Police trainer testifies against officers in Floyd’s death

Published 5:20 pm Tuesday, February 8, 2022

ST. PAUL — 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 were trained to give CPR as soon as they fail to find a pulse on someone.

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 the refresher training that experienced officers get, including Thao.

“If you can’t detect a pulse after about 10 seconds, then you should begin CPR,” Mackenzie testified.

Lane and Kueng were rookies, just a few days out of field training, when they were dispatched to a call alleging that Floyd had tried to pass a counterfeit $20 bill at a neighborhood market in May 2020. They were soon joined by two more experienced officers, Derek Chauvin and Thao, and the ensuing confrontation led to Floyd’s death.

Kueng, Lane and Thao are accused of depriving Floyd, 46, of his rights when they failed to give him medical aid as Chauvin knelt on the Black man’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes as Floyd was handcuffed, facedown. Kueng and Thao are also accused of failing to intervene in the killing, which triggered protests worldwide and a reexamination of racism and policing.

A lung specialist testified Monday that Floyd could have been saved if the officers had moved him into a position in which he could breathe more easily, and that his chances of survival would have “doubled or tripled” if they had performed CPR as soon as his heart stopped.

Mackenzie testified Monday that cadets are taught on their first day about the need to roll subjects into the “side recovery position” so they can breathe instead of keeping them prone on their stomachs. Their first day also would have included training on ethics, she said, including how responders have a duty of care to people in medical emergencies. She went through excerpts from a textbook that she said they would have been required to read before class.

On Tuesday, Mackenzie testified 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.

Previous testimony has established that Chauvin 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.

Slaughter played a portion of Lane’s body camera video in which a handcuffed Floyd, prone on his stomach, repeatedly complains, “I can’t breathe.” 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.

She also said officers are never taught that someone who can talk can breathe, as one of the officers is heard suggesting.

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, 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.