A Los Angeles Police Department use of force expert testified Wednesday that the force former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin used against George Floyd was deadly force.
Sgt. Jody Stiger, hired by prosecutors to review Chauvin’s use of force and testify, said based on his analysis, the force Chauvin used was “excessive” and falls under the deadly force category. Stiger said once Floyd was handcuffed, in the prone position and no longer resisting, the force should have stopped.
Stiger is one of several members of law enforcement who offered testimony so far. Prosecutors are presenting their case first as they have the burden of proof.
Chauvin, who is white, is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the fatal arrest of Floyd on Memorial Day. Floyd, who was Black, was arrested after he allegedly attempted to pass a counterfeit $20 bill at Cup Foods, a corner market in Minneapolis. Stiger observed that Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds, and that the force did not change or lessen that entire time.
According to prosecutors, Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck while Floyd was handcuffed behind his back and pinned to the ground face-down by Chauvin and two other officers. Prosecutor’s argue Floyd’s death was caused by Chauvin’s force which led to asphyxia, or low oxygen.
But the defense has argued that Chauvin did what he was trained to do and blame Floyd’s drug use, heart disease, high blood pressure and adrenaline for his death.
Widely circulated bystander video of Floyd’s death sparked protests and rioting in the Twin Cities and elsewhere along with an international reckoning on the relationship between police and people of color.
Chauvin and three fellow officers were fired and charged in Floyd’s death; the others face a separate trial in August.
Stiger’s testimony began Tuesday afternoon and continued Wednesday morning.
Prosecutor Steve Schleicher asked Stiger his opinion of the bystander crowd that had gathered at the scene.
“I did not perceive them as a threat,” he said.
Schleicher showed a document verifying that Chauvin had completed 867 hours of police training at the time of the incident. Schleicher asked Stiger if that was enough time to be trained on how to handle Floyd’s arrest.
“Absolutely,” Stiger answered.
Stiger also observed that Chauvin was using a pain compliance technique to squeeze Floyd’s hand or dig his wrist into the handcuffs while he knelt on him to get Floyd to obey.
Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, heavily questioned Stiger on his testimony. Nelson emphasized with Stiger that police departments have different rules and may use different techniques or tools to carry out a use of force.
Stiger agreed with Nelson that the “totality of the circumstances” needs to be considered, and officers enter situations with a more heightened sense of awareness or risk than an average citizen.
Nelson also played a clip of body worn camera footage of the arrest and asked Stiger if Floyd can be heard saying “I ate too many drugs.” Stiger said he could not make that out.