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Kueng says he didn’t see a ‘serious medical need’ when George Floyd fell unresponsive

J. Alexander Kueng told jurors on Thursday that he never considered George Floyd’s declining condition to warrant “serious medical need.”

On his second day of testimony, the former Minneapolis police officer defended his decision to continue to restrain Floyd during a confusing and rapidly escalating 911 call on May 25, 2020, even after Floyd was fell unanswered.

“He was saying he couldn’t breathe,” Assistant US Attorney Manda Seritch said during cross-examination. “His talking slowed down. He stopped talking, stopped moving. And you couldn’t find a pulse, could you?”

Kueng said he could not confirm that Floyd had no pulse, as he was unable to properly check the carotid pulse, as he had been trained at the academy.

Kueng, 28, is on trial, along with fellow ex-officers Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, for stripping Floyd of his civil rights during the fatal encounter. He is the second officer to testify in his own defense. Thao spoke on Tuesday and Wednesday.

To secure a guilty verdict, prosecutors must prove that Kueng failed in his duty to provide medical intervention that day. In direct questioning, Kueng said he had three days off when he answered what he originally thought was a routine 911 call, but instead escalated into a struggles with an erratic suspect.

“I felt like I had no control,” Kueng said, describing struggles trying to get Floyd into the team. “I felt like at any moment he could push me away.”

He said he thought Floyd may have experienced a dangerous form of agitation known as “excited delirium”, which he had also heard of in training, saying Floyd appeared to be “drawn” to the plexiglass in the police car.

“You know he was like, ‘I can’t breathe? ‘” Sertich asked. “He said it a lot, about 20 times.”

Kueng said he would take her word for how many times.

Kueng also continued to remind the jury of his rookie status – part of a defense that shifted the blame to Derek Chauvin, who has already pleaded guilty in the case. Official policy states that the first officers on the scene would be in charge – in this case, Kueng and Lane – but Kueng said everyone knows the most senior officer, Chauvin, is really in charge.

Chauvin had been Kueng’s field training officer until a few days earlier, which Kueng said still gave Chauvin control over his future in the department, especially during the probationary period for new officers. Asked if he believed Chauvin could “unilaterally” fire him at the time, Kueng replied, “Yes, ma’am.”

Sertich asked if Kueng ever tried to stop Chauvin from kneeling on Floyd’s neck. Kueng said no.

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