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Police Chief: Derek Chauvin Violated Minneapolis Policies On Use Of Force


The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin started with a remarkable moment yesterday. The city's chief of police, Chauvin's former boss, took the stand to testify against him. NPR's Cheryl Corley is covering the trial from Minneapolis. Good morning, Cheryl.


KING: I say it was a remarkable moment because it is very unusual to have a current chief of police testify against a former officer, isn't it?

CORLEY: Very, very, very unusual. You know, we often hear these stories about the police code of silence. And that's definitely not what we saw here. We had four officers testify for the prosecution. One of those officers was simply offering logistical information. But three others, including one of Chauvin's former supervisors, the head of the homicide unit - they testified earlier. And now the chief, Medaria Arradondo, saying what Derek Chauvin did, putting his knee on George Floyd's neck and continuing to do so for several minutes, was simply against police policy. And here's the chief.


MEDARIA ARRADONDO: That in no way, shape or form is anything that is by policy, is not part of our training. And it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values.

CORLEY: So that's Arradondo. And he said, you know, that when he initially viewed video from a street surveillance camera that he really didn't believe that there was anything wrong because he had only seen the officers' backs in that video and Floyd being lifted into an ambulance. And he said his opinion would soon change.


ARRADONDO: Probably close to midnight, a community member had contacted me and said, chief, have you seen the video of your officer choking and killing that that man at 38th and Chicago?

CORLEY: And that's when Arradondo said that he looked at other surveillance cameras, body-worn cameras from his officers. And he fired Chauvin and three other officers a day after George Floyd's death. And last summer, he called the incident a murder.

KING: OK, so some very strong statements from Chief Arradondo, but then he was also cross-examined yesterday. How did the defense try to diffuse his testimony?

CORLEY: Well, defense attorney Eric Nelson, just like the prosecutors did, had the police chief read aloud and explain sections of the department's policy. He talked about guidelines about the the use of force and the training that officers received to de-escalate tense situations. This type of testimony occurred all throughout the day. Now, Eric Nelson argues that Chauvin followed protocol and did what he was trained to do in his 19 years as a police officer. And at one point, he had the chief look at side-by-side videos from different angles in an effort to really illustrate that Derek Chauvin's knee may not have been on Floyd's neck.


ERIC NELSON: Would you agree that from the perspective of Officer Kueng's body camera, it appears that Officer Chauvin's knee was more on Mr. Floyd's shoulder blade?


CORLEY: And prosecutors said that video, though, only lasted a few seconds and showed Shelvin right before he got up as paramedics placed Floyd on a gurney.

KING: Also testifying yesterday was the doctor who pronounced George Floyd dead. He was a prosecution witness. What did he say?

CORLEY: Well, Dr. Bradford Langenfeld is an emergency physician who was on duty when paramedics brought Floyd into the hospital. The actual medical cause of his death is a question. So prosecutor Jerry Blackwell asked him this question.


JERRY BLACKWELL: Did they tell you in information they gave that they felt that Mr. Floyd had had a heart attack?


CORLEY: And Langenfeld told the jury the most likely explanation for Floyd's death was asphyxia - or lack of oxygen. And the defense attorney, Nelson, said it was George Floyd's addiction to opioids that really caused the death. That's a question that's going to continue to be asked during the trial.

KING: NPR's Cheryl Corley. Thanks, Cheryl.

CORLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.