‘I thought he was dead,’ said one of the paramedics who responded to the scene of George Floyd’s arrest.
Two paramedics, Derek Smith and Seth Bravinder, testified on Thursday that they did not see any signs of life in George Floyd upon their arrival at the scene of his arrest last May. Mr. Smith was explicit: “In lay terms, I thought he was dead.”
The questions of when Mr. Floyd died, and how, will be crucial to the jury’s ultimate decision. Though the two paramedics who testified did not comment on what exactly killed Mr. Floyd, they provided new information on the key question of when. Mr. Floyd was pronounced dead at a hospital after being pinned to the pavement for more than nine minutes by Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who is on trial for his death.
Mr. Smith told jurors that Mr. Floyd had no pulse and appeared to be dead by the time the paramedics arrived. His efforts to save Mr. Floyd, including the use of a defibrillator, were unsuccessful. His testimony could support the prosecution’s argument that the actions of Mr. Chauvin killed Mr. Floyd.
The defense has suggested that drug use contributed to his death; an autopsy found fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system. Eric J. Nelson, Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer, also suggested during Mr. Smith’s testimony that Mr. Chauvin’s knee was on Mr. Floyd’s back, not on his neck. In his response, Mr. Smith referred Mr. Nelson to videos of the arrest.
George Floyd’s girlfriend described their struggles with opioid addiction.
Courteney Ross, Mr. Floyd’s girlfriend for nearly three years, told the jury about his character and his struggle with addiction.
She talked about their first kiss and Mr. Floyd’s adventurous nature. She described how he was a caring partner, a devoted father and passionate about exercise — a guy who loved to ride his bike and play ball with the neighborhood children.
In a lighter moment, she talked about one of the most famous photos of Mr. Floyd, which she called “a dad selfie.” She called Mr. Floyd a “mama’s boy,” and said that his mother’s death left him “like a shell of himself, like he was broken.”
Ms. Ross also detailed their shared struggle with opioid addiction, saying that they started using after being prescribed medication for chronic pain.
“Our story, it’s a classic story of how many people get addicted to opioids,” she said. “We both struggled from chronic pain. Mine was in my neck and his was in his back.”
Once their prescriptions ran out, their use continued. Together, they fell in and out of sobriety. Mr. Floyd’s use of drugs, and whether that contributed to his death, is expected to be a crucial point of the trial.
What Happened on May 25?
- On May 25, 2020, Minneapolis police officers arrested George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, after a convenience store clerk claimed he used a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes.
- Mr. Floyd died after Derek Chauvin, one of the police officers, handcuffed him and pinned him to the ground with a knee, an episode that was captured on video.
What Happened to Derek Chauvin?
How Floyd’s Death Ignited a Movement
Prosecutors were trying to establish that Mr. Floyd — who had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system when he died, according to the toxicology report — had a high tolerance for fentanyl, which will help them rebut the defense’s claims that Mr. Floyd died of an overdose.
A veteran officer delivered damaging testimony on his former colleagues’ use of force.
David Pleoger, a recently retired sergeant with the Minneapolis Police Department, told the jury how he arrived at the scene just after Mr. Floyd was taken away in an ambulance. Mr. Pleoger spoke about the department’s policy on use of force and was asked by prosecutors whether Mr. Chauvin complied with those policies.
Asked whether police officers should remove their knees from a suspect’s neck when the suspect stops resisting, Mr. Pleoger said they should. According to video evidence, Mr. Chauvin kept his knee on Mr. Floyd for several minutes after Mr. Floyd became unresponsive.
The defense objected when prosecutors tried to ask Mr. Pleoger whether Mr. Chauvin violated use-of-force policies, but the prosecution did ask him when, in his opinion, the police officers should have ended their restraint of Mr. Floyd. He replied, “When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could have ended their restraint.”