MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Witnesses to George Floyd’s murder testified in the federal civil rights case Wednesday against three former Minneapolis police officers.

Prosecutors say Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng ignored Floyd’s desperate pleas for help during his deadly arrest on May 25, 2020. Former officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder in the state trial last April.

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Off-duty Minneapolis firefighter Genevieve Hanson and paramedic Derek Smith testified Tuesday. Both witnesses testified in Chauvin’s state trial, but Hanson may be an even more significant witness in this trial. She happened on the scene and begged the officers to let her take Floyd’s pulse and provide him aid.

On the scene, then-officer Tou Thao expressed skepticism that Hanson was really a firefighter and told her to get on the sidewalk. Hanson was asked by the prosecution if she thinks she could have made a difference for Floyd, and she answered yes.

Thao had his back to Floyd and the other three officers during the confrontation. Under cross-examination by Thao’s attorney, Robert Paule, Hanson said she had told investigators “I have no idea that Mr. Thao had any idea what was going on behind his back.”

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Genevieve Hansen (credit: Cedric Hohnstadt)

Smith testified when he arrived on the scene, Chauvin still had his knee on Floyd’s neck, and he had to ask him to back away. Smith said after immediately taking Floyd’s pulse, he believed he was “probably dead.” Smith seemed to bolster the defense by saying the scene outside Cup Foods was not safe, and that’s why they moved the ambulance several blocks to get away from the bystanders.

Prosecutors played a video of Lane in the ambulance administering chest compressions. His attorney, Earl Gray asked, “Was [Lane] helpful?” Paramedic Smith responded, “In my opinion, he was helpful, yes.”

Smith also said he suspected that Floyd may have suffered from “excited delirium” — a controversial medical condition that is taught to first responders. Symptoms, Smith said, include a racing heart and super-human strength. In the body-cam videos, Lane can be heard asking the other officers, as they hold Floyd down, that he was worried Floyd was suffering from the condition.

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At the end of the day, Thomas Plunkett, Kueng’s attorney, asked Federal Judge Paul Magnuson to declare a mistrial on grounds of prosecutorial misconduct. And for a third time, the judge denied the motion.

Esme Murphy