Derek Chauvin’s actions on the night George Floyd died in Minneapolis last year amounted to deadly force, a subject expert testified Wednesday, April 7, during ex-officer Chauvin’s trial in Hennepin County Court.
Los Angeles Police Sgt. Jody Stiger offered up that critique a day after calling Chauvin’s use of force on May 25, 2020, “excessive.” According to the former Los Angeles Police Department tactics instructor, video and audio from Floyd’s arrest suggests that he had stopped resisting Chauvin and three other Minneapolis police officers after being pinned to the ground by them, an act Stiger also said put Floyd at risk of suffocating.
“The pressure that he was being caused by the body weight would cause positional asphyxia,” Stiger said, using a term for when the position of one’s body prevents proper breathing, “which could cause death."
Stiger’s assessment Wednesday bolstered the arguments of state prosecutors who have sought to cast Chauvin as responsible for Floyd’s death. Stiger said the officers were appropriate in their use of force to attempt to place Floyd into a squad car and, eventually, in a prone position on the ground.
Chauvin faces second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges in Floyd's death.
Prosecution witness James Reyerson, a special agent with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the lead investigator in the case, testified that "yes, it does" appear from video evidence that Chauvin remained on top of Floyd for several minutes after he became motionless.
Under questioning by Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson Wednesday, Reyerson at first agreed that Floyd appeared in one portion of footage to say that he “ate too many drugs,” but upon viewing a longer segment of the footage later told state prosecutors that Floyd instead seemed to have said “I ain’t do no drugs.”
Chauvin’s defense has several times called attention to the role that drugs could have played in Floyd’s death. At some point before he died, his autopsy showed, Floyd consumed methamphetamine and fentanyl.
In detailing the investigation, Reyerson said Wednesday that the squad car Floyd was briefly placed inside of the night he was arrested was subject to a second search at the request of Chauvin's defense team that took place after the BCA seized it. Attorneys for the ex-officer were looking for what they had identified to be pills.
According to Breahna Ghiles, a state forensic scientist who testified Wednesday afternoon, pills recovered from the squad car tested positive for methamphetamine while pills from the car Floyd was seated in prior to his arrest tested positive for methamphetamine and fentanyl, with which other street drugs are sometimes cut.
McKenzie Anderson, a BCA forensic scientist, also testified Wednesday that pills recovered from the car tested positive for Floyd's DNA.
Court is slated to resume at 9:15 a.m. Thursday, April 8.