A Minneapolis hospital emergency room doctor testified Monday that George Floyd most likely died from oxygen deprivation, supporting the prosecution’s murder case against former police officer Derek Chauvin, who pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as he pinned him down on a city street last May.
Dr. Bradford Langenfeld, the emergency room physician who tried to revive Floyd and later pronounced him dead, said he surmised that Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, most likely died of suffocation.
Chauvin, who is white, was a 19-year police veteran until he was fired last year in the aftermath of Floyd’s death. He has pleaded not guilty to murder and manslaughter charges in the case being heard by a racially diverse 12-member jury. Chauvin’s lawyer contends that Floyd died from underlying health issues and that Chauvin followed his police training in the way in which Floyd was arrested.
Langenfeld, testifying at the start of the second week of the trial, said Floyd's heart had stopped by the time he was brought to the hospital. The doctor said paramedics told him they had already tried for about 30 minutes to revive Floyd. But he was not told of any other efforts by police to resuscitate him after he was arrested on suspicion of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store.
Langenfeld said that based on the available information he was given, death by asphyxiation was "more likely than the other possibilities."
The first week of the trial was dominated by emotional testimony from eyewitnesses who watched as Chauvin pinned Floyd to the street with his knee on Floyd’s neck even as Floyd repeatedly gasped that he could not breathe.
The May 25 incident last year triggered widespread protests against police treatment of minorities in the U.S. and around the world.
On cross-examination, Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, asked Langenfeld whether some drugs can cause oxygen deprivation. The doctor acknowledged that fentanyl and methamphetamine, both of which were found in Floyd's body, can do so.
The Hennepin County medical examiner's office said that Floyd died of "cardiopulmonary arrest, complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression." A summary report listed fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use under "other significant conditions" but not under "cause of death."
The jury also heard testimony from Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, the city's first Black police chief, who fired Chauvin and three other officers the day after Floyd's death. Arradondo later described Floyd’s death as “murder.”
Shortly before the trial started, the city of Minneapolis paid $27 million in damages to Floyd’s relatives.