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Paramedics testified during Derek Chauvin’s murder trial Thursday that George Floyd had no pulse when they arrived and checked—and that Chauvin was still kneeling on top of him.
Seth Bravinder and Derek Smith were first responders on May 25 when Floyd was being arrested outside a southside Minneapolis convenience store for allegedly using counterfeit money. Smith told the jury that he had to ask officers to get off the motionless man so he could check his pulse. The EMT then said Floyd didn’t have one.
“In layman’s terms, I thought he was dead,” Smith told the jury at the Hennepin County Courthouse on Thursday, the fourth day of the trial. “I looked for my partner and said, ‘I think he’s dead, and I want to move out of here and give care in the back [of the ambulance].”
Bravinder also testified Thursday, saying that he didn’t check Floyd’s pulse, but he couldn’t see him breathing and thought the 46-year-old Black man was in cardiac arrest.
During questioning, Chauvin’s defense also referenced a “gesture” Bravinder made at police that appears on body camera footage. Bravinder said that was “just to have the officer move … so we could move the patient.”
Until the paramedics arrived, there were three cops on Floyd, with Chauvin’s knee crushing his neck. Smith explained that he immediately checked for a pulse on Floyd’s carotid artery, a spot on the neck where first responders typically search for vital signs. When he didn’t feel one, the EMT told jurors that he said he knew he needed to begin life-saving compressions on Floyd if there was any chance of resuscitation.
Smith also said none of the four police officers present were attempting any lifesaving techniques for the unconscious Floyd.
In response, Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, ventured to ask why Smith didn’t ask one the officers to start chest compressions. The EMT said he shouldn’t have had to ask.
“Any lay person can do chest compressions,” Smith said. “There's no reason Minneapolis [police] couldn't have started chest compressions.”
Once the officers removed themselves from Floyd’s body, Bravinder and Smith worked together to get Floyd off the ground and into their ambulance.
“I was trying to keep [Floyd’s head] from slamming down on the pavement as we moved him over,” Bravinder said. “He was limp, would be the best description. He wasn’t holding his head up or anything like that.”
Smith said that after putting Floyd into the ambulance, he continuously checked for a pulse and continued chest compressions on the way to a Minneapolis hospital. During the entirety of the ride, he said, he felt none.
Chauvin is facing charges of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, which could put him in prison for up to 65 years. The trial is expected to continue through April.