ST. PAUL, Minn. >> A Minneapolis police officer who oversaw medical training for two of the three former officers charged with violating George Floyd’s civil rights testified Tuesday that the officers failed to follow their training to do everything they could to prevent his death.
Officer Nicole Mackenzie, the department’s medical support coordinator, took the stand for a second day in the federal trial of J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. She testified Monday that Kueng and Lane were in a police academy “emergency medical responder” class that she taught, which covered first aid, ethics in care and how to hand people off to paramedics. On Tuesday, Mackenzie also discussed refresher training that Thao would have received.
Prosecutor Allan Slaughter played body camera video in which Floyd repeatedly complains, “I can’t breathe,” as Officer Derek Chauvin kneels on the Black man’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes while Floyd is handcuffed, facedown. Mackenzie said what she saw and heard was “inconsistent” with what Kueng and Lane were trained to do and with departmental policies. She said they should have stood or sat Floyd up or rolled him onto his side.
Mackenzie also said what she saw and heard of Thao’s actions when reviewing his body camera video was “inconsistent” with officers’ training because she saw no efforts to render aid.
Kueng, Lane and Thao are accused of depriving Floyd, 46, of his rights when they failed to give him medical aid. Kueng and Thao are also accused of failing to intervene in the May 2020 killing, which triggered protests worldwide and a reexamination of racism and policing.
Previous testimony has established that Chauvin — the most senior officer on the scene with 19 years of experience — told his fellow officers after Floyd became unresponsive and they couldn’t find a pulse to wait for an ambulance that was on its way. Officers kept restraining Floyd until the ambulance got there, according to testimony and video footage.
Mackenzie testified Tuesday that it’s been the standard “as long as I’ve been around” that officers are supposed to call for an ambulance and begin CPR right away if they can’t find a pulse. She said they’re told not to wait even if an ambulance is already on the way.
“If you can’t detect a pulse after about 10 seconds, then you should begin CPR,” Mackenzie testified.
Defense attorneys contend the officers received inadequate training and have challenged statements by officials that Minneapolis officers are not trained to use their knees to pin people down the way Chauvin did.
Thao’s attorney, Robert Paule, again suggested that the officers were concerned that Floyd was in an agitated state known as excited delirium, though experts have testified he did not appear to be suffering from the disputed condition.
Paule played videos of some Minneapolis police academy training scenarios. Mackenzie acknowledged that one showed a cadet using his knee on someone’s neck, similar to what Chauvin did with Floyd, and that the cadet’s instructor did not correct him.
Paule also asked Mackenzie about a photo, used in training that Thao would have received, that shows an officer using his knee to gain control of someone believed to be suffering from excited delirium.
Kueng’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett suggested that the photo was “problematic to say the least” because it could lead officers to do the wrong thing. Mackenzie acknowledged that it was, “within the context of current events.”
Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, highlighted Lane’s attempts to persuade Chauvin to roll Floyd on his side only to be rebuffed; how it was Lane who first called for an ambulance, then told Thao to upgrade the call to lights-and-sirens as Floyd deteriorated; how Lane asked Kueng if he could find a pulse; and how Lane performed chest compressions on Floyd in the ambulance.
“He did pretty much everything he was trained to do at the school, correct?” Gray asked.
“To a certain degree, yes,” Mackenzie replied.
But Slaughter later asked Mackenzie to say why that was not enough.
“Suggesting aid and actually rendering aid are two very different things,” she responded.
Kueng, who is Black, Lane, who is white, and Thao, who is Hmong American, are charged with willfully depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights while acting under government authority. The charges allege that the officers’ actions resulted in Floyd’s death.
Chauvin, who is white, was convicted of murder and manslaughter in state court last year and was sentenced to 22 1/2 years. He pleaded guilty in December to a federal civil rights charge.
Lane, Kueng and Thao also face a separate state trial in June on charges alleging that they aided and abetted murder and manslaughter.