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The most senior police officer in the Minneapolis Police Department testified Friday that Derek Chauvin’s use of force against George Floyd was “totally unnecessary” and violated police protocols.

“Pulling him down to the ground face-down and putting your knee on a neck for that amount of time is just uncalled for,” Lt. Richard Zimmerman, who leads the police department’s homicide unit and has served since 1985, said. “I saw no reason why the officers felt they were in danger, if that’s what they felt, and that’s what they would have to feel to be able to use that kind of force.”

Zimmerman testified that he had never been trained to kneel on the neck of someone who is handcuffed and lying in a prone position, and he categorized that use of force as “deadly.” He went on to explain that people who have been handcuffed shouldn’t be placed on the ground in a prone position because it constricts their breathing. “Once a person is cuffed, you need to turn them on their side or have them sit up,” he said. “You need to get them off their chest.”

“If your knee is on a person’s neck, that can kill them,” he concluded.

Zimmerman’s testimony also seemed to knock down the defense’s suggestion that the crowd of people watching from the sidewalk on the day of Floyd’s death distracted the police officers. “It doesn’t matter, the crowd, as long as they’re not attacking you,” he said. “The crowd really shouldn’t have an effect on your actions.”

Zimmerman’s statements came on the fifth day of the trial, capping a week of testimony from witnesses including the then-17-year-old who videotaped Floyd’s death and an off-duty firefighter who said cops on the scene wouldn’t let her give Floyd medical attention.

The defense, as my colleague Nathalie Baptiste writes, has trotted out an old racist trope, implying that Floyd was so strong and powerful that the only way to subdue him was to kill him. This suggestion, Nathalie writes, is incompatible with the defense’s assertion that Floyd’s cause of death was “a combination of drug intoxication, heart disease, and an enlarged heart.” “So which is it?” she asks. “Was Floyd a superhuman Black man incapable of feeling pain or was he one normal interaction away from death?”

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