Derek Chauvin is on trial for George Floyd's death

By Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 2155 GMT (0555 HKT) April 6, 2021
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1:12 p.m. ET, April 6, 2021

Police lieutenant: Officers told "to stay away from the neck" when trying to control a suspect

Pool
Pool

During cross-examination, Minneapolis Police Lt. Johnny Mercil, a use-of-force trainer, repeated his earlier answer that former police officer Derek Chauvin's use of his knee on George Floyd's neck was not a proper neck restraint.

Asked by defense attorney Eric Nelson if Chauvin's technique could be part of another training, Mercil said, "perhaps," adding that it might be considered "using body weight to control." 

He continued: "However, I will add that we don't — we tell officers to stay away from the neck when possible and if you're going to use body weight to pin, to put it on their shoulder and be mindful of position." 

1:01 p.m. ET, April 6, 2021

Neck restraint can cause unconsciousness in "under 10 seconds," use-of-force instructor says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Minneapolis Police Lt. Johnny Mercil, a use-of-force instructor, testified that he did not observe former officer Derek Chauvin use a chokehold on George Floyd. 

Mercil told defense attorney Eric Nelson that he has trained hundreds of officers on how to use a neck restraint, which he said is defined as "constricting the sides of a person's neck." 

Mercil said “it depends” when asked how much pressure it takes to make someone unconscious. 

Factors include “the size of the person, your skill, whether they're on narcotics or not, whether they're having an adrenaline rush, heart rate, general physical health — there’s just a lot of factors involved,” he said. 

Mercil said someone does not necessarily need to apply a lot of pressure over a long period of time to make someone unconscious. 

Based on his experience, it takes "under 10 seconds" to render someone unconscious using a neck restraint.

12:57 p.m. ET, April 6, 2021

Prone suspect should be rolled onto side once handcuffed to prevent "positional asphyxiation," lieutenant says

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Pool

Minneapolis Police Lt. Johnny Mercil, a use-of-force instructor who trained Derek Chauvin, described in court today the department policy of moving a prone suspect off of their stomach once they are in handcuffs.

Mercil testified that officers are trained to stand or sit suspects up, or put them in a "recovery position on their side," once they are compliant.

Asked why officers do this, Mercil said, "There is the possibility and risk that some people have difficulty breathing when the handcuffs are behind their back and they're on the stomach."

He said officers roll someone into the side recovery position after they've been handcuffed and are compliant for several reasons including "to prevent a potential situation where they might be subject to positional asphyxiation." 

Asked how soon should the person be put into the side recovery position, Mercil said, "I would say sooner the better."

 

12:20 p.m. ET, April 6, 2021

The court is back in session

The court is back in session after a short break. Minneapolis Police Lt. Johnny Mercil, a use-of-force instructor who trained Derek Chauvin, has resumed his testimony.

1:28 p.m. ET, April 6, 2021

Police lieutenant says Chauvin's knee on Floyd's neck would not be an authorized use-of-force

Minneapolis Police Lt. Johnny Mercil testified today about the use of neck restraints by police officers at the department.

He said that a neck restraint is defined as "constricting the sides of a person's neck." 

While showing the witness an image of Derek Chauvin with his knee on George Floyd's neck while Floyd was handcuffed, prosecuting attorney Steve Schleicher asked if "the subject was under control and handcuffed would this be authorized?" 

"I would say no," Mercil said.

12:33 p.m. ET, April 6, 2021

Police use-of-force instructor defines what "force" means

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Pool

Minneapolis Police Lt. Johnny Mercil is a is a use-of-force instructor who trained Derek Chauvin on defensive tactics in 2018.

He was asked by prosecutors to explain to the jury what force is. Here's what he said:

"It's listed on this slide here. Intentional police contact involving...
Any weapons, substance, vehicle, equipment tool device or animal that inflicts pain or injury to another
Physical strikes to the body 
Physical contact to the body that inflicts pain or injury
Restraint or circumstance likely to produce injury."

Mercil went on to confirm to prosecutors that "restraint is a form of force" and that both applying force or applying restraint needs to be proportional.

"In general, without using the slide for a moment, just explain to the jury as you would a group of trainings. What is proportional force?" prosecutors asked. 

"You want to use the least amount of force necessary to meet your objectives, to control. And if those lower uses of force do not work, would not work or are too unsafe to try, then you increase the level of force against that person," Mercil said. 

"You said that you want to use least amount of force as necessary? Why is that?" the prosecution continued. 

"Because if you can use the least amount of — lower level of force to meet your objectives, it's safer and better for everybody involved," Mercil added.

Watch:

12:54 p.m. ET, April 6, 2021

Police use-of-force instructor explains the training he gave Chauvin in 2018

Minneapolis Police Lt. Johnny Mercil, who is a use-of-force instructor with the department, said he trained Derek Chauvin on defensive tactics in 2018.

Mercil walked the jury through training documents that showed what was taught during the in-service that Chauvin attended. The prosecution also showed an attendance document that had Chauvin's name on it for the specific training.

He said "use-of-force" is defined in the training as "Intentional police contact involving any weapons, substance, vehicle, equipment tool device or animal that inflicts pain or injury to another. Physical strikes to the body. Physical contact to the body that inflicts pain or injury or restraint or circumstance likely to produce injury," Mercil said.

Mercil said that the department trains officers that physical restraint is a use-of-force, but when applying restraint, it has to be "reasonable."

Another slide of the training documents showed the idea of "proportionality" in force.

"You want to use the least amount of force necessary to meet your objectives, to control. And if those lower uses of force do not work, would not work, or are too unsafe to try, then you increase the level of force against that person," Mercil said, adding that a lower amount of force is safer for everyone involved.

The prosecution asked, "And when we talk about proportional to what?"

"I'd say the level of resistance you're getting," Mercil said, specifying the resistance that is coming from the person you are applying force to.

Watch:

11:40 a.m. ET, April 6, 2021

Prosecutors question Minneapolis police use-of-force instructor 

Minneapolis Police Lt. Johnny Mercil
Minneapolis Police Lt. Johnny Mercil Pool

Minneapolis Police Lt. Johnny Mercil has now taken the stand to testify. He has been with the department since 1996 and said he currently is on medical leave.

He serves as a use-of-force instructor with the department's training unit. One of the tactics Mercil said he provides training on is Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

"It's a form of martial art that focuses on leverage and body control, deemphasizes strikes and true Brazilian jiu-jitsu, there aren't strikes – there's no punching and kicking – it is using body weight. Kind of like wrestling and joint lock manipulation, neck restraints. Things that, you know, pain compliance as well as physical body control to get people to comply," Mercil said.

The prosecuting and defense attorneys finished questioning Minneapolis Police Department Sgt. Ker Yang who serves as the department's crisis intervention training coordinator.

Watch:

12:06 p.m. ET, April 6, 2021

Defense cross examines sergeant who trains officers on how to handle behavioral crisis

From CNN’s Aaron Cooper in Minneapolis and Elise Hammond

Defense attorney Eric Nelson
Defense attorney Eric Nelson Pool

Defense attorney Eric Nelson is now cross-examining Minneapolis Police Department Sgt. Ker Yang.

Yang serves as the department's crisis intervention training coordinator.

The defense asked Yang what potential signs of aggression they train officers to watch for during a situation.

Citing a training document, Yang said these signs could be things like "raised voice, rapid breathing, muscle tension, agitation, pacing."

Yang said the department also trains officers on what to look for in bystanders and people observing. He said the training aims to teach officers how to evaluate the entire situation, beyond how they are interacting with a suspect they are trying to arrest.

The critical decision-making model is not limited to just the suspect, but the totality of the circumstances, including citizen bystanders, Yang testified. 

The critical decision-making model is a dynamic process and can include earlier interaction with a suspect, training, tactical decision making, knowing medical help is on the way, officer safety and things that may not be apparent to bystanders.

Creating time and distance is an important part of the de-escalation process, Yang told defense lawyer Nelson.  

An officer should try to stay confident, maintain space, speak slowly and softly and avoid eye contact, according to their training Yang agreed.  

Officers could be dealing with multiple people in crisis, including a suspect, bystanders or other officers and the officer has to take all of that into consideration and apply to the critical decision-making matter, he said.