Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng were all former police officers. They are now in federal court in Minnesota.
George Floyd could have lived if Minneapolis police officers had made a change to his position. His chances of survival would have been “doubled or tripled” had the cops performed CPR on his heart stop, according expert testimony.
Floyd died after his upper airway was compressed from Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee. His position on the asphalt with his hands behind his back and two other officers helping him to keep down — which did not allow his lungs space to expand — caused his lower airway to be compressed, according Dr. David Systrom. Systrom is a pulmonologist and critical-care physician at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Systrom said that the airway compression caused an increase in carbon dioxide and a reduction in oxygen flow.
As the 12th witness for the government in the federal civil rights case against former Minneapolis police officers J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, the medical expert testified at St. Paul, Minneapolis courthouse.
Kueng, who are Black, Lane, White, and Thao who are Hmong Americans were charged with willfully denying Floyd his constitutional rights, while they were acting under the authority of the government. According to the charges, Floyd died as a result of officers’ actions.
Systrom stated that oxygen must be delivered to the brain and heart in order to survive. Later, Systrom called Floyd’s death “a reversible respiratory failure event.”
Kueng, Lane, and Thao are accused in Floyd’s deprivation of rights. They failed to provide Floyd with medical assistance as Chauvin knelt down on the Black man for nine-and-a-half minutes. Kueng and Thao were also accused of failing intervene in the May 2020 shooting that sparked protests across the globe and forced a reexamination on racism and police work.
Prosecutors have stated that Kueng placed his back on Floyd’s and Lane held Lane’s legs, while Thao held the back of bystanders.
U.S. attorney Manda Sertich questioned Systrom about Floyd’s death. Systrom responded that Floyd died of asphyxia. However, the medical examiner didn’t list this condition as a cause.
Systrom is also an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. He testified that Kueng’s video shows him holding Floyd’s wrist while leaning on Floyd’s chest. This would have prevented Floyd being able relieve the pressure. Systrom stated that it appears like Kueng’s knee is pressing down on Floyd’s abdomen in video taken by Lane’s body cam. He stated that it was difficult to determine if Floyd would have died if Kueng had not applied the pressure.
He stated that Floyd would not have been able to breath properly if Lane had restricted Floyd’s movement.
Manda Sertich, the prosecutor, asked Systrom what could have been done to help Floyd before he lost consciousness. Systrom said that it could have been as simple to remove the pressure from Floyd’s upper airway with a knee or let Floyd stand up while he was being held in handcuffs.
Systrom responded to a question about Floyd’s survival chances if CPR had been started immediately after his cardiac arrest.
Systrom stated that Floyd died from his hypertension or coronary artery disease and that there was no evidence for a heart attack. He said that Floyd had normal heart beat and rhythm but high blood pressure.
“Would he die of heart disease that day if it weren’t for the officers’ restraint?” Sertich asked.
“A definitive no,” replied Systrom.
Chauvin was convicted in state court of murder and manslaughter last year. He pleaded guilty for federal civil rights charges. He is still in prison.
Members of the Minneapolis City Council met Thursday afternoon in a virtual Policy & Government Oversight Committee meeting to discuss police use of no knock warrants. Amir Locke’s shooting death Wednesday morning prompted the meeting.
Over the weekend, hundreds protested at the location of the Minneapolis Police Department’s interim Chief.