Paramedics thought Floyd dead at scene

·3-min read

Paramedics who treated George Floyd have told a jury he was not breathing and had no pulse when they arrived at the scene of his deadly arrest.

"In lay terms, I thought he was dead," Derek Smith, one of the paramedics, testified at the murder trial of former policeman Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis on Thursday.

By the time Smith arrived, Chauvin, who is white, had been pressing his knee into the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old black man in cuffs, for about nine minutes, a scene that ignited global protests against police brutality.

Chauvin, 45, has pleaded not guilty to murder and manslaughter charges.

In dispute at the trial, his lawyers argue Floyd's death, which the county medical examiner ruled was homicide at the hands of police, was really an overdose caused by fentanyl found in his blood.

Prosecutors from the Minnesota attorney-general's office have told the jury they will hear evidence to contradict this, including from his girlfriend about his drug tolerance, and that Floyd's drug use is irrelevant.

Courteney Ross, 45, was the first person who personally knew Floyd to testify, and with a heart-shaped brooch pinned to her black jacket, tearfully spoke of their romance and shared struggles with opioid addiction.

"It's one of my favourite stories to tell," she said, smiling at the jury, when asked on Thursday how she met Floyd in 2017 at a Salvation Army homeless shelter, where he worked as a security guard.

She was waiting in the lobby to see the father of her son, tired after closing up the coffee shop where she worked.

"Floyd has this great, deep, southern voice, raspy," she said, "and he was, like, 'Sis', you ok, sis'?'"

He sensed she felt alone and offered to pray with her.

"It was so sweet," she said, dabbing a tissue to her eyes. "At the time I had lost a lot of faith in God."

They had their first kiss in the lobby that night and but for the occasional break after a lovers' quarrel, were together until his death.

They took walks around Minneapolis, which was still new to the Texas-raised Floyd, and ate out a lot: "He was a big man," she said, describing his daily weightlifting, "and it look a lot of energy to keep him going."

She said he adored his mother, who died in 2018, and two young daughters.

She described how they both began taking prescription painkillers before turning to the black market.

"It's a classic story of how many people get addicted to opioids," Ross said.

"We both suffered from chronic pain: mine was in my neck, his was in his back."

Sometimes they shook the habit, sometimes they relapsed."

Chauvin's lawyer, Eric Nelson, asked Ross many questions about how the couple got their drugs and an episode where Floyd took himself to hospital for what proved a non-fatal overdose.

She said she thought Floyd sometimes bought pills from Morries Hall, who was in the car next to Floyd when police arrived last May.

Nelson has subpoenaed Hall and has told the jury he and a woman in the car will tell them they saw Floyd swallow two pills before police arrived and fell into a deep sleep.

Hall says he will invoke his constitutional right against self-incrimination if called to testify and wants Judge Peter Cahill to quash the subpoena.

Floyd appeared to be not breathing and had no pulse when Smith and Seth Bravinder arrived in an ambulance at Cup Foods, where Floyd was suspected of passing a fake $20 bill earlier that evening.

They asked Chauvin and other officers to move.

"They were still on top of him," Bravinder told the jury.

Smith could not find a pulse and his pupils were dilated.

Bravinder cradled Floyd's head as they transferred him to a gurney. They stopped two blocks away to continue resuscitation efforts. Bravinder saw a flat line on the heart monitor.

"It's not a good sign," he said.