Police trainer testifies against officers in Floyd’s death

ST. PAUL, Minnesota — A Minneapolis police officer who oversaw medical training for two of the three former officers charged with civil rights violations by George Floyd is scheduled to testify again Tuesday at their federal trial what they were taught.

Officer Nicole Mackenzie, the department’s medical support coordinator, testified Monday that J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane were in an “emergency medicine” class she teaches at a police academy, which covered first aid, ethics in the care and handing over of people went to paramedics.

Lane and Kueng were freshmen just days after field training when they were sent on a call claiming that Floyd attempted to hand over a fake $20 bill at a neighborhood market in April 2020. Two more experienced officers, Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao, were soon added, and the ensuing confrontation resulted in Floyd’s death.

On Thursday, a lung specialist testified that Floyd could have been saved if officers had moved him to a position where he could breathe easier and that his chances of survival would have “doubled or tripled” if they performed CPR so quickly would have when his heart stopped.

Floyd died with his upper airway compressed by Chauvin’s knees, while his position on hard tarmac with his hands tied behind his back – as Kueng and Lane helped hold him down while Thao held the crowd back – didn’t allow his lungs to expand, he said dr David Systrom, a pulmonologist and critical care physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Kueng, Lane and Thao are accused in the case of depriving Floyd, 46, of his rights when they failed to provide him medical attention when Chauvin knelt on the black man’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes. Kueng and Thao are also accused of not intervening in the killing, which sparked global protests and a scrutiny of racism and policing.

Mackenzie testified that on their very first day, cadets are instructed on the need to roll subjects into the “side recovery position” so they can breathe, rather than hold them on their stomachs. Her first day would also have included ethics training, she said, including how responders have a duty of care to people in medical emergencies. And she went through excerpts from a textbook she said they should have read before class

Systrom, who is also an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, testified that video from Kueng’s body camera shows him holding Floyd’s wrist while pressing it onto Floyd’s back, which would have prevented Floyd from releasing the pressure. In video from Lane’s body camera, it appears Kueng’s knee is putting pressure on Floyd’s abdomen, Systrom said. He said “it’s hard to know” if Floyd would have died had it not been for the pressure exerted by Kueng.

He said Lane’s restriction of Floyd’s legs also prevented Floyd from breathing properly.

Prosecutor Manda Sertich asked what could have been done before Floyd lost consciousness. Systrom responded that it “could have been as simple as taking a knee to relieve upper airway pressure” or letting Floyd sit.

When asked about Floyd’s chances of survival if officers had started CPR immediately after his cardiac arrest, Systrom replied, “They would have been doubled or tripled.”

dr Hennepin County Chief Medical Officer Andrew Baker testified last week that Floyd died after police “repression, restraint and neck compression” caused his heart and lungs to stop.

While Baker did not identify asphyxiation as the cause of Floyd’s death, under cross-examination by Thao’s attorney Robert Paule, Systrom agreed that his opinion was “quite different.” He noted that Baker said he would consult a pulmonologist and other experts on some questions.

Systrom, when asked by Kueng’s attorney Tom Plunkett, admitted that it’s difficult to tell from videos how much pressure Kueng is putting on Floyd. But he said all the pressure points on Floyd’s body “added up.”

Systrom also said he reviewed several videos, Floyd’s medical records, Baker’s grand jury transcripts and expert testimony at Chauvin’s murder trial over the past year to put together a “big picture.” When Plunkett suggested Systrom had much more information available than Kueng, Systrom pushed back.

“In my opinion, attorney, Mr. Kueng had a front row seat to what was going on,” Systrom said.

Lane’s attorney, Earl Grey, got Systrom to confirm that Lane had asked Kueng to check Floyd’s pulse after he could not find one in Floyd’s ankle and that Lane got into the ambulance with paramedics to try to revive Floyd.

Kueng, a black man, Lane, a white man, and Thao, a Hmong-American, are accused of willfully stripping Floyd of his constitutional rights while acting under government authority. The prosecution alleges that the officers’ actions led to Floyd’s death.

Chauvin was sentenced to 22 1/2 years by a state court last year on murder and manslaughter charges. He pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights lawsuit in December.

Lane, Kueng and Thao also face separate state trials in June on charges of assisting in murder and manslaughter.

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For AP’s full coverage of the killing of George Floyd, go to: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd

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