George Floyd death: Ex-Minneapolis cops' attorneys question police training

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Attorneys representing the three former Minneapolis police officers standing trial in federal court on charges related to George Floyd’s death questioned a top officer Monday about the department’s training on restraints and an officer’s duty to intervene, as well as a culture that they say teaches new officers not to question their superiors.

The former head of training for the Minneapolis Police Department, Inspector Katie Blackwell, has testified that former Officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao acted in a way that was “inconsistent” with department policies. Blackwell, who testified Monday for her third day, said the trio defied MPD training by failing to intervene to stop Chauvin, not rolling Floyd onto his side when he stopped resisting, and not providing medical aid when he stopped breathing and they couldn’t find a pulse.

Federal prosecutors say Kueng, Lane and Thao violated their training by failing to act to save Floyd’s life on May 25, 2020, when fellow Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on the Black man’s neck for 9 and a half minutes while Floyd was handcuffed face down and struggling to breathe. Kueng allegedly kneeled on Floyd’s back, Lane held his legs and Thao kept bystanders back.

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FILE - This combination of photos provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office in Minnesota on  June 3, 2020, shows, from left, former Minneapolis police officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. 

FILE – This combination of photos provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota on  June 3, 2020, shows, from left, former Minneapolis police officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. 
(Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office via AP, File)

Thao’s attorney, Robert Paule, on Monday challenged Blackwell on whether the officers received adequate training, including on the use of neck restraints. He also presented the department’s training materials on how to recognize and stop someone experiencing “excited delirium” — an agitated state that the training materials say could warrant a more forceful restraint.

The materials Paule presented, taken from in-service training that Thao would have received, say someone experiencing excited delirium, which is a disputed condition, can exhibit extraordinary strength. In the videos, people behave erratically, were not stopped by Tasers and sometimes got away from police restraint.

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Blackwell previously testified that people should be rolled onto their side or placed upright after they are restrained. But in the materials shown Monday, only one sentence in a training slide says officers should put a person in the side recovery position.

FILE - This image from video shows Minneapolis police Officers Thomas Lane, left and J. Alexander Kueng, right, escorting George Floyd, center, to a police vehicle outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis, on May 25, 2020.

FILE – This image from video shows Minneapolis police Officers Thomas Lane, left and J. Alexander Kueng, right, escorting George Floyd, center, to a police vehicle outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis, on May 25, 2020.
(Court TV via AP, Pool, File)

Floyd struggled with officers who tried to put him in a police vehicle and continued to struggle on the ground as he said he couldn’t breathe, before he eventually went motionless.

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. One count against all three officers alleges that they saw that Floyd needed medical care and failed to help. A count against Thao and Kueng contends that they didn’t intervene to stop Chauvin. Both counts allege that the officers’ actions resulted in Floyd’s death.

Prosecutors have argued that the “willful” standard can be met by showing “blatantly wrongful conduct” that deprived Floyd, 46, of his rights.

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Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, suggested Monday that his client did what he was trained to do, including trying to deescalate the situation, stopping his restraint when Floyd stopped moving, checking for a pulse and asking whether he should be rolled on his side.

This image from a police body camera shows people gathering as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was recorded pressing his knee on George Floyd's neck for several minutes as onlookers yelled at Chauvin to get off and Floyd saying that he couldn't breathe on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis. 

This image from a police body camera shows people gathering as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was recorded pressing his knee on George Floyd’s neck for several minutes as onlookers yelled at Chauvin to get off and Floyd saying that he couldn’t breathe on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis. 
((Minneapolis Police Department via AP))

Blackwell agreed with Gray that Lane went beyond what was required by helping paramedics try to revive Floyd in the ambulance that eventually arrived.

Blackwell has testified that officers are instructed that they have a duty to intervene if a fellow officer is using unreasonable force, and are taught to use the least amount of force necessary and to stop once the person is no longer resisting. Gray pointed out that the policy says officers must stop or “attempt” to stop force, which he said his client did.

The defense attorneys have suggested that Chauvin — who was a field training officer for new recruits — took charge at the scene. Blackwell testified that she didn’t see any reason to remove Chauvin from his role as a trainer before Floyd’s killing.

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Paule also said that while department policy allowed officers to use their legs to implement a neck restraint, they were not taught how to do it.

“In other words, police officers received absolutely zero training on how to use a leg as a mechanism for restraint,” he said. Blackwell agreed.

Fox News’ Ashley Soriano and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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