Former police officer Derek Chauvin had no need to kneel on George Floyd once he was handcuffed, according to an expert.
Los Angeles Police Department Sergeant Jody Stiger gave evidence at the ex-Minneapolis police officer’s murder trial on Wednesday.
Chauvin, 45, pressed his knee into the neck of Mr Floyd, 46, for about nine minutes on May 25, 2020, a scene that ignited global protests against police brutality
Mr Floyd’s death sparked outrage around the world and an international movement calling for change.
Chauvin, 45, denies second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
His lawyers are set to argue that he followed his training and that the main cause of Mr Floyd’s death – which the county examiner ruled a homicide – was a drug overdose.
On Wednesday Sgt Stiger told jurors that Mr Floyd posed no immediate threat and was not actively resisting when Chauvin used deadly force on him by pinning his neck to the ground for more than nine minutes.
“My opinion was that no force was reasonable in that position,” he testified. “The pressure … caused by the body weight could cause positional asphyxia and could cause death.”
Prosecutor Steve Schleicher asked him to describe several photographs showing officers restraining Mr Floyd.
He said that it appeared Chauvin’s use of force was excessive.
“He was handcuffed, not attempting to resist, not attempting to assault officers, kick, punch of that nature,” he said.
Sgt Stiger also testified that Chauvin squeezed Mr Floyd’s hand to get him to comply with the officer’s orders while he was handcuffed in the prone position and that he did not appear to have an opportunity to comply.
“At that point, it was just pain,” he said.
Questioned by defence lawyer Eric Nelson, the Sgt agreed that a police officer needed to take into account various factors during a fluid situation when considering using force.
“It has to be proportional,” he said. “You are constantly reassessing during the time frame.”
He also agreed with Nelson that Chauvin came upon a situation in which a suspect was actively resisting officers who were trying to put him into a police squad car as people in a crowd yelled insults at them, posing a “potential threat.”
Nelson showed the witness photographs taken at different times of the incident showing Chauvin with his knee on Mr Floyd.
He asked him whether he agreed that Chauvin’s knee was on Mr Floyd’s shoulder blades rather than his neck.
“It appears to be more above the shoulder blades than on the shoulder blades,” he said, not agreeing with Nelson.
The trial also heard from Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigators, including Senior Special Agent James Reyerson, an expert on the use of force and the lead investigator in the case.
Mr Reyerson said that six months after the incident, Chauvin’s lawyers re-examined the police car and found what was later determined to be pills that had Mr Floyd’s DNA on them.
During opening statements Chauvin’s defence team said the pills contained methamphetamine with fentanyl.
Mr Floyd’s death, captured on video widely viewed on social media, prompted protests against racism and police brutality in many cities across the United States and around the world.
Chauvin has argued he was following the training he had received in his 19 years on the police force.
Three other officers on the scene have been charged with aiding and abetting murder and will stand trial later this year.
Chauvin and the three other officers were attempting to arrest Floyd on suspicion of using a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes at a food store.
They were fired the day after the incident.
The trial continues.