Use Of Force Trainer: Chauvin Used ‘Prone Hold’ on George Floyd
Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer charged with murder in the death of George Floyd, received training years ago on how to restrain combative suspects with a knee, but that training instructed officers to “stay away from the neck when possible,” the lieutenant who trained Chauvin testified Tuesday.
Department use-of-force instructor Lt. Johnny Mercil became the latest member of the Minneapolis force to take the stand as part of an effort by prosecutors to dismantle the argument that Chauvin was doing what he was trained to do when he put his knee on George Floyd’s neck on May 25, 2020.
Chauvin, a police officer who was later fired, was one of four to respond to a 911 call concerning counterfeit money allegedly being used at a convenience store in Minneapolis last year.
Floyd, who was accused of using the money, resisted officers’ attempts to put him into the back of a patrol car. They then pinned him to the ground. Chauvin knelt on his neck for close to 9 1/2 minutes by prosecutors’ reckoning to keep him in place.
Floyd, 46, experienced cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by officers, according to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office, which determined the manner of death was homicide.
He had high levels of fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system, according to substance screening, and that drug use possibly contributed to the death, along with a history of heart disease.
According to testimony and records submitted Tuesday, Chauvin took a 40-hour course in 2016 on how to recognize people in crisis—including those suffering mental problems or the effects of drug use—and how to use de-escalation techniques to calm them down.
Eric Nelson, the attorney for Chauvin, has maintained that Chauvin “did exactly what he had been trained to do over his 19-year career,” in the May 2020 incident.
He has offered that Floyd’s history of heart disease, along with the high levels of fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system are what caused his death, not Chauvin’s restraining methods.
When showed images from officer body-worn camera footage of moments during Floyd’s arrest, Mercil, who is is currently on medical leave from the police department, told Nelson that it showed Chauvin using a “prone hold an officer may apply with his knee.”
He testified that Chauvin’s shin appeared to be placed directly along Floyd’s neck in at least one of the images. He often agreed with Nelson however that Chauvin appeared to place his knee more on Floyd’s back, shoulder or shoulder blades, more so than on Floyd’s neck.
Officers are trained in certain situations to place their knee on a suspect’s shoulder or back as part of a restraining technique, Mercil testified, adding: “We tell officers to stay away from the neck when possible.”
Mercil, when questioned about whether he had trained department officers that if an individual is able to talk while in the prone position then they can also breathe, he responded: “Yes, it’s been said.”
Floyd repeatedly told Chauvin that “I can’t breathe” when he was pinned down.
Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter, and third-degree murder charges.
Zachary Stieber and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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