MPD inspector, doctor who treated Floyd take stand in 3 officers’ federal trial
Testimony has wrapped up Thursday on the fourth day of the federal civil rights trial of three former Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd’s death: J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao.
Follow updates below.
Minneapolis Police Inspector Katie Blackwell again took the stand following the afternoon break. Prosecutor Leann Bell resumes questioning by asking what happens when a subject is prone.
Blackwell explained that when someone is prone, handcuffed and under control, they are repositioned to be on their side and then sat upright to avoid positional asphyxia — something she said comes up during several training topics, including defensive tactics and use of force.
The inspector then went over the department’s crisis intervention policy. Blackwell explained that MPD officers are required to call EMS and continue rendering aid until medics arrive. She also said handcuffing people in crisis is meant to prevent escalating the situation.
Blackwell then walked the jury through Thao’s history with the department: In 2009, he went through the police academy and was sworn in, but that class was “laid off due to budgetary reasons” and there was a break in service until he was rehired in 2012.
Bell then highlighted the training Thao received over the years, focusing especially on the CPR training he received in 2012, followed by defensive tactics training in 2013 and CPR training again in 2014.
Bell asked about when crisis intervention training is deployed, and Blackwell explained how it overlaps with medical training.
“It’s a really strong emphasis on slowing things down and identifying if there’s another issue at hand,” Blackwell said.
The prosecution said it’s not done questioning Blackwell, but the judge ended testimony there and dismissed the jury.
Court resumes 9:30 a.m. Friday.
Following the lunch break, the U.S. Attorney’s Office called Dr. Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld as its next witness. He practices emergency medicine and was a resident physician at Hennepin County Medical Center and treated George Floyd the night of May 25, 2020.
Langenfeld testified that he was in the emergency department when he received a notification of a 30-year-old man in cardiac arrest who was being brought in for treatment. Floyd arrived around 8:55 p.m., he said.
“This was a 30-year-old man, unidentified, who was found in police custody. What I received at the time was he had been restrained,” Wankhede Langenfeld said. “… The report was he was found to be without a pulse so they initiated CPR and other measures.”
He said he and his colleagues were trying to get Floyd’s heart “pumping on its own again” but they were unsuccessful.
As the doctors were working to resuscitate Floyd, they ran through “potentially reversible causes” of cardiac arrest that could be fixed “with targeted intervention,” Wankhede Langenfeld said. One of those potential causes was drug use, but he had not received any report of a specific drug or medication that could be treated with an antidote.
Wankhede Langenfeld testified that at the time, he considered mechanical asphyxia and severely agitated state or excited delirium the most likely causes contributing to Floyd’s cardiac arrest. He acknowledged that excited delirium might be a “controversial diagnosis” but describes it as someone who is acting irrationally or incoherently. He said these causes were most likely because Floyd had been restrained face-down and was in distress.
Floyd was in Wankhede Langenfeld’s care for roughly 30 minutes before the medical team stopped trying to resuscitate him. “It was just not reversible,” Wankhede Langenfeld said.
Tou Thao’s attorney, Robert Paule, kicked off cross-examination by asking the doctor about potential causes of cardiac arrest — specifically, hypoxia. Wankhede Langenfeld elaborated that information that might have suggested excited delirium was “absent from the history I received.”
The doctor further explained that excited delirium was a controversial diagnosis because “It is almost exclusively used in a setting of law enforcement restraint of an individual” and that studies on the subject are skewed because they often center around cases involving people of color.
J. Alexander Kueng’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, asked a few brief questions before Thomas Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, took over questioning.
Gray started by asking Wankhede Langenfeld about drug use, honing in on the effects of fentanyl and methamphetamine and how they might interact. The doctor explained that the combination of the two drugs could cause the heart to work too hard and could lead to heart failure. Gray then asked if someone on the two drugs and “struggling extremely hard” could die as a result; Wankhede Langenfeld said that was a possibility.
After Wankhede Langenfeld confirmed he had seen video of the incident, Gray asked if seeing the altercation and hearing the person say “I can’t breathe” at least five times would change his diagnosis, knowing the person was on methamphetamine and fentanyl. The doctor said his diagnosis would remain the same.
The witness was excused, and the judge called for a short afternoon break.Tweets by CallanGrayNews
9:45 a.m. – 11 a.m.
Prosecutors called Minneapolis Police Department Inspector Katie Blackwell to the stand.
KSTP Reporter Eric Chaloux reports Blackwell previously served as commander of the department’s Training Division, which included overseeing the Police Academy, in-service training for officers, medical, crisis intervention, vehicle stops, gun range, and field training officer program.
Chaloux reports Blackwell told the jury that Minneapolis officers go through yearly training on weapons, defensive tactics, medical component, and crisis training “to make sure they are staying up to date and using properly.”
Blackwell regularly addresses the jury as she answers questioning.
Blackwell explained what a typical day in the academy looks like. Blackwell talked about training, defensive tactics that recruits learn in the academy, as well as the different types of force.
Blackwell said recruits have to exhibit good behavior, professionalism and respect to get through the academy. She noted how recruits are taught to refer to people when in the field as “sir” and “ma’am,” regardless of whether the individual is a victim, witness or suspect.
“They have to show they have the ability to go from one call to the next … they have to show the ability that they can follow MPD protocols and rules” before they are allowed to respond to calls, Blackwell said.
“Whatever training we do, we want it to be equal,” Blackwell said about however many hours are spent on defensive tactics, the same is spent on de-escalation tactics.
Blackwell went over the department’s core values of “Trust, Accountability and Professional Service” as outlined in the Field Training Officer manual.
“We want the community to trust us more, so every interaction with them has to be respectful,” says Blackwell.
Assistant United States Attorney LeeAnn Bell and Blackwell go over the four phases of field training: First, assigned to a precinct; second, transferred to another precinct and different shift; third, assigned to the same precinct with a different field training officer and different shift; and fourth, remain in the same precinct with a different field training officer and same shift.
Blackwell continues with an explanation of the 10-day evaluation, and two-day extensions afforded to some new officers if they don’t pass in the first 10-day evaluation. She says about 3 to 5 on average get extensions. She says in the 2020 class, 20 new officers received extensions, primarly due to COVID and limited field time because of social distancing.
Blackwell also explained that officers in training are required to write and submit 100 report logs. She also talked about the 40-hour training course that field training officers receive.
The judge then called for a break.Tweets by EricChalouxKSTP
Testimony is underway Thursday on the fourth day of the federal trial of three former Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd’s death.
Members of the city’s fire department, including an off-duty firefighter, took the stand Wednesday. The prosecution is aiming to show how little Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao did for Floyd.
In addition, the jury also watched from the perspective of Lane’s body camera as the ex-officer got into the ambulance, trying to explain what happened and at one point, started chest compressions.
Court reconvened at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
Click here to read more in-depth notes from Wednesday’s proceedings.