Derek Chauvin trial: George Floyd’s ability to speak didn’t mean he had enough air, says Minneapolis police medic

Nicole Mackenzie, the medical support coordinator with the Minneapolis Police Department, gave her testimony in the trial of Derek Chauvin on Tuesday. Mackenzie testified that, 'Just because they are speaking does not mean they are breathing adequately'


                            Derek Chauvin trial: George Floyd’s ability to speak didn’t mean he had enough air, says Minneapolis police medic
Officer Nicole Mackenzie appeared in court on Tuesday, April 6, as the third witness in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin (Getty Images)

A former EMT and the medical support coordinator with the Minneapolis Police Department appeared in court on Tuesday afternoon, April 6, as the third witness in the trial of Derek Chauvin. Giving her testimony in the court, officer Nicole Mackenzie said just because George Floyd was able to complain that he couldn’t breathe while Chauvin was allegedly kneeling on his neck for minutes, it did not mean he had enough supply of air.

Chauvin is facing several charges in the murder of Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man, who died in police custody on May 25 last year. The former officer has been accused of his murder after he was caught on videos kneeling on Floyd's neck for several minutes while he struggled to breathe during an arrest over a counterfeit $20 bill.

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On Tuesday, when defense attorney Eric Nelson asked Mackenzie, who gives training to officers in medical support, about “agonal breathing,” she explained to him the difference between agonal breathing and effective breathing. She added that agonal breathing is actually irregular gasps for air, which generally happens to people in agony.

Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter (Ramsey County Sheriff's Office)

Nelson further questioned Mackenzie if people can get confused between agonal breathing and effective breathing. She replied, “It can be easily confused with real breathing, so that's why we teach 'This is not effective breathing.’” The medical support coordinator was further pressed by the defense asking things like if “certain circumstances where there's a lot of noise, or a lot of commotion” would make it difficult for an officer to confuse agonal breathing with effective breathing. To which she stated, “Yes.”

However, when Mackenzie was asked by the prosecutor Steve Schleicher if the officers are provided training on “that if a person can talk, that means that they can breathe?” She responded negatively and when asked about the reason, she added: “That would be incomplete to say, because there is a possibility somebody could be in respiratory distress and still being able to verbalize it. Just because they are speaking does not mean they are breathing adequately.”

Later, Schleicher asked Mackenzie, “Do the activities of a group of onlookers excuse a police officer from the duty to render emergency medical aid to a subject who needs it?” She clarified, “Only if they were physically getting themselves involved, I would say.” When the prosecutor specifically asked, “If the officer was physically prevented from doing it?” Mackenzie remarked, “Yes, if an officer was being physically assaulted.”

A portrait of George Floyd sits among flowers at a memorial near the site where George Floyd died at the hands of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on March 28, 2021, in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Getty Images)

People on Twitter also reacted to Mackenzie’s testimony as one person commented, “Seems like a poor defense saying he needed CPR and narcan but never a ministered it.” Another one tweeted, “This is common in a public view emergency.. normal for public to react .. this witness not making sense.. text book explaining is much different then physically doing the hands on job everyday.” “Wait. Let's start with what role did she play on May 25. Did she do anything with the co-responder program. If she hasn't done anything, why not?” the third user added.



 



 



 

Last week, paramedics who reached the scene after Floyd’s arrest testified in court. Hennepin County paramedic Derek Smith said, “In lay terms, I thought he was dead. When I arrived to the scene there were no medical services being provided to the patient.” Smith added: “Any layperson could do chest compressions. There’s no reason Minneapolis [police] couldn’t start chest compressions.”

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