Derek Chauvin trial: Fourth officer joins colleagues claiming he broke rules by kneeling on George Floyd’s neck

Yet another high-level Minneapolis police officer says Derek Chauvin wasn’t following proper training when he kneeled on George Floyd’s neck during his fatal arrest last May.

“I would say no,” lieutenant Johnny Mercil, who trains officers in the use of force, said when asked about whether the move was allowed under department policy. “We tell officers to stay away from the neck, when possible,” he added.

Officers are trained to use neck holds on subjects, but are generally taught to do so with their arms, Mr Mercil said, demonstrating to the court by bending his arm around someone an imagined head lock.

The lieutenant added that there are times when an officer’s leg might be pressed into a suspect’s upper back to control them or get them into handcuffs, but “as far my knowledge, we never have” trained someone to kneel directly on someone’s neck once they’ve already been handcuffed.

Mr Chauvin faces two murder charges carrying the potential for decades in prison, after Mr Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died last year amid an arrest for using a counterfeit $20 bill.

Mr Mercil’s comments echo testimony yesterday from Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo.

“There’s an initial reasonableness in trying to get him under control in the first few seconds,” Mr Arradondo testified on Monday. “Once there was no longer any resistance, and clearly when Mr Floyd was no longer responsive and even motionless, to continue to apply that level of force to a person proned out, handcuffed behind their back, that in no way shape or form is by policy, is not part of our training, and is certainly not part of our ethics or values.”

Last week two other officers who arrived at the scene of George Floyd’s fatal arrest for an initial review of the use of force had similar conclusions.

“Totally unnecessary,” lieutenant Richard Zimmerman said when asked whether that sort of move was justified in the situation. “First of all, pulling him down to the ground face-down and putting your knee on a neck for that amount of time is just uncalled for. I saw no reason why the officers felt they were in danger, if that’s what they felt, and that’s what they would have to have felt to use that kind of force.”

“That would be the top tier: the deadly force … because of the fact that if your knee is on somebody’s neck, that could kill him,” he added.

During Tuesday’s testimony, the defence argued that from certain angles, it appeared that Mr Chauvin’s knee was actually closer to Mr Floyd’s shoulder blades than his neck.

“It appears the knee is placed in the center, between Mr Floyd’s shoulder blades,” attorney Eric Nelson argued, citing police body camera footage.

Mr Nelson also highlighted portions of Minneapolis police training that allow officers to continue holding someone as they wait for an ambulance to arrive, which occurred during Mr Floyd’s arrest.

“Sometimes an officer may hold a person, using their body weight restrain them, awaiting the arrival of EMS,” Mr Nelson asked Mr Mercil.

“As long as needed to control them, yes,” he responded.

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