions of body camera video from a May 2019 traffic stop, during which Floyd would not obey commands to show his hands.
"The passenger was unresponsive and noncompliant to my commands, I then had to physically reach in and I wanted to see his hands because I couldn't see his hand," he testified. "I reached in to grab his hand and put [it] up on the dash, and that individual was taken from the vehicle and handcuffed," Creighton said. "In my mind, his behavior was very nervous anxious."
The jury then saw a clip of an officer body camera video, during which Floyd said, "Don't shoot me, man!" before he was pulled from the car and handcuffed.
Under cross examination by prosecutor Erin Eldridge, Creighton admitted that Floyd was given conflicting commands on where to place his hands. She also pointed out that Floyd didn't go to the ground in the 2019 traffic stop — as he did during his arrest in 2020 — and obviously survived this encounter nearly two years ago, and Creighton agreed.
Next to testify was Michelle Moseng, a retired HCMC paramedic who tended to Floyd at the Police Department's Fourth Precinct in north Minneapolis.
Moseng said Floyd's blood pressure was extremely high, and she wanted him to go the hospital because she was concerned that he was at risk of a stroke. She said Floyd explained that "he had a history of hypertension and hadn't been taking his medication."
She also said Floyd told her he had been taking multiple opioid pills every 20 minutes that day.
Under cross examination, Eldridge's line of questioning had Moseng acknowledge that Floyd was alert, obeying commands, and his respiration and pulse rates were normal. She said her records indicated he had taken about seven Percocets.
"I asked why, and he said it was because he was addicted," Moseng said.
"He was able to walk, correct? He was able to stand up?" Eldridge asked.
"I know he was real resistant to get on our bed. It was hard to tell exactly what he was upset about," Moseng said, prompting an objection from the prosecution, and the answer ordered stricken.
Floyd "didn't have a stroke while you were with him?" Eldridge asked. "No," Moseng said.
"Didn't stop breathing?" Again, Moseng said no.
She asked Moseng whether she knew that Floyd was went to the hospital and was released two hours later? She said she did not know that.
Nelson has argued that the 46-year-old Floyd died from serious problems with his heart and the use of the illicit drugs fentanyl and methamphetamine, rather than a lack of oxygen as the prosecution has said. Nelson will call witnesses over the next several days in support of his position with the goal of raising enough doubt in the minds of the jurors that they will acquit his client.
Star Tribune staff writers Chao Xiong and Rochelle Olson contributed to this report. Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482