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Minneapolis police lieutenant says Derek Chauvin’s kneeling restraint was not an authorized use of force

Lt. Johnny Mercil testified that leaving a suspect on their chest can lead to “positional asphyxiation.”

Johnny Mercil CNN

Derek Chauvin’s murder trial resumed for its seventh day on Tuesday (April 6). One person who testified was Minneapolis Police Lt. Johnny Mercil, who is a use-of-force instructor and trained Chauvin on defensive tactics in 2018.

During his testimony, Mercil said that Chauvin’s kneeling on George Floyd’s neck while he was lying face down and handcuffed would not be considered an authorized use of force.

“[If] the subject was under control and handcuffed, would this be authorized?” prosecuting attorney Steve Schleicher asked Mercil.

“I would say no,” he answered.

Mercil added that Minneapolis police officers are trained to sit suspects up or put them in a “recovery position on their side” once they are no longer resisting.

“There is the possibility and risk that some people have difficulty breathing when the handcuffs are behind their back and they’re on their stomach,” he explained.

Rolling the handcuffed suspect onto their side or sitting them up can “prevent a potential situation where they might be subject to positional asphyxiation,” he continued.

When asked how quickly an officer should get a suspect onto their side, Mercil responded, “I would say sooner the better.”

Lt. Richard Zimmerman, the head of Minneapolis Police’s homicide unit, made similar statements during his testimony on Friday (April 2). Zimmerman said that once a suspect has stopped resisting “you need to get them out of the prone position as soon as possible because it restricts their breathing.” Floyd was in the prone position when Chauvin kneeled on his neck for over nine minutes.

“Once a person is cuffed, you need to turn them on their side or have them sit up. You need to get them off their chest,” Zimmerman said. “Your muscles are pulling back when you’re handcuffed and if you’re laying on your chest, that’s constricting your breathing even more.”

Court recessed for lunch after Mercil’s testimony and will resume at 1:30 p.m. local time. Chauvin is charged with second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death.

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