Lt. Richard Zimmerman, who leads the Minneapolis Police Department’s homicide unit, said Friday during the ongoing trial of Derek Chauvin that the former Minneapolis police officer kneeling on George Floyd’s neck constituted “deadly force” and was “totally unnecessary.”
Zimmerman is one of the 14 officers who signed an open letter condemning Chauvin and said that he had never been trained to kneel on the neck of someone who was handcuffed behind their back in a “prone position.” “Prone” is when someone lies with their back up and their chest on the ground. When asked what “level of force” kneeling on someone’s neck would be, the lieutenant said it would be “the top tier,” which is “deadly force.”
Minneapolis Police Lieutenant Zimmerman says a knee on someone’s neck should “absolutely” be considered deadly force and that he’s never been trained to use such a tactic:
“Because of the fact that if your knee is on a person’s neck, that can kill them.” pic.twitter.com/w3k7MIq3n1
— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 2, 2021
When asked why it would be considered deadly force, Zimmerman said it was “because of the fact that if your knee is on a person’s neck, that can kill them.”
When an officer handcuffs somebody, that person’s “safety” and “wellbeing” becomes that officer’s responsibility, Zimmerman added. (RELATED: ‘They Saw … A Human Being Tortured To Death’: George Floyd’s Family Lawyer Reflects On Intense Witness Testimony At Derek Chauvin Trial)
“Once a person is cuffed, the threat level goes down all the way,” he said. “They’re cuffed, how can they really hurt you.”
After confirming that he had watched videos of the incident, Zimmerman said later during questioning that the use of force when Floyd was on the ground was “totally unnecessary” in his opinion.
“First of all, pulling him down to the ground face down, and putting your knee on a neck for that amount of time is just uncalled for,” he added. “I saw no reason why the officers felt they were in danger if that’s what they felt, and that’s what they would have to have felt to be able to use that kind of force.”
Friday was the fifth day of the high-profile trial over Floyd’s death. The prosecution attempted to prove that Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck was a direct cause of his death, while the defense argued that Floyd died of a heart attack or overdose.
Chauvin is facing charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.