Cops Told Homicide Lieutenant George Floyd Was Still Breathing. He Wasn’t.

“What they told me and what was on the video is totally different,” Lt. Richard Zimmerman said.
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In this image taken from video, witness Lt. Richard Zimmerman, of the Minneapolis Police Department, testifies on April 2, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Court TV via AP, Pool File)

Two of the former Minneapolis police officers who watched George Floyd die, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, failed to mention key details of the fatal arrest to the head of the Minneapolis police homicide unit and told him that Floyd was still breathing when ambulances showed up to the scene, according to new body camera footage played in court Thursday.

At least one of the officers, however, was aware that Floyd had no pulse moments before he was taken away from the scene, according to previously released body camera footage. And Lane had tried to administer chest compressions when Floyd was in the ambulance, according to witness testimony.

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Both Lane and Keung also failed to explain that Floyd had spent more than nine minutes under Derek Chauvin’s knee during his arrest outside a convenience store on May 25, 2020.

In fact, Lt. Richard Zimmerman, who’s been in charge of the homicide unit since 2008, testified that he only found out the discrepancies between what Lane and Kueng told him and what actually happened the next day when video of Floyd’s death went viral and stirred outrage from the public. 

“What they told me and what was on the video is totally different,” Zimmerman said, according to pool reports. “The amount of force used on Mr. Floyd, the type of force used on Mr. Floyd, the lack of doing any first aid on Mr. Floyd, and the lack of intervening and stopping each other from doing what they were doing.”

The new video, which shows the scene after Floyd had been taken to the hospital, was played during Zimmerman’s testimony in the federal trial of Lane, Kueng, and former officer Tou Thao, who all watched as Chauvin murdered the 46-year-old Black man. The three men are charged with depriving Floyd of his civil rights by failing to offer medical attention. Both Thao and Keung face an additional charge of failing to intervene in the fatal arrest. They face up to life in prison.

Body camera footage from Lane shows him telling Zimmerman that Floyd seemed to be “on something” and paranoid and that he and his fellow officers found a pipe that belonged to him, according to pool reports. Kueng also told Zimmerman in the footage that Floyd was “yelling a lot” and had stopped talking at some point but was still moving. 

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Both officers said that Floyd was still breathing when paramedics arrived, according to the Star Tribune.

According to previously released footage of Floyd’s arrest, however, Keung had checked Floyd’s pulse and said, “I can’t find one.”

A paramedic confirmed during testimony in the federal trial that Floyd did not have a pulse and wasn’t breathing when first responders arrived, but none of the officers gave him that information. He also said Lane tried to induce chest compressions to an unresponsive Floyd in the ambulance.  

Zimmerman’s testimony dealt a blow to the defense of Kueng and Lane. The two officers, who helped restrain Floyd as Thao kept onlookers at bay, have leaned on their inexperience as a defense. With under a week on the job, their attorneys have argued that they were just following the orders of Chauvin, their superior officer with 19 years of experience on the force. But Zimmerman was also technically superior to them—and knowingly lying about what takes place during a given situation breaks one of the most important aspects of police work, according to Zimmerman’s testimony.

“[The MPD] have a policy on it, but it's the cornerstone of police work," Zimmerman said on the witness stand Thursday. "You need truthfulness to assess in this case what your situation is. It requires all officers, regardless of rank, any info they give or put in a report, any info has to be truthful."

Zimmerman’s appearance in federal court Thursday marks the second time the top cop testified in a case related to Floyd’s murder. Last April, he was one of several cops to smash the blue wall of silence during Chauvin’s trial and called the disgraced cop’s actions “totally unnecessary” and “uncalled for” at the time.

The federal trial of the three former officers has been going on for more than three weeks now. While many of the witnesses called to testify made appearances during Chauvin’s trial in Minneapolis last year, defense attorneys signaled during opening statements that jurors would hear from Lane for the first time, although he has yet to testify.

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