On Tuesday morning, jurors in the civil rights trial of three ex-Minneapolis police officers watched George Floyd’s final moments from the perspective of one of the officers who helped hold him down as he pleaded for his life.
The footage shows J. Alexander Kueng’s body-worn camera fixed on the passenger-rear tire of a squad car, as bystanders can be heard shouting from the sidewalk that Floyd is unresponsive. “You think that’s cool, bro?” said one man, Donald Williams. “You’re a bum for that.”
FBI forensic media examiner Kimberly Meline resumed her testimony with body camera footage from Kueng, one of the officers on scene. The footage shows Kueng and his partner, Thomas Lane, approaching Floyd outside Cup Foods. The officers tell Floyd to put his hands up and wrestle him into handcuffs.
“When you’re moving around like that, that makes us think way more is going on than we even know,” one of the officers shouted.
The officers struggle to push Floyd into the back of the squad, as Floyd says he’s scared and “claustrophobic.” Floyd is pinned to the ground, pleading: “Mama, Mama, Mama.” And then, “I can’t breathe. Mama, I love you.”
The footage is key to both prosecutors and defense attorneys. Kueng’s attorney, Thomas Plunkett, said his client couldn’t see the wide-view of what was happening that day.
The footage was previously shown during the state trial of Derek Chauvin, who pleaded guilty in December to federal civil rights charges and is now serving a 22½-year state sentence after being convicted in Hennepin County District Court of murder for kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes while detaining him on the pavement at 38th and Chicago.
Footage from Lane and Kueng follows opening statements Monday, in which Assistant U.S. Attorney Samantha Trepel described how Tou Thao, Lane and Kueng ignored obvious signs of grave distress the man they’d taken into custody. They continued to neglect their training and legal obligation to render medical aid as the window to save Floyd’s life “slammed shut,” Trepel said.
The opening statements offered for the first time a window into the defense strategy, and a revelation that at least Lane plans to testify. In three separate introductory remarks, the defense attorneys described a hectic and at times scary situation in which the officers encountered a towering, erratic suspect who resisted their commands.
Earl Gray, the attorney for Lane, said his client intends to testify as to how the officers found themselves in a “scary” situation when Floyd reached around in the console of his vehicle for what they feared could be a gun. Gray described Floyd as 6 foot 4, 225 pounds and physically combative. “He was all muscle,” Gray said.
He said Lane tried to revive Floyd and raised the prospect of turning him on his side as Chauvin stayed on his neck. He described Lane as “not deliberatively indifferent about his health at all.”
Concluding his comments, Gray called the state’s case against Lane a “perversion of justice.”
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