Coates: Detective gives damning testimony in Chauvin trial


The Minneapolis Police Department’s top homicide detective testified that kneeling on George Floyd’s neck after he had been handcuffed was “totally unnecessary,” saying that “if your knee is on someone’s neck — that could kill them.”
Lt. Richard Zimmerman, head of the homicide division for more than 12 years, testified Friday that Derek Chauvin’s actions violated policy by pressing his weight down on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes while the man was handcuffed and in a prone position. Police are not trained to kneel on a person’s neck, he said.
“Once the person is cuffed, the threat level goes down all the way,” the lieutenant told jurors at Chauvin’s murder trial.
“How can that person hurt you?” he asked, adding that “you getting injured is way down.” Keeping the person handcuffed and in a prone position “restricts their breathing,” he said.
Asked by prosecutor Matthew Frank if he was ever trained to kneel on a person, Zimmerman said no.
“Because if your knee is on someone’s neck — that could kill them,” the lieutenant said.
Chauvin at that point raised his head at the defense table and shot a look at Zimmerman.
The potentially devastating testimony by the department’s most senior officer came on the abbreviated fifth day of testimony in the closely-watched trial. Judge Peter Cahill sent jurors home early because the trial was ahead of schedule. Testimony resumes Monday.
Zimmerman said Chauvin’s actions were “uncalled for” and “totally unnecessary.”
“You need to get them off their chest,” the veteran investigator said at one point. “If you’re lying on your chest, that’s constricting your breathing even more.”
Zimmerman was a signatory to an open letter last year in which Minneapolis officers condemned Chauvin.
Under cross-examination, Zimmerman agreed that an unconscious person can become combative when revived, kicking and thrashing around.
Defense lawyer Eric Nelson sought to show that policing has changed significantly since Zimmerman got his training. He tried to draw attention to Zimmerman’s limited use of force experience as an investigator compared to a patrol officer.
While not trained to use a knee on the neck of a suspect, Zimmerman told Nelson that officers in a fight for their life are allowed to use whatever force is reasonable and necessary.
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Robert Dunfee