Minneapolis– Minneapolis police Lt. Johnny Mercil took the stand on Tuesday and had taught a use of force training class attended by Derek Chauvin in October 2018. Lt. Mercil, who supervises the training division’s use of force training, told jurors that a still-image of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck is not a restraint taught to Minneapolis Police Department officers.
While Lt. Mercil said that using a knee on the neck or back can be an authorized use of force, it is usually transitory and depends on the time frame and type of resistance. He specifically said that if the subject was handcuffed and not resisting, it is not authorized.
Under questioning by defense attorney, Eric Nelson, Mercil acknowledged use of force techniques do not have a strict application in every instance and that officers are taught to be fluid and react to the circumstances they face. Mercil agreed that the crowd’s words could be considered threatening to the officers, and would be a factor they might consider.
Mercil agreed with Nelson that an officer could hold a neck restraint after rendering someone unconscious if they had to wait on another officer to arrive. However, Mercil declined to agree with the argument that Chauvin could hold the neck restraint while waiting for emergency medical services to arrive.
When asked about the prone position of a suspect, Mercil admitted there are circumstances when a subject may need to be held in a prone position until aid arrives and that he has trained officers to use their body weight to control a subject until emergency medical services arrives.
Presented with a still image from an officer’s body-worn camera of an EMT palpating Floyd’s carotid artery on his neck to check his pulse, Mercil said Chauvin’s knee “appears to be between the shoulder blades.” At that point, Mercil said that Chauvin’s use of force was not a neck restraint and appeared to be a body weight hold.
George Floyd called out while Chauvin and the other officers were holding him down, saying that he could not breath. At one point, officers tell Floyd that he could breath because he was able to talk.
Mercil agreed under questioning that some people make excuses to avoid arrest, and that he has had suspects say “I can’t breathe” when he was trying to arrest them.
Nelson asked Mercil if he had ever trained or said that “if someone can talk they can breath?”
Mercil stated, “It’s been said, yes.”
Minneapolis Officer Nicole Mackenzie leads the department’s EMT unit and she testified that just because someone could talk does not mean they are not having difficulty breathing.