A use-of-force expert testified Monday that the officers who subdued Floyd should have known he was not trying to attack them when he struggled and frantically said he was claustrophobic as they tried to put him in a squad car.
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Seth Stoughton, an associate professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law, also testified that there was no reason to pin Floyd to the pavement on his stomach because he was handcuffed, already had been searched and didn’t pose a threat of escape or harm to the officers.
“I don’t see him presenting a threat of anything,” Stoughton said. “There’s no specific, articulable facts that … a reasonable officer in the defendant’s position could use to conclude that he had the intention of causing physical harm to the officers or others.”
Stoughton also said Chauvin should have been aware of Floyd’s growing distress: After one officer suggested rolling Floyd onto his side, Chauvin said no. Chauvin ignored bystanders who were shouting that Floyd was not responsive. And when another officer said Floyd didn’t have a pulse, Stoughton said Chauvin’s response was “huh.”
Stoughton’s testimony — including that officers should have known that pressing a knee to someone’s neck could cause serious injury or death — is similar to that offered by previous witnesses, though it is framed from the perspective of what a reasonable officer should have done. Officers are allowed to use deadly force when someone puts the officer or other people in danger, and legal experts say a key question for the jury will be whether Chauvin’s actions were reasonable.