Derek Chauvin trial: Paramedic says he thought George Floyd was ‘dead’ when he arrived – watch live
The paramedic who treated George Floyd said he thought the 46-year-old “was dead” when he arrived at the scene of his arrest in Minneapolis last May.
Derek Smith told the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer accused of killing Mr Floyd, that he first attempted to detect a pulse while police officers were on top of the unarmed, handcuffed man and believed he was already dead.
“In lay terms, I thought he was dead,” he said. He described having to take Mr Floyd’s handcuffs off in order to treat him.
The paramedic was testifying on the fourth day of Mr Chauvin’s trial on charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter and third-degree murder.
“I walked up to the individual, noticed he wasn’t moving. I didn’t see any chest rise or fall on this individual,” he said.
Mr Smith said himself and another paramedic did all they could to resuscitate Mr Floyd with chest compressions but they were unable to revive him.
“He’s a human being, and I was trying to give him a second chance at life,” he said.
Floyd’s opioid addiction scrutinised
Earlier in the day, Mr Floyd’s girlfriend described how the couple became addicted to opioids because of chronic pain in emotional testimony at the trial of his murder.
Courteney Batya Ross is the first person who personally knew Mr Floyd to testify at the trial of Derek Chauvin, the white former police officer filmed kneeling on the black man’s neck for more than nine minutes before he died.
She offered an intimate portrait of the man whose final moments have been watched by millions across the globe, describing how Mr Floyd offered to pray with her when they first met in 2017.
Ms Ross, 45, described how Mr Floyd had become addicted to powerful prescription painkillers, like countless other Americans whose lives have been torn apart by the country’s opioid epidemic.
“It’s a classic story of how many people get addicted to opioids,” Ms Ross, who wore a red, heart-shaped brooch on her black jacket, told the jury. “We both suffered from chronic pain: mine was in my neck, his was in his back.”
Mr Floyd’s alleged drug use will be central to the case against Mr Chauvin, who is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter and third-degree murder.
The reference to opioid addiction is likely to chime with millions of Americans as the country reels from a deadly epidemic. Researchers have blamed a raft of addiction problems on the over prescription of powerful painkillers, which often act as a gateway to illicit street drugs like synthetic heroin.
The prosecution have argued Mr Chauvin’s decision to kneel on an unarmed Mr Floyd until he became motionless was a substantial factor in his death on May 25.
Mr Chauvin’s lawyer has argued that Mr Floyd’s death was caused by fentanyl and methamphetamine found in his system and underlying health problems.
The prosecution called Ms Ross to testify on Thursday in a bid to preemptively head off the argument that Mr Floyd’s death was caused by drug use.
She told the court the pair had tried “really hard” to overcome their addictions, but Mr Floyd had relapsed in May 2020, the month he died.
Ms Ross was asked about an incident in which Mr Floyd was hospitalised with an overdose during cross-examination.
“I thought I was taking him to work. He wasn’t feeling good. His stomach really hurt. He was doubled over in pain,” she told defence lawyer Eric Nelson.
“He said he had to go to the hospital, so I took him straight to the hospital. We went to the ER, and they were checking him out in the ER, and it was getting late. And I had to go to work myself that Friday night,” she said.
“You later learned that that was due to an overdose?” Mr Nelson asked. Ms Ross agreed.
Floyd’s family attack defence strategy
Mr Floyd’s family attacked the defence strategy yesterday, accusing Mr Chauvin’s lawyer of a character assassination.
“We fully expected the defence to put George’s character and struggles with addiction on trial because that is the go-to tactic when the facts are not on your side,” Ben Cump, a representative for the family, said.
He added that the 46-year-old was “walking, talking, laughing, and breathing just fine before Derek Chauvin held his knee to George’s neck”.
“Tens of thousands of Americans struggle with self-medication and opioid abuse and are treated with dignity, respect and support, not brutality.”
Floyd’s girlfriend describes their life together
In court, Ms Ross shared details of her life with Mr Floyd, recalling through smiles and tears his dedication to his family, his love of food and dedication to his daily exercise regime.
She described how she first met Mr Floyd in 2017 at a Salvation Army homeless shelter in Minneapolis, where he was working as a security guard.
“It’s one of my favourite stories to tell,” she said, smiling toward the jury, describing how Mr Floyd approached her as she waited in the lobby.
“Floyd has this great, deep, southern voice, raspy,” she said, “and he was, like, ‘Sis’, you ok, sis’?'”
He sensed she felt alone, and offered to pray with her.
“It was so sweet,” she said. “At the time I had lost a lot of faith in God.”
They had their first date soon afterwards and were still together at the time of his death, she said.
Mr Floyd had adored his mother, she said, and was a “shell” of his former self after her death in 2018. He was also devoted to his two daughters, he said.
She also detailed Mr Floyd’s addiction to prescription opioids and a back injury he developed from playing sports.
At times they took prescribed painkillers and at other times they illegally obtained opioids.
“Addiction, in my opinion, is a lifelong struggle,” she said. “It’s not something that comes and goes, it’s something I’ll deal with forever.”
Floyd’s heart ‘flatlined’
A paramedic who treated Mr Floyd has told the court that he could tell he was not breathing when he arrived on the scene.
Seth Zachary Bravinder, who is testifying on Thursday afternoon, said he could tell Mr Floyd was unresponsive “just standing from a distance”.
Mr Bravinder said: “I didn’t see any breathing or movement or anything like that.”
Mr Bravinder said that the 46-year-old was “limp” when he and his colleague transferred him into their ambulance.
The paramedic said he was unsure of Mr Floyd’s condition when they arrived on the scene because “multiple officers were on top of the patient.”
“I assumed there was potentially some struggle still since they were on top of him,” he told the court.
Mr Bravinder explained that after driving the ambulance away from the scene, he parked a few several blocks away to help his partner resuscitate Mr Floyd.
He said he remembers seeing that the cardiac monitor showed that Mr Floyd had “flatlined.”
“It basically tells us your heart isn’t really doing anything at that moment,” he said.
Video footage plays key role
Video is playing a huge role in the early stages of the trial.
Footage of the minutes before and after Mr Floyd’s fatal arrest were shown from multiple angles on Wednesday, and addressed some of the central issues in one of the most closely watched US police misconduct trials in decades.
Mr Chauvin, 45, pressed his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes last May while trying to arrest him on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill. Mr Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter and third-degree manslaughter.
On Wednesday the court was shown a short recording from Mr Chauvin’s own body camera – the first time the public has heard the former officer’s perspective in the nearly 10 months since his actions triggered worldwide protests.
Mr Chauvin told an eye witness to the incident that he restrained him during an arrest because he was “probably on something”, implying the 46-year-old had taken drugs.
After it was over, Mr Chauvin could be heard coolly telling a horrified bystander why he felt the need to kneel on Mr Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.
“I had to control this guy because he’s a sizeable guy,” he said. “It looks like he’s probably on something.”
Footage from other officers at the scene, including that from Thomas Lane, J Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, was presented to the jury.
Mr Floyd can be heard begging, “Please don’t shoot me … I just lost my mom” in Mr Lane’s recording. Later Mr Floyd calls out to tell his family members that he loves them.
The atmosphere was extremely tense in the courtroom as the police body camera footage was played.
Mr Floyd’s younger brother, Rodney Floyd, shook his head from side to side and hugged his midriff as the video was played.
At one point he glared at Mr Chauvin, who sat watching the video intently.
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