A former Minneapolis police supervisory sergeant testified Thursday that he believes the officers who restrained George Floyd could have ended it after he stopped resisting.
The sergeant, David Pleoger, who recently retired from the Minneapolis Police Department after a 27-year career in law enforcement, was called to the witness stand by the prosecution in Derek Chauvin's trial on charges of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Prosecutor Steve Schleicher asked Pleoger, the police supervisor who was on the scene May 25, after Chauvin pinned Floyd under his knee for more than 9 minutes: "Based upon your review of this incident, do you believe that the restraint should have ended at some point in the encounter?"
Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, objected, arguing that Pleoger had reviewed only the police officers' body camera video.
Testimony paused while the judge and the lawyers conferred privately.
The judge, Peter Cahill, then ordered the jury out of the courtroom, and the lawyers argued over whether there was a foundation for the question.
Cahill ultimately told Schleicher that his previous question was withdrawn but that he could ask Pleoger in front of the jury: "Do you have an opinion as to when the restraint of Mr. Floyd should have ended in this encounter?" — which he did.
Pleoger responded: "When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could have ended their restraint."
"And that was after he was handcuffed and on the ground and no longer resisting?" Schleicher asked.
"Correct," Pleoger said.
The question speaks directly to whether Chauvin violated police use-of-force policies, which is at the heart of the prosecution's case.
During opening statements Monday, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell told the jury, "The evidence is going to show you that there was no cause in the first place to use lethal force against a man who was defenseless, who was handcuffed, who was not resisting."
He told the jurors that they would hear from Pleoger, the supervisor who took a call from 911 dispatcher Jena Scurry, who testified this week that she was concerned by what she saw on a live video feed of Floyd's arrest.
"You can call me a snitch if you want to," Scurry told Pleoger, according to audio of the call. "I don't know if they had used force or not. They got something out of the back of the squad, and all of them sat on this man."
Scurry testified Monday that a "gut instinct" led her to call Pleoger. "My instincts were telling me that something's wrong. Something's not right," Scurry testified. "I don't know what, but something wasn't right."
Pleoger testified that Chauvin did not immediately tell him that he placed his knee on Floyd's neck. Pleoger arrived at the scene after Floyd was taken away in an ambulance. He then went to the Hennepin County hospital where Floyd had been taken and he instructed Chauvin and another officer at the scene, Tou Thao, to do the same.
Pleoger said he again spoke with Chauvin at the hospital, and it was then that he learned Chauvin had put his knee on Floyd's neck, but he was not told how long pressure was applied. Pleoger testified that officers are trained to roll people on their side "so they can breathe easier" after they have been restrained in the prone position.
Thursday's testimony included appearances by two paramedics and another first responder, who talked about what happened after an ambulance arrived outside Cup Foods, the convenience store where a cashier claimed Floyd had used a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes. A 911 call from a clerk at the store touched off the fatal confrontation between police and Floyd.