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Paramedic testifies in federal trial of 3 ex-officers in George Floyd’s death

Derek Smith told the court he wanted to move Floyd into the ambulance and off the street corner to “respect the dignity of this patient.”

Trial of three Minneapolis ex-police officers charged with violating George Floyd's civil rights
In this courtroom drawing, the three former Minneapolis officers, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, sit with their lawyers on Monday, Jan. 24, in St. Paul. The men are charged with violating George Floyd's civil rights during his 2020 arrest in Minneapolis.
Cedric Hohnstadt / Reuters
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ST. PAUL -- A third day of testimony Wednesday in the federal trial of three ex-Minneapolis police officers charged with violating George Floyd's constitutional rights featured prosecutors calling to the stand the paramedic who arrived on the scene and believed Floyd was already dead.

Derek Smith told the court he wanted to move Floyd into the ambulance and off the street corner to “respect the dignity of this patient.”

Floyd’s dire condition wasn’t initially conveyed to the paramedics, he added. Smith testified that he did not recall officer Thomas Lane telling him the police on scene had not been able to find a pulse for several minutes and that Floyd had been unresponsive for some time.

Lane, he said, helped him by performing CPR on Floyd in the ambulance, although there was no pulse.

On cross-examination, Lane’s attorney Earl Gray asked to play a clip of body camera video showing officers loading Floyd's body on a stretcher and into an ambulance, after which Lane tells Smith that Floyd kept resisting so they had to restrain him until paramedics arrived.

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Robert Paule, attorney for ex-officer Tou Thao, read back Smith's testimony to the FBI in which Smith described the scene as hectic and unsafe. Smith acknowledged again he felt the scene was unsafe.

He asked the paramedic about the differences in qualifications among officers, EMTs and paramedics in providing medical care, describing police as "the lowest.”

Thomas Plunkett, lawyer for ex-cop J. Alexander Kueng, focused his cross-examination on what was said at the scene when Smith arrived.

Smith said he only interacted with officers to tell them to get out of the way, and when Floyd was loaded into the ambulance. He testified he did not tell the officers he believed Floyd was dead after checking him, but told his partner.

The paramedic said later he did not have adequate information upon arriving on the scene and was focused on trying to gather information to help better serve Floyd.

Jeremy Norton, a Minneapolis Fire Department captain, testified the call involving Floyd was originally dispatched as a non-emergency response but was later upgraded. Norton believed paramedics were responding to someone with a mouth injury.

Norton testified that when he arrived at the scene outside of Cup Foods, he did not see a patient or other paramedics and later learned Smith had decided to move the ambulance blocks away amid concerns about the crowd. Norton said the officer he interacted with, Thao, did not seem worried about the crowd.

While on-site, he said off-duty firefighter Genevieve Hansen came up to him in an emotional state and told him what she’d seen. Hansen stumbled upon the scene and begged the officers to get off Floyd and let her try to administer aid.

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Norton said he told his superiors there’d been a death in police custody and that he was concerned about the off-duty firefighter who had witnessed it.

Floyd, 46, died that day in May 2020 after officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of murder in state court and pleaded guilty to federal charges, kept his knee pressed on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as the man lay handcuffed and pinned face down on the street, pleading that he couldn’t breathe.

The three other officers on the scene — Lane, Thao and Kueng — are on trial now, facing federal charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights.

090321.N.MPR.FLOYDTRIAL2.jpg
From left, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao.
Courtesy photos / Hennepin County Sheriff's Office

Thao and Kueng are also charged with failing to intervene with Chauvin’s use of force and all three former officers are charged with failing to provide medical aid to Floyd.

Judge Paul Magnuson has told jurors the trial could last four weeks. The three ex-cops will also face a separate state trial in June on charges they aided and abetted both murder and manslaughter.

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