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George Floyd: Paramedics who treated him say he appeared dead when they arrived

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“In layman terms, I thought he was dead,” paramedic Derek Smith said.

Smith and his partner, Seth Bravinder, testified in former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin’s trial on Thursday. Each described their unsuccessful life-saving efforts on May 25, 2020.

Inside the ambulance, Floyd was “asystole,” meaning he had flatlined and his heart showed no activity. Attempts were made to restart his heart with chest compressions, establishing an airway and electric shock, but he did not recover. They ultimately dropped him off at the hospital with no change in his status.

“I showed up, he was deceased, and I dropped him off at the hospital, and he was still in cardiac arrest,” Smith said.

Derek Chauvin's body camera video shows his reaction just after George Floyd left in an ambulance

Fire Department Capt. Jeremy Norton testified that he and his partner met up with the ambulance two blocks away to help render aid to Floyd on the way to the hospital. His condition was grim.

“He was an unresponsive body on a cot,” Norton said.

The first-responders’ testimony came on the fourth day of Chauvin’s criminal trial. Earlier in the day, Floyd’s girlfriend spoke about Floyd personally, describing him as a kind, caring, athletic man who struggled with opioid addiction.

Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Wearing a suit and tie in court, he has appeared engaged with the proceedings and has taken notes on a large yellow legal pad.

Paramedics say he appeared dead

Derek Smith was one of the paramedics who treated George Floyd on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis.

The paramedics were first called to the scene as a non-emergency Code 2 for a mouth injury, but about a minute and half later, the call was upgraded to a Code 3 — meaning the ambulance uses lights and sirens.

When they arrived to the scene, Floyd did not appear to be breathing or moving, they testified. Smith checked Floyd’s pulse and pupils — with Chauvin still kneeling on him — and believed his heart had stopped. They then moved to get him onto a stretcher, and Bravinder bent down and motioned for Chauvin to lift his knee off Floyd.

They decided to put Floyd into the ambulance so they could treat him in a controlled environment. The equipment for treating patients with a stopped heart is located in the ambulance, and Bravinder said they were concerned about the crowd of bystanders.

One officer, Thomas Lane, also got into the ambulance with them and helped with chest compressions. Smith removed Floyd’s handcuffs with a set of handcuff keys, he testified. With Floyd inside, Bravinder drove the ambulance several blocks and then stopped to treat him further, he testified.

Norton, the Fire Department captain, testified no one ever found a pulse in Floyd’s body. He later reported the incident to superiors in the Fire Department because it involved the death of someone in police custody and an off-duty firefighter was a witness.

Floyd’s girlfriend says they had opioid addiction

Courteney Ross, George Floyd's girlfriend, said they struggled with opioid addiction.

Courteney Ross, 45, said she met Floyd in August 2017 when he worked as a security guard at the Salvation Army. In emotional testimony, she said they liked exploring the local sculpture garden and eating out on their dates together.

Floyd liked to work out every day, lifting weights, doing situps and pullups, and he never complained of shortness of breath, she said. He was a mama’s boy who was a “shell of himself” after his mother’s death in 2018, and she described the well-known photo of him as a “dad selfie.”
They also both were addicted to opioids. Like many Americans, they were prescribed opioid painkillers to treat chronic pain, which ultimately led to an addiction and their use of street drugs, she testified.

In March 2020, she found Floyd doubled over in pain and took him to the emergency room, she testified. He was in the hospital for several days due to an overdose, she said. She said she believed he had started using again in May 2020.

In opening statements, prosecutors acknowledged Floyd’s history of opioid addiction but said it was irrelevant to why he died last May. However, defense attorney Eric Nelson has argued that Floyd’s true cause of death was drug use and several preexisting health issues.

CNN senior legal analyst Laura Coates explained that prosecutors sometimes decide to address “bad facts” head-on rather than allow the defense to do so.

“It’s because as the prosecutor, you want to present and address and resolve these bad facts. You don’t want to have the defense be able to say, ‘Hey, jury, why didn’t they tell you about this? Here are the things they don’t want you to know,'” Coates said.

Chauvin defended kneeling on Floyd

The first few days of testimony in the trial largely focused on bystanders’ who watched and recorded in horror as Chauvin impassively knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. Many of them, including the corner store cashier whose interaction with Floyd brought police to the scene, expressed feelings of guilt over what they did or didn’t do.
On Wednesday afternoon, prosecutors played body camera footage from the officers’ body cameras for jurors for the first time. The searing, up-close perspectives show Floyd gasping that he’s claustrophobic, saying he can’t breathe and calling for his mother until he fades into silence.
The witnesses in Derek Chauvin's trial describe their guilt and sadness after George Floyd's death

One clip from Chauvin’s own body camera showed him defending his actions to a critical bystander just moments after Floyd’s limp body left the scene in an ambulance.

“That’s one person’s opinion,” Chauvin responded as he got into his squad car. “We had to control this guy because he’s a sizable guy. It looks like he’s probably on something.”

That comment was the first time jurors or the public have heard from Chauvin — and it may be the last. His attorney has not indicated whether he will testify in his own defense.

Although much of the body camera video has previously been released to the public, its raw power remained clear. Charles McMillian, a 61-year-old witness, broke down in tears on the stand after watching part of it, leading to a short break in the trial.

“I feel helpless,” he said through tears. “I don’t have a mama either. I understand him.”

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