Derek Chauvin used “deadly force” despite at least two decades of police training warning about the dangers of kneeling on people’s necks, a use-of-force expert told the former officer’s murder trial on Wednesday.
Sergeant Jody Stiger, a use-of-force instructor from the Los Angeles Police Department, said Mr Chauvin appeared to use most of his body weight to pin George Floyd to the ground for more than nine minutes during his fatal arrest last May.
In fact, Sgt Stiger said, “no force should have been used” once Mr Floyd was lying on his stomach with his face pushed against the tarmac because of the risk to his breathing.
“[Mr Floyd] was in the prone position, he was not resisting, he was handcuffed, he was not attempting to evade, he was not attempting to resist,” he told the court.
He told the court that Mr Chauvin’s body weight on Mr Floyd “could cause positional asphyxia which could cause death”.
Sgt Stiger told the court that the dangers of positional asphyxia, including the risk of death, have been known for at least 20 years.
Sgt Stiger was called as a paid expert witness by the prosecution in the trial of Mr Chauvin. He is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter and third-degree murder.
The sergeant, who has trained more than 3,000 officers on use-of-force in Los Angeles, said he had reviewed Minneapolis Police Department training and policy in addition to footage of Mr Floyd’s fatal arrest.
Bystander footage of the 46-year-old unarmed and handcuffed black man being pinned down as he said “I can’t breathe” prompted an international outcry and was the trigger for a national reckoning on US policing.
During witness testimony, prosecutors have sought to focus on the length of time Mr Chauvin appeared to be on Mr Floyd’s neck as they build their case that the former officer violated police protocol and used excessive force.
The defence has argued that Mr Floyd’s death was caused by drugs found in his system and underlying heart problems.