On Tuesday, attorneys for Derek Chauvin presented body-camera footage showing George Floyd’s arrest from May 2019, which occurred roughly a year before the arrest that ended with his death.
The video, which WCCO first released to the public in October, shows Minneapolis police’s interaction with Floyd during a traffic stop. The footage came from retired Minneapolis police officer Scott Creighton’s body camera; the ex-officer was the defense’s first witness to testify on Tuesday.
Floyd, who was a passenger, allegedly swallowed several pills during the traffic stop. Paramedic Michelle Moseng testified he was hospitalized for two hours after the incident.
Last month, lead defense attorney Eric Nelson claimed Floyd’s May 2019 arrest had “remarkable similarities” to the May 2020 arrest that resulted in his death.
During the May 2019 incident, officers reportedly discovered several opioid pills and cocaine in Floyd’s possession. Paramedics at the time reportedly warned Floyd that his blood pressure was alarmingly high and took him to the hospital as he was at risk for a heart attack or stroke.
Nelson said he wanted to present evidence that he believes supports the theory that the white residue seen around Floyd’s arrest during his May 2020 arrest was the result of Floyd swallowing at least one opioid pill.
Nelson noted that in both instances — as police drew their weapons — Floyd called out for his mother, claimed to have been shot, and put what resembled pills into his mouth.
The defense asserted that Floyd had a “pattern” of ingesting drugs as he knew it would result in him going to the hospital instead of jail. They also claimed he had a penchant for acting out during arrests.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill has allowed a portion of Floyd’s 2019 arrest to be presented at trial. He barred speculation regarding Floyd’s emotional state, but the defense may discuss his medical condition. Jurors are also allowed to see Floyd’s blood pressure readings at the scene, comments he made to paramedics which pertain to his medical diagnosis, and a suspected illicit pill recovered from his car.
Chauvin, 44, a former Minneapolis police officer, is charged with third-degree murder, second-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in connection with Floyd’s death. Three other ex-officers, Thomas Lane, 37, J. Alexander Kueng, 26, and Tou Thao, 34 are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
On May 25, Minneapolis police officers were filmed arresting Floyd, 46, on suspicion that he used a counterfeit bill at the Cup Foods supermarket. After police pulled Floyd out of his car and handcuffed him, Chauvin was filmed forcing his knee into Floyd’s neck for eight minutes.
Floyd was heard gasping for air and saying he could not breathe before he lost consciousness and died.
Hennepin County’s official autopsy report stated that Floyd’s blood had a fentanyl concentration of 11 nanograms per milliliter. While the medical examiner described the concentration as high and potentially fatal, they stressed that it does not mean Floyd died of an overdose.
The report also stated that there was no evidence “to support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation” in Floyd’s death. Conversely, an independent autopsy asserted that sustained forceful pressure on Floyd’s neck and back led to his death.
Both the county’s and the independent report mentioned drugs in Floyd’s system. However, the two reports listed his cause of death as a homicide.
The defense has argued that a “speedball” — an opioid and a stimulant combination — along with hypertension led to Floyd dying of cardiac arrhythmia. However, the prosecution said video evidence and expert testimony disproves Floyd was dying from a drug overdose, and that Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes killed him.
Chauvin is being tried separately from the other three former officers. Their trial is scheduled to begin this summer.