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Minneapolis Top Homicide Detective Dismantles Derek Chauvin’s Defense: Kneeling On George Floyd Was ‘Totally Unnecessary’

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Richard Zimmerman

During court testimony on Friday, the Minneapolis Police Department’s top homicide detective delivered a blow to Derek Chauvin’s defense, saying that kneeling on George Floyd’s neck after he had been handcuffed was “uncalled for.”

Lt. Richard Zimmerman, head of the homicide division for more than 12 years, testified Friday that Chauvin’s actions violated policy by pressing his weight down on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes while the man was handcuffed and in a prone position. Police are not trained to kneel on a person’s neck, he said.

“Once the person is cuffed, the threat level goes down all the way,” the lieutenant told jurors at Chauvin’s murder trial. “How can that person hurt you?” he asked, adding that “you getting injured is way down.” Keeping the person handcuffed and in a prone position “restricts their breathing,” he said.

Asked by prosecutor Matthew Frank if he was ever trained to kneel on a person, Zimmerman said no.

“Because if your knee is on someone’s neck — that could kill them,” the lieutenant said.

The potentially devastating testimony by the department’s most senior officer came on the abbreviated fifth day of testimony in the closely-watched trial. Judge Peter Cahill sent jurors home early because the trial was ahead of schedule. Testimony resumes Monday.