Former Minneapolis police officer J. Alexander Kueng told jurors Thursday that he never viewed George Floyd's declining condition as a "serious medical need" before Floyd, who pleaded repeatedly to breathe, lost consciousness and died under officers' restraint.

On his second day testifying in the federal civil rights trial of the three former officers charged in Floyd's death, Kueng defended his decision to continue restraining Floyd during a confusing and quickly escalating 911 call May 25, 2020, even after Floyd fell unresponsive.

"He was saying he couldn't breathe," Assistant U.S. Attorney Manda Sertich said during cross-examination in the St. Paul courtroom. "His talking slowed. He stopped talking, stopped moving. And you couldn't find a pulse, correct?"

Kueng said he couldn't confirm Floyd didn't have a pulse because he was unable to properly check for a carotid pulse, as he was trained in the academy.

Kueng, 28, is on trial with fellow ex-officers Thomas Lane and Tou Thao on charges of depriving Floyd of his civil rights during the fatal encounter on a south Minneapolis street. He is the second officer to testify in his own defense. Thao took the stand Tuesday and Wednesday. Lane is expected to testify when the trial resumes next week.

To secure a guilty verdict, prosecutors must prove Kueng failed in his duty to provide medical intervention that day. In direct examination, Kueng said he was three days off training when he responded to what he originally believed was a routine 911 call that instead escalated into a struggle with an erratic suspect.

"I felt I had no control," Kueng said, describing struggling while trying to place Floyd in the police squad car. "I felt like any moment he could shove me off."

He said he believed Floyd may have been experiencing a form of agitation known as "excited delirium," which he also learned about in training, saying Floyd appeared to be "attracted" to plexiglass in the squad car.

"You're aware he was saying, 'I can't breathe?'" Sertich asked. "He said it a lot, about 20 times."

Kueng said he'd take her word for how many times.

He continued to remind the jury of his status as a rookie — part of a defense that has deflected blame to fellow officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes and was convicted of murder in state court last year.

Chauvin, who did not testify in his own defense, was sentenced to more than 22 years in prison and later pleaded guilty to federal civil rights violations.

Official policy dictates the first officers on the scene are in control — in this case, that was Kueng and Lane. But Kueng said everyone knows the most senior officer is really in charge.

Chauvin had been Kueng's field training officer until a few days earlier, which Kueng said still gave Chauvin control over his future in the department, especially during the probationary period for new officers. Asked if he believed Chauvin could "unilaterally" terminate him at that point, Kueng replied, "Yes, ma'am."

Sertich asked if Kueng at any point tried to stop Chauvin from kneeling on Floyd's neck. He said he did not.

Sertich questioned Kueng's earlier testimony that he had restrained Floyd in part to monitor him. "But you were not monitoring him, were you?" she asked.

"I was, ma'am," he said. "I was getting ready to move him."

Kueng's defense called Stephen Ijames, a veteran police officer from Springfield, Mo., who testified that the officers acted appropriately when they "grounded" Floyd. Noting that they didn't kick or hit him, he said police "tend to be rougher" in similar situations.

Ijames said the Minneapolis Police Department's training on "duty to intervene" is not adequate and doesn't meet national police standards. The Los Angeles police beating of Rodney King in 1991 showed why proper training must emphasize demonstrations and testing to ensure that officers attend and absorb the subject matter.

"Just because you sit through a class doesn't mean you learned anything," he said.

Ijames said Chauvin used unnecessary force, especially after Floyd stopped resisting He said the knee-on-neck restraint was "completely illogical to me."

"I've never seen it in any other department," he said.

Ijames said police are taught to abide the "fellow officer rule," which dictates that "other officers may be aware of things we're not," meaning Kueng could have reasonably believed Chauvin knew more than he did about the scene.

He said Kueng "lacked the training and experience to recognize Mr. Chauvin's excessive use of force."

Ijames testified for the defense in the trial of ex-Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter, who was convicted in December of first- and second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Daunte Wright. She is scheduled for sentencing Friday.

Later in the afternoon, Lane's attorney, Earl Gray, called his first witness. Former Minneapolis police officer Gary Nelson testified to the department's "paramilitary" culture ingrained from the academy, supporting the defense argument that the rookie officers were not in a position to disobey Chauvin.

"We do share a lot of traits you would see similarly in a military organization," said Nelson, including hierarchy of rank and seniority. He said a veteran officer would always be in charge of a scene with two rookies.

On cross examination, prosecutor Samantha Trepel of Justice Department's civil rights division asked whether officers must follow unlawful orders from senior officers. "There's no defense to, 'I was just following orders,' correct?" she said.

Nelson agreed.

"Officers are told they are accountable for their actions, right?" Trepel asked.

Nelson said they are.

"And they're also told they're accountable for their inactions, right?"

"You could be held accountable for an inaction, absolutely," Nelson said.