‘I thought he was dead’: Paramedic describes responding to George Floyd scene

Medical care George Floyd received at the scene of his arrest last May is a key question in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Thursday 01 April 2021 22:04 BST
‘I thought he was dead’: Paramedic describes responding to George Floyd scene
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A paramedic who arrived at the scene of George Floyd’s arrest testified in a Minneapolis court on Thursday that the man already appeared dead once an ambulance showed up.

“In lay terms, I thought he was dead,” Hennepin County paramedic Derek Smith told the jury.

Police officers have a legal duty to care for suspects in their custody, so the exact details of Mr Floyd’s medical treatment are a major consideration in the trial of former officer Derek Chauvin.

Mr Chauvin faces two murder charges after kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, for more than nine minutes during an arrest last year over a counterfeit $20 bill.

Upon arriving at the Minneapolis intersection where three officers were restraining Mr Floyd on the ground, Mr Smith said he went over to check the man’s vitals. He added that he hadn’t seen evidence that officers had provided medical care to Mr Floyd.

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“When I arrived to the scene there were no medical services being provided to the patient,” he said.

As officers continued to press their knees into Mr Floyd’s neck, back and legs, Mr Smith said he felt that Mr Floyd did not have a pulse and his pupils were “large” and “dilated”.

He praised the officers as “very helpful” in loading Mr Floyd into the ambulance and described how he requested help from one of the officers who accompanied him inside to apply chest compressions.

But Mr Smith also commented that some of the treatments he eventually ordered for Mr Floyd could’ve been performed by someone without his specialised paramedic training.

“Any layperson could do chest compressions,” he testified. “There’s no reason Minneapolis couldn’t start chest compressions.”

Medical evidence has been a central subject of the trial so far.

None of the four officers on the scene attempted to give Mr Floyd CPR once he lost consciousness, video shows, nor did Mr Chauvin remove his knees from Mr Floyd’s neck.

A crowd of bystanders, including Genevieve Hansen, an off-duty Minneapolis firefighter, pleaded with officers to check Mr Floyd’s pulse and offer him first aid. She told the court on Tuesday she was “desperate” to help but “the officers did not let me into the scene”.

“There was a man being killed, and had I had access to a call similar to that I would have been able to provide medical attention to the best of my abilities and this human was denied that right,” Ms Hansen told the jury.

Earlier this week, prosecutors said Mr Chauvin reached for his Mace when Ms Hansen came over to try and offer first aid to Mr Floyd.

“She wanted to check on his pulse, check on Mr. Floyd’s well-being,” prosecutor Jerry Blackwell said on Monday in his opening arguments. “She did her best to intervene. When she approached Mr. Chauvin ... Mr. Chauvin reached for his Mace and pointed it in her direction. She couldn’t help.”

Police officers remained on top of the unconscious Mr Floyd as paramedics checked his vitals, and only moved off of him once paramedics wheeled over a stretcher.

In addition to providing insights about how and when Mr Floyd got medical care, testimony earlier in the day on Thursday detailed his struggles with opioid addiction. Mr Chauvin’s attorneys have argued drugs in Mr Floyd’s system, rather than the knee on his neck, ultimately caused his death.

“Floyd and I both suffered with an opioid addiction,” Courteney Ross, Mr Floyd’s former girlfriend, said. “We both suffered from chronic pain. Mine was in my neck and his was in his back. We both had prescriptions. After prescriptions that were filled, we got addicted and tried really hard to break that addiction many times.”

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