MINNEAPOLIS — The city’s top cop took the witness stand Monday in the murder trial of former officer Derek Chauvin, charged in George Floyd’s death.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo was expected to testify about police training and tactics, but he will not be allowed to discuss Chauvin’s firing for the jurors.
Meanwhile, the doctor who provided emergency care to Floyd at Hennepin County Medical Center was the first person to testify Monday morning. He told jurors that – at the time and based on the information he had available – he believed Floyd died from a lack of oxygen, rather than an overdose or heart attack.
Last week, jurors heard from 19 people including several who witnessed Floyd’s death and broke down in tears on the stand as they described their attempts to intervene on his behalf. On Friday, veteran officer Lt. Richard Zimmerman told the court that Chauvin’s use of force on Floyd was “totally unnecessary.”
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Floyd, a Black man, died in police custody on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin, who is white, pinned his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.
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- Dr. Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld took the witness stand Monday morning. He provided emergency care to Floyd at Hennepin County Medical Center and pronounced him dead.
- Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill on Monday ruled that portions of video from Chauvin’s body camera will be admitted as evidence and shown to the jury.
- A small group of protesters has more or less taken up residence outside Hennepin County Government Center and they promise they’re staying put.
Doctor tells jurors he believed lack of oxygen, not overdose or heart attack, was ‘most likely’ cause of death
Dr. Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld was the first witness called to the stand Monday, testifying that he directed the care of Floyd at Hennepin County Medical Center and spent about 30 minutes trying resuscitate him before pronouncing him dead.
Langenfeld, first licensed in May 2020, was a senior resident at the time who worked under attending physicians. Questioned by prosecutor Jerry Blackwell, Langenfeld said he “provided the majority of direct patient care” to Floyd under the supervision of another doctor, Dr. Ashley Strobel.
Langenfeld testified that the paramedics who brought Floyd to the hospital did not give him any information that Floyd might have overdosed on drugs or suffered a heart attack.
Langenfeld said Floyd had some electrical activity around the heart, but no pulse. His heart monitor eventually flat-lined, Langenfeld said, and Floyd’s heart never resumed beating on its own “to a degree necessary to sustain life.”
“Any time a patient spends in cardiac arrest without CPR markedly decreases the chances of a good outcome,” he said. Langenfeld said there’s approximately a 10-15% decrease in survival rate per every minute that passes without CPR.
Asked by Blackwell what was determined to be the cause of Floyd’s cardiac arrest, Langenfeld said: “At the time, based on the history available to me, I felt that hypoxia was one of the most likely possibilities.” Hypoxia is a lack of oxygen, which Lagenfeld said he believed led to Floyd’s death from asphyxia.
During cross-examination by lead defense attorney Eric Nelson, Langenfeld acknowledged that a combination of fentanyl and methamphetamine could cause hypoxia. A toxicology screen of Floyd after his death found fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system.
Responding to a question from Nelson, Langenfeld testified that a “primary reason” fentanyl is so dangerous is that it depresses the respiratory system. Answering Nelson, Langenfeld agreed that a person could die from using fentanyl even if they had become accustomed to taking the drug.
The testimony was an important moment in the trial. The prosecution is trying to show that Floyd died because of how Chauvin restrained him with a knee to the neck area while the defense is trying to show that other causes – drug use and poor heart health – led to Floyd’s death.
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill on Monday ruled that portions of video from Chauvin’s body camera will be admitted as evidence and shown to the jury.
The portion the defense wants jurors to see shows Chauvin after George Floyd was taken to the hospital. The prosecution said it was not relevant to the use of force and should not be admitted. However, Cahill said the video was relevant because “it shows Mr. Chauvin’s demeanor and actions” immediately after the police struggle and subduing of Floyd.
Cahill said he would not decide until Wednesday on whether to admit additional video footage from the city camera across the street from the site of the struggle. The defense wants that admitted because it covers roughly three hours of video and provides fuller views of the struggle than has been seen so far in videos introduced by the prosecution.
Additionally, Cahill said he would hold a hearing Tuesday to discuss Morries Hall, a man who was in a car with Floyd when police first approached the vehicle. Hall has said he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against testifying as a witness in the trial.
Ten months after George Floyd’s death, his face looks out across a city still raw: The intersection where he died under the knee of a police officer. The neighborhood burned and looted over the following days. The fortified courthouse where that former police officer is being tried on murder charges.
Although the streets are largely empty of mass protests like last summer, calls for justice and reform echo across the city.
“We will be here every day and every night until we see some justice,” said protester Ashley Dorelus, 26, one of the people who have occupied the plaza outside the courthouse. “This is a revolution, ladies and gentlemen. It is not a parade.”
The intersection where Floyd died has become a metaphor for the city as a whole: Still grieving, and with no consensus on exactly how to move forward. City officials want to reopen the intersection when the trial’s over. Activists worry allowing that to happen could permit Floyd to become just one more Black man killed by the cops.
Downtown, the fortified government center and courthouse complex is ringed with razor wire and soldiers. For many protesters and reform advocates, the razor wire, armored cars and camouflaged soldiers with rifles are the ultimate expression of the yawning chasm between the government and the people it’s supposed to be representing.
Lake Street bore the brunt of the destruction last summer, as angry residents first attacked the 3rd Precinct police station where Chauvin and his colleagues were based, and then spread out to liquor stores, pharmacies, the Target and Cub foods stores.
Today, rebuilding is underway for some. Target and Cub have reopened, as have most of the liquor stores. While the broken glass has been swept away and the burned-out buildings demolished, scars linger from last summer’s civil unrest and riots.
Pharmacy owner Elias Usso, 42, said he remains anxious that Lake Street will never be rebuilt as it was, but he said he’s willing to have seen his pharmacy destroyed if that’s what it takes to change the course of history.
“That’s the price we pay for justice. I really see it that way. If there wasn’t a cry out for a Black man getting killed on the street, who would have heard us?” he said. Read more.
— Trevor Hughes
Floyd opioid drug addiction highlighted in Derek Chauvin trial
Like millions of Americans, George Floyd lived with the torment of drug addiction.
He and his girlfriend, Courteney Ross, became addicted to opioids four years ago after they were both prescribed for chronic pain. When the prescriptions ran out, they turned to illegal drug use, she said. They tried to go clean, then failed. They tried again, but could not stop for long.
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the United States, Floyd, the father of two young daughters, started using again during a dark time: he lost his job as a nightclub security guard because of quarantine shutdowns, he was hospitalized for several days after an overdose, he found out he had the coronavirus. On the day he died, his neck trapped under the knee of former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin for more than nine minutes, he had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system, toxicology reports later showed.
Floyd’s death helped launch a global civil rights movement over racial injustice and police violence. The trial over his death could similarly shape how Americans view drug addiction at a time when Black people continue to overwhelmingly be denied medical treatment compared to white Americans even as they suffer from disproportionately high rates of fatal opioid overdoses.
Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, has sought to persuade jurors that drugs – not Chauvin’s knee clamping down on Floyd’s neck as he cried “I can’t breathe” while handcuffed on the ground – contributed to Floyd’s death.
Prosecutors, family members and medical experts have said Floyd’s history of addiction does not explain how he died.
“George was walking, talking, laughing, and breathing just fine before Derek Chauvin held his knee to George’s neck,” Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, lawyers for Floyd’s family, said in a statement Thursday morning. “Tens of thousands of Americans struggle with self-medication and opioid abuse and are treated with dignity, respect and support, not brutality.” Read more.
— Cristina Silva