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Expert: Chauvin Never Took Knee Off Floyd’s Neck

A general view outside the Hennepin County Government Center on April 5, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd’s neck — and was bearing down with most of his weight — the entire time the Black man lay facedown with his hands cuffed behind his back, a use-of-force expert testified Wednesday at Chauvin’s murder trial.

Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant serving as a prosecution witness, said that based on his review of video evidence, Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s neck from the time officers put Floyd on the ground until paramedics arrived — about 9 1/2 minutes, by prosecutors’ reckoning.

Prosecutor Steve Schleicher showed jurors a composite image of five photos taken from various videos of the arrest. Stiger went through each photo, saying it appeared that the Minneapolis officer’s left knee was on Floyd’s neck or neck area in each one.

“That particular force did not change during the entire restraint period?” Schleicher asked.

“Correct,” Stiger replied.

Stiger’s testimony came a day after Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson sought to point out moments in the video footage when, he said, Chauvin’s knee did not appear to be on Floyd’s neck.

Chauvin, 45, is charged with murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death May 25. Floyd, 46, was arrested outside a neighborhood market after being accused of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. A panicky-sounding Floyd writhed and claimed to be claustrophobic as police tried to put him in the squad car, and they put him down on the pavement.

Bystander video of Floyd crying that he couldn’t breathe as onlookers yelled at Chauvin to get off him sparked protests and scattered violence around the U.S. and triggered a reckoning over racism and police brutality.

Nelson has argued that the now-fired white officer “did exactly what he had been trained to do over his 19-year career,” and he has suggested that the illegal drugs in Floyd’s system and his underlying health conditions are what killed him, not Chauvin’s knee.

Nelson has also contended that the officers on the scene perceived the onlookers as an increasingly hostile crowd and were distracted by them. On Tuesday, the defense attorney got some police witnesses to acknowledge that jeering onlookers can make it more difficult for officers to do their duty.

But on Wednesday, Stiger told the jury, “I did not perceive them as being a threat,” even though some onlookers were name-calling and using foul language. He added that most of the yelling was due to “their concern for Mr. Floyd.”

Stiger also testified that Chauvin squeezed Floyd’s fingers and pulled one of his wrists toward his handcuffs, a technique that uses pain to get someone to comply, but he did not appear to let up while Floyd was restrained.

“Then at that point it’s just pain,” Stiger said.

During cross-examination, Chauvin’s lawyer noted that dispatchers had described Floyd as between 6 feet and 6-foot-6 and possibly under the influence. Stiger agreed it was reasonable for Chauvin to come to the scene with a heightened sense of awareness.

Stiger also agreed with Nelson that an officer’s actions must be viewed from the point of view of a reasonable officer on the scene, not in hindsight.

The defense attorney also suggested that when Chauvin told Floyd to “relax,” he was trying to calm him down and reassure him. And Nelson said that given typical EMS response times, it was reasonable for Chauvin to believe that paramedics would be there soon.

It was Stiger’s second day on the stand. On Tuesday, he testified that the force used against Floyd was excessive. He said police were justified in using force while Floyd was resisting their efforts to put him in a squad car. But once Floyd was on the ground and stopped resisting, officers “should have slowed down or stopped their force as well.”

Instead of closing ranks to protect a fellow officer behind what has been dubbed the “blue wall of silence,” some of the most experienced members of the Minneapolis force, including the police chief, have taken the stand to openly condemn Chauvin’s actions as excessive and contrary to his training and departmental policy.

According to testimony and records submitted in court, Chauvin underwent training in 2016 and 2018 in de-escalation techniques to calm down people in crisis and instruction in how officers must use the least amount of force required to get a suspect to comply.

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Find AP’s full coverage of the death of George Floyd at: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd

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Webber reported from Fenton, Mich.

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