State vs. Chauvin: Witness testimony continues on Day Five

State vs. Chauvin: Witness testimony continues on Day Five Photo: WDIO/Court TV pool

WDIO/KSTP
Updated: April 02, 2021 12:30 PM
Created: April 02, 2021 10:08 AM

MINNEAPOLIS - It is day five in the criminal trial of Derek Chauvin. The former Minneapolis police officer faces one count each of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in connection with the in-custody death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020.

On Thursday, we heard from George Floyd's girlfriend about how they met and how they both struggled with opioid use. Courteney Ross told the court that she and Floyd spent every day together from March to May in 2020.

First responders took the stand to tell the jury what they saw the day George Floyd died. Two paramedics who responded to the 911 call testified Floyd did not have a pulse right when they arrived.

A Minneapolis police supervisory sergeant who was on duty the night Floyd died testified that he believes the officers who restrained Floyd could have ended it after he stopped resisting. Pressed by a prosecutor as to when Floyd was no longer resisting, David Pleoger said it was once Floyd was handcuffed and on the ground. 

The criminal trial of Derek Chauvin continues on Friday in Hennepin County. 

Here are the happenings during court proceedings on Friday: 

The court is in session. The first witness asked to the witness stand on Friday is Sgt. Jon Edwards with the Minneapolis Police Department. He was part of the Community Response Team (CRT) and the community engagement unit. Edwards says he is on leave at the moment, but prior to going on leave he was assigned to the 3rd Precinct dogwatch shift. He's one of three sergeants on that shift. 

Edwards says he recognizes Chauvin but never was his direct supervisor. He adds that Lane and Kueng did a rotation on his shift at one point, back when they were both still working with FTO.

He also testified that then-Sgt. David Pleoger called him to say he was at the hospital with a male "that he described may or may not live." He was asked by Pleoger to "secure that area and make contact with any of his officers ... because this was a potential to be a possible critical incident," in regards to 38th Street and Chicago Avenue.

He states when he arrived on scene, there weren't many people around, just former officers Kueng and Lane. Edwards told both officers if their body cameras were not on, they were told to put them on. They both did.

Edwards stated at that point he "didn't know specifics" and was waiting to hear from Pleoger. He had additional officers report to the scene to keep it secure. He told state prosecutor Steve Schleicher that he didn't know Chauvin was involved at that point. 

He adds that "maybe eight to 10" officers helped that night, both helping out at the scene and other calls.

He ended up telling Kueng and Lane to get out of their squad car and leave their belongings inside so that the BCA could take it into custody. He also advised both officers to "chill out" because Edwards knew that escort sergeants were coming to get them for questioning. 

Edwards mentioned he spoke with 61-year-old Charles McMillian, who only identified himself as Charles to Edwards. 

"He told me he refused to say anything and wondered if he was under arrest," he stated, adding he told Charles he was not under arrest.

Edwards tells the court that Pleoger asked him to speak to the manager at Cup Foods. Edwards says he had a brief conversation with the manager who told him he didn't witness anything that happened.

Edwards was informed that Floyd had died after 10 p.m. Once the squad car and Floyd's SUV were towed, the crime scene tape was taken down at the scene shortly thereafter. 

The defense does not cross-examine this witness, excusing him from the witness stand.

The next witness takes the stand, Lt. Richard Zimmerman with the Minneapolis Police Department.

Zimmerman has been in law enforcement since 1981. He started his career with MPD in 1985. Before that, he worked as an officer in southeastern Minnesota. From 1995 to the present, he has worked on the homicide unit. 

Zimmerman says he is the "number one" officer when it comes to seniority in the department. He also is "extremely experienced" in testifying at trials. 

He was called to the scene of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue on May 25, 2020. Based on what he was told, he assumed that Lane and Kueng were involved with the incident. Zimmerman said he requested more officers to the scene to assist with questioning possible witnesses and locating video. The video he mentions relates to Milestone Cameras — the city-owned surveillance cameras. There are multiple in that area.

According to KSTP reporter Eric Chaloux, Zimmerman is one of 14 Minneapolis police officers that wrote a letter last June condemning Chauvin's actions. 

At about 11 p.m., the BCA took over the crime scene, according to Zimmerman. 

Zimmerman testified that every officer, even high-ranking officers like himself, has to complete use of force training once a year. He also explained the use of force continuum in the department's policy. He stated the five levels as "presence, verbal skills, soft technique — escort by arm, hard technique — mace, handcuffs, and deadly force."

Zimmerman said that he has never been trained to "kneel on the neck of someone who is handcuffed behind their back" in his time with MPD. He adds it's an officer's "responsibility" to focus on the safety and well-being of someone who is handcuffed.

He testified that "the threat level is just not there" once someone is handcuffed. He also mentioned that having someone handcuffed can make muscles pull back, causing a "constriction of breathing."

He also clarified that officers should provide medical support while waiting for EMS or the fire department.

The court takes a short morning break. Zimmerman will return to the stand.

When court reconvenes, Zimmerman again touches on the fact that the way Chauvin handled the situation was "uncalled for" to the state prosecutor. Defense attorney Eric Nelson takes over.

Nelson clarifies that Zimmerman hasn't worked on street patrol exclusively for a long time, and Zimmerman notes he hasn't been involved in a physical altercation since 2018.

Nelson asked, "a police officer's responsibility is to keep the scene secure and safe, agreed?" Zimmerman agreed. Nelson asks, if you have to use force against one person to avoid using force against others, that's a factor that an officer should consider, agreed?

Zimmerman replied "I don't know if I would agree with that."  

Lt. Zimmerman is asked by prosecutors if the bystanders on the video appeared to be an "uncontrollable threat," he replied "no."  Frank asks about the crowd of bystanders seen in video of the incident. Zimmerman says that unless the crowd is attacking you, "the crowd really shouldn't have any effect on your actions."  

The court has adjourned for the day. They will be back on Monday at 9:30 a.m.

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