AM session: Testimonies from use-of-force expert, BCA agent Wednesday in Chauvin trial

KSTP
Updated: April 07, 2021 12:52 PM
Created: April 07, 2021 06:20 AM

WARNING: Some of the evidence shown in the video player above may be difficult for some to watch.


12:20 p.m.

Judge Cahill has put the court in recess until 1:15 p.m.


11:58 a.m.

The witness has been excused from the witness stand. The next person, called by the state, takes the witness stand. He is identified as BCA Senior Special Agent James Reyerson.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank is questioning. Reyerson says he has about 4 1/2 years of experience at MPD. He is assigned at the BCA to the newly formed use of force investigation unit.  He also spent with the DEA, Metro Transit and the Minnesota Department of Commerce. 

Reyerson says his supervisor called him at around 9:45 p.m. on May 25, 2020, about an incident in Minneapolis. He and other agents went to city hall shortly thereafter. He was the case agent for the Floyd case.

"We knew that some form of critical incident had occurred, but at that point, we didn't have a huge amount of information," he said in court.

Reyerson said Deputy Chief Erick Fors notified him of a video that surfaced on Facebook.  


11:05 a.m.

The court has reconvened. Stiger retakes the witness stand with Nelson continuing to cross-examine. 

Nelson is asking Stiger questions regarding the threat of someone even if they are not actively fighting. 

Nelson then starts to go through the training on maintaining crowds, according to MPD's policy. 

Nelson asked about this previous testimony during the state's questioning. 

"In the context of ground defense or handcuffing ... control the head and control the body, right?" Nelson asked.

"Yes, when they are resisting," Stiger said.

Stiger also reiterated what Minneapolis Police Lt. Johnny Mercil said Tuesday, "officers are trained to avoid using any restraint on the neck area."

Nelson then went through photos and slowed down video of Chauvin's position on Floyd.

"While Mr. Floyd was in the prone position, there are points in time where he picks up his head," Nelson said. Stiger stated there were times early on when Floyd attempted to "I assumed he was attempting to try to breathe better."

The state then takes over to redirect.

Stiger says in respect to positional asphyxia is the risk related to the pressure on the neck or the pressure on the body, he said it matters more with the body. "Any additional pressure on the body complicates breathing," he added.

The sergeant from Los Angeles confirmed it was "excessive force" used on Floyd. He also believes it's important to take into account that Floyd may have been distressed in that situation. 

"His breath was getting slower, his tone of voice was getting lower, his movements were starting to cease. As an officer on scene, you have a responsibility to realize that okay, something is not right ... you have responsibility to take some type of action," Stiger said. 

He added, "you can have a situation where ... it looks horrible to the common eye, but based on the state law, it's lawful." 


10:45 a.m.

The court is in a 20-minute recess. Judge Cahill says the will continue at 11:05 a.m.


9:15 a.m.

The court is in session. Sgt. Jody Stiger, from the Los Angeles Police Department and a use-of-force expert, is called to the stand to resume his testimony from Tuesday.

State prosecutor Steve Schleicher asked Stiger to describe what he sees in photos shown in court regarding the position of Chauvin on Floyd. He described the former officer to be "on his knees and pushing down from his knee area from his body."

He also noted another factor to consider when evaluating use of force is the number of officers versus the number of subjects.

The use-of-force expert also stated that Floyd was not attempting to resist during the time he was in a prone position. When asked if the force used for nine minutes and 29 seconds would constitute deadly force, Stiger said it would. He adds the body position "would cause positional asphyxiation" and possible death. 

Stiger recalls being trained on the dangers of positional asphyxiation in 1995. He says the dangers exist even with no bodyweight. 

"When you add bodyweight, it just increases the possibility of death," Stiger said. Chauvin's bodyweight and plus the weight of former officer J Alexander Kueng "pressing down" would have added to the dangers. Stiger says former officer Thomas Lane was also holding Floyd's legs. 

He also acknowledged that the bystanders surrounding the incident were not being hostile. Stiger agrees that Chauvin's 866 hours of paid training should have prepared him for any sort of distraction that was at the scene. 

The defense starts cross-examination of the witness. He was asked if he has ever testified in ant court as an expert on the police use of force, to which he responded, "no."

Stiger tells attorney Eric Nelson he has never been trained by the Minneapolis Police Department. His questioning is aimed at showing Stiger's areas of expertise and how it relates to MPD's policies.

Nelson brings up MPD's use-of-force policy and asks Stiger about the Graham v. Connor case which set the standard for reasonableness regarding the use of force. 

Stiger agrees, sometimes, the use of force is instantaneous, but states: "not in this case." 

"Sometimes an officer will walk into a situation and have no sense of risk ... but they have to prepare for the unexpected. Agreed?" Nelson asked Stiger. 

"I wouldn't agree ... based on my training experience most officers once we put that uniform on and we respond to a call we know there's a risk factor," Stiger responded.

Stiger reiterated from yesterday that Floyd was actively resisting when he was in the backseat of the squad car. 

"In this context of assessing what someone is saying ... in comparison to their actions, you're also making assessments of their physical characteristics," Nelson questioned. Stiger agreed. He also agreed that someone who is handcuffed can continue to be a threat.

Stiger also agreed with Nelson that if someone is in the prone position and they continue to kick, it may require more force than if they were compliant. Body camera footage has shown Floyd kick once while in the prone position on the ground during the incident. 

 Nelson noted the officers did not use a hobble device on Floyd. 

"So officers making a decision not to increase the level of force can be viewed as a de-escalation technique?"

"Yes," Stiger replied.


Wednesday, a Los Angeles use-of-force expert will continue his testimony in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin.

Sgt. Jody Stiger was among four members of law enforcement who spoke Tuesday about Chauvin's use of force and other actions during the fatal arrest of George Floyd.

Another member of the Minneapolis police force took the stand Tuesday as part of an effort by prosecutors to dismantle the argument that Chauvin was following training when he put his knee on Floyd's neck.

This time, a supervisor with the training unit questioned Chauvin's actions under oath.

When asked by prosecutor Steve Schleicher, "Once a subject is under control and no longer resistant, it's inappropriate to hold them in a position where you're draping your knee across their back or neck, isn't it?," Lt. Johnny Mercil responded, "I would say it's time to deescalate force, sir."

Meanwhile, Stiger also weighed in on the tactics used. He testified that he has traveled to police agencies nationwide to compare their use-of-force policies with his department.

Lee Hutton, a legal expert 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS talked to, said the defense also made headway on Tuesday. Eric Nelson used cross-examination to dive into whether Floyd was experiencing "excited delirium."

The medical support coordinator for the Minneapolis Police Department described the symptoms, which include elevated body temperature and heart rate, insensitivity to pain, and having super-human strength.

When the defense asked whether "that include(s) discussion of controlled substances in the context of excited delirium," officer Nicole Mackenzie responded, "Yes, because what we're usually teaching is that most people that are experiencing something like excited delirium, there's illicit drugs on board that might be a contributing factor."

Stiger's testimony will continue Wednesday morning, with a chance for Chauvin's attorney to cross examine him. Hutton said he expects Stiger's expertise will be questioned.

KSTP's complete trial coverage


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