MINNEAPOLIS — The police officer had seen a whole bunch of crime scenes, interviewed scores of witnesses and made his share of arrests over greater than 35 years working circumstances in Minneapolis.

But when Lt. Richard Zimmerman watched a video of certainly one of his colleagues kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, he noticed what he described in a courtroom on Friday as a “totally unnecessary” violation of division coverage.

“Pulling him down to the ground facedown and putting your knee on a neck for that amount of time, it’s just uncalled-for,” testified Lieutenant Zimmerman, who’s the longest-serving officer on the Minneapolis police drive. His feedback got here on the finish of the primary week within the trial of Derek Chauvin, the previous police officer charged with murdering Mr. Floyd alongside a Minneapolis avenue final May.

Police officers have typically been accused of sticking collectively on questions of misconduct — avoiding breaking a so-called blue wall of silence — so the sworn testimony towards Mr. Chauvin by a high-ranking officer was all of the extra extraordinary.

Only a day earlier, one other police official, who had immediately supervised Mr. Chauvin, testified that Mr. Chauvin and two different officers ought to have stopped restraining Mr. Floyd sooner. And within the coming week town’s police chief, Medaria Arradondo, who has referred to as Mr. Floyd’s dying a “murder,” can also be anticipated to sentence Mr. Chauvin’s actions from the witness stand.

All of it appeared to undermine an assertion that Mr. Chauvin’s legal professionals have made a central level within the former officer’s protection — that Mr. Chauvin’s conduct as he arrested Mr. Floyd was throughout the bounds of his police coaching.

Lieutenant Zimmerman, 62, who peppered his testimony with references to his lengthy profession in regulation enforcement and concurred with a lawyer’s suggestion that he had joined the division as an “old-school cop” in 1985, was unwavering in his evaluation of Mr. Chauvin’s actions. He typically turned to talk on to the 12 jurors who’re anticipated to determine the decision.

“If you’re kneeling on a person’s neck, that can kill him,” stated Lieutenant Zimmerman, who has led the Minneapolis division’s murder unit since 2008. Officers are supposed to show individuals onto their sides or sit them up as soon as they’re restrained, he stated, as a result of leaving them in susceptible positions could make it exhausting to breathe.

Mr. Chauvin and two different cops had continued to pin Mr. Floyd, who was handcuffed, towards the bottom after he was not responsive. That choice, Lieutenant Zimmerman prompt, meant the officers had violated their obligation to deal with somebody of their custody.

“His safety is your responsibility,” he advised the courtroom. “His well-being is your responsibility.”

Lieutenant Zimmerman testified on the fifth day of the high-profile trial, which started 10 months after Mr. Floyd’s dying set off world protests over racism and police abuse. Jurors have heard from greater than a dozen witnesses, together with the teenager who filmed the broadly seen video of Mr. Chauvin kneeling on Mr. Floyd for greater than 9 minutes, the convenience store clerk who advised his supervisor that Mr. Floyd had paid for cigarettes utilizing a pretend $20 invoice, and Mr. Floyd’s girlfriend, who described their shared struggle with opioid addiction.

The testimony from police officers, although, marked a shift to a special part of the case: Prosecutors have stated they are going to present that Mr. Chauvin’s actions have been unusually brutal — and amounted to a criminal offense.

In cross-examining Lieutenant Zimmerman, Eric J. Nelson, the lawyer for Mr. Chauvin, prompt that the lieutenant’s expertise on the streets may be dated. Lieutenant Zimmerman had not usually patrolled the streets as a uniformed officer since 1993, Mr. Nelson famous, providing that he would possibly not be acquainted with the drive wanted. At one level, Mr. Nelson requested Lieutenant Zimmerman when he had final gotten right into a struggle with somebody whereas on obligation; 2018, the lieutenant answered.

Under questioning, Lieutenant Zimmerman acknowledged that individuals typically change into extra combative when revived after a interval of unconsciousness and stated that cops had been skilled to kneel on individuals’s shoulders, in some circumstances, whereas handcuffing them.

He stated that after persons are handcuffed, they often current solely a minor risk, although they will nonetheless be combative and attempt to damage officers, corresponding to by kicking them.

“Once a person is cuffed, the threat level goes down all the way,” Lieutenant Zimmerman stated. “They’re cuffed; how can they really hurt you?”

In physique digital camera footage proven to jurors, Mr. Floyd could be seen in handcuffs when Mr. Chauvin first kneels on his neck. Paramedics testified this week that his heart had stopped by the point they arrived.

All of the witnesses to this point have been referred to as by prosecutors, who’re anticipated to name extra witnesses subsequent week, after which Mr. Chauvin’s protection group can start laying out its arguments in earnest.

In opening statements, the protection has prompt that Mr. Floyd’s dying, which the county health worker dominated a murder, may very well have been brought on by the fentanyl and methamphetamine present in his system. Mr. Chauvin’s protection group has additionally indicated that he was following procedures that he had realized in his coaching.

Yet Sgt. David Pleoger, who was Mr. Chauvin’s supervisor and who testified for the prosecution on Thursday, stated that officers ought to have stopped holding Mr. Floyd down as soon as he grew to become unresponsive.

He additionally stated that Mr. Chauvin had at first not divulged that he knelt on Mr. Floyd. In an preliminary telephone name with Sergeant Pleoger, minutes after Mr. Floyd was taken to a hospital, Mr. Chauvin stated that he and different officers “had to hold the guy down” as a result of Mr. Floyd wouldn’t keep at the back of a police automotive and was “going crazy.” About 30 minutes later, when officers realized that Mr. Floyd’s situation was grave, Sergeant Pleoger stated, Mr. Chauvin acknowledged that he had pressed on Mr. Floyd’s neck.

Lieutenant Zimmerman’s courtroom testimony was not the primary time he had rebuked Mr. Chauvin’s conduct, nor the primary time he had testified towards a fellow officer. In a 2019 homicide case towards Mohamed Noor, a Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot an unarmed woman, Lieutenant Zimmerman testified that the scene of the shooting was well-lit, contradicting claims by Mr. Noor’s legal professionals that it had been tough to see. Mr. Noor was convicted of third-degree homicide, the much less critical of two homicide costs that Mr. Chauvin faces.

After Mr. Floyd’s dying and the unrest that adopted, Lieutenant Zimmerman was amongst 14 veteran cops who published a public letter condemning Mr. Chauvin. He had “failed as a human and stripped George Floyd of his dignity and life,” the officers wrote, including {that a} “vast majority” of cops felt the identical. The officers stated within the letter, which was addressed to the residents of Minneapolis, that they hoped to regain the general public’s belief.

“This is not who we are,” they wrote.

Tim Arango reported from Minneapolis, and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs from New York. Neil MacFarquhar contributed reporting from New York.



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