Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd's shoulder and not his neck, claims lawyer as chief cop disagrees

The 'knee on the shoulder' moment happened for a very few seconds, and just before Chauvin stood up, according to Minneapolis police chief Arradondo

                            Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd's shoulder and not his neck, claims lawyer as chief cop disagrees
Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo testified against Derek Chauvin (Twitter, Getty Images)

The Derek Chauvin trial saw Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo testify this Monday, April 5, claiming that Chauvin defied his own police training by persisting to keep his knee on George Floyd's neck, before the Black man died on May 25, 2020. Chauvin's defense attorney Eric Nelson however insists photo evidence from a video recorded by officers' camera show Chauvin's knee was on Floyd's shoulder blade, rather than his neck. 

"Once Mr Floyd had stopped resisting — and certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalize that — that should have stopped," Arradondo said after explaining the department's policy on when to use force, versus when to use de-escalation tactics to calm the situation.

"There's an initial reasonableness of trying to just get him under control in the first few seconds," Arradondo continued, saying that "once there was no longer any resistance and clearly when Mr Floyd was no longer responsive and even motionless", there was no need to continue to apply that "level of force". He added, "that in no way shape or form is anything that is by policy, part of our training and is certainly not part of our ethics or values."


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Did Chauvin kneel on Floyd's neck or shoulder?

The prosecution's contention, which had been raised earlier, about Floyd not receiving proper medical care, came up again. Nelson cited footage from one of the officer's body camera footage and the audio caught the words "We've got an ambulance coming" at around 8:20 pm that night. This was after Chauvin had knelt on Floyd's neck for allegedly 9 minutes and 29 seconds.

Using two different videos, Nelson showed the angle from the bystander's video that shows Chauvin's knee on Floyd's neck, the chief said. The other angle, from an officer's body cam, appeared to show Chauvin's knee on Floyd's shoulder blade.

While Arrandondo agreed and the prosecution didn't challenge the views, it was highlighted that this 'knee on the shoulder' moment happened for a very few seconds, and just before Chauvin stood up. Arradondo, 54, who has been with the department since 1989, the last three years as its chief, has been critical of Chauvin ever since Floyd's death.

Answering prosecutor Steve Schleicher, Arradondo said, "It is my firm belief that the one singular incident we will be judged forever on will be our use of force. While it is absolutely imperative that our officers go home at the end of their shift, we want to make sure our community members do too."

A protester holds a sign with a photo of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin during demonstrations following the death of George Floyd on May 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Chauvin was taken into custody for Floyd's death. Chauvin has been accused of kneeling on Floyd's neck as he pleaded with him about not being able to breathe. Floyd was pronounced dead a short while later. Chauvin and 3 other officers, who were involved in the arrest, were fired from the police department after a video of the arrest was circulated. (Getty Images)

Counterfeit bill is 'typically not' an arrestable offense

Arradondo also believes paying with a $20 counterfeit bill -- which Floyd was being arrested for -- is 'typically not' an allegation that calls for arrest, since it's not a violent felony. Noting that officers must use force sometimes, Arradondo also shared in his testimony the department's motto 'to serve with compassion.'

He said "To serve with compassion means to me to understand and authentically accept that we see our neighbors as ourselves, we value one another, we see our community as necessary or our existence," he said.

Arradondo's testimony has been the longest one the trial has seen from any single witness, as of now. He said he had watched the bystander video of Floyd's arrest the same night it had happened.

"When I look at [the bystander's video], and when I look at the facial expression of Mr Floyd, that does not appear in any way shape or form [to be] moderate pressure," that the department policy advises in such scenarios, according to Arradondo. He also testified that he had viewed city-operated street cameras to get a look at the arrest, but the audio wasn't legible enough. 


A mural painted by artist Kenny Altidor depicting George Floyd is unveiled on a sidewall of CTown Supermarket on July 13, 2020 in the Brooklyn borough New York City. George Floyd was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis and his death has sparked a national reckoning about race and policing in the United States. (Getty Images)

George Floyd's cause of death

Not long after, "A community member contacted me and said 'Chief, have you seen the video of your officer choking and killing that man at 38th and Chicago?'" Arradondo said. "And so once I heard that statement, I just knew it wasn't the same milestone camera video that I saw. Eventually, within minutes after, I saw for the first time what is now known as the bystander video." Testifying that "It's been many years, sir," since he last arrested a suspect, Arradondo said, "the use of force is something that most officers would rather not use."

Arradondo's testimony followed that of the HCMC doctor who was at the scene to declare Floyd dead. The doctor testified that Floyd didn't have a heartbeat "sufficient to sustain life" when he arrived; he also added that the patient's cardiac arrest was due to a lack of oxygen. "Is there another term for that?" Jerry Blackwell, the prosecutor, asked Dr Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld, who was HCMC's senior medical resident when Floyd was taken there following the detaining incident. Langenfeld said Floyd's cause of death, which is the focal point of argument between the prosecution and defense, was "Asphyxia."

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