Dr. Bradford Langenfeld, who treated George Floyd after he arrived motionless and without a full pulse to a Minneapolis hospital, testified on Monday that the cause of Floyd’s death was neither a heart attack nor a drug overdose as Derek Chauvin’s defense has argued.
Instead, Dr. Langenfeld said that after examining the evidence, “asphyxia, as it’s commonly understood,” a lack of oxygen to the body, seemed to him the most likely cause of death.
“In my experience, seeing a lot of cases of mental health crisis or drug use leading to agitated states, that is almost always reported by paramedics,” he testified on Monday. “And so the absence of that information was telling in that I didn’t have reason to believe that was the case here.”
Assessing the exact cause of death is a key question in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering Floyd after kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes last May during an arrest for a counterfeit $20 bill. Floyd told officers 27 times he couldn’t breathe.
Prosecutors argue that Floyd was essentially choked to death, while Chauvin’s defense suggests a combination of pre-existing heart problems and contemporaneous drug use killed him during his encounter with police.
Dr. Langenfeld also said that officers didn’t provide any medical care to Mr. Floyd in the minutes they were detaining him before an ambulance arrived and noted that every minute someone who needs CPR doesn’t get it decreases their likelihood of survival by 10 to 15 percent.
“It’s well known that any amount of time that patients spend in cardiac arrest without immediate CPR markedly decreases the chance of a good outcome,” he said.
Floyd, who was handcuffed in the prone position, appeared unresponsive and unconscious for at least three of the nine minutes officers knelt on top of him, and a crowd of bystanders, including an off-duty firefighter with medical training, pleaded for them to let him up and offer him medical care.
On Friday, lieutenant Richard Zimmerman, the longest-serving officer on the Minneapolis police force, testified that officers are obligated to provide timely medical care once someone is in their custody, including CPR or moving someone into the “rescue position” to make it easier to breathe.
“That person is yours,” he said. “He’s your responsibility. His safety is your responsibility. His well-being is your responsibility.”
Watch Dr. Bradford Langenfeld’s testimony below.