Police lieutenant: Kneeling on neck ‘top tier, deadly force’

In this image from video, witness Lt. Richard Zimmerman of the Minneapolis Police Department David Pleoger, testifies as Hennepin County Judge PeterCahill presides Friday, April 2, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. (Court TV via AP, Pool)
In this image from video, witness Lt. Richard Zimmerman of the Minneapolis Police Department David Pleoger, testifies as Hennepin County Judge PeterCahill presides Friday, April 2, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. (Court TV via AP, Pool)

MINNEAPOLIS – Kneeling on George Floyd 's neck while he was handcuffed and lying on his stomach was top-tier, deadly force and “totally unnecessary," the head of the Minneapolis Police Department’s homicide division testified Friday.

“If your knee is on a person’s neck, that can kill him,” said Lt. Richard Zimmerman, adding that when a person is handcuffed behind their back, “your muscles are pulling back ... and if you’re laying on your chest, that’s constricting your breathing even more.”

Zimmerman, who said he is the most senior person on the police force, also testified at Derek Chauvin's murder trial that once Floyd was handcuffed, he saw "no reason for why the officers felt they were in danger — if that’s what they felt — and that’s what they would have to feel to be able to use that kind of force.”

“So in your opinion, should that restraint have stopped once he was handcuffed and thrown on the ground?” prosecutor Matthew Frank asked.

“Absolutely,” replied Zimmerman, who said he has received use-of-force training annually — as all officers do — since joining the city force in 1985.

He said he has never been trained to kneel on someone’s neck if they're handcuffed behind their back and in the prone position.

“Once you secure or handcuff a person, you need to get them out of the prone position as soon as possible because it restricts their breathing,” Zimmerman said, adding ”you need to turn them on their side or have them sit up."

He also testified that officers have a duty to provide care for a person in distress, even if an ambulance has been called.