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Noon: Lt. testifies force was 'totally unnecessary,' use of force training for him mostly theory

Lt. Richard Zimmerman told jurors he felt the use of force used on George Floyd when he was placed on the ground was "totally unnecessary."

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"Well first of all, pulling him down to the ground, face down and putting your knee on a neck for that amount of time, it's just uncalled for," Zimmerman said. "I saw no reason why the officers felt that they were in danger, if that is what they felt, and that is what they would have to feel to use that kind of force."

Questioning done by Chauvin's attorney Eric Nelson seemed to illustrate that for Zimmerman, who has been in a leadership role within the department for more than two decades, the use of force training was more theory than something he uses on a daily basis. Zimmerman's duties since 1993 have not included patrolling city streets. He agreed with Nelson when asked if it was fair to say that his experience with use of force has been primarily through training.

"When is the last time you got in a physical fight with a person," Nelson asked.

"In 2018," Zimmerman answered.

Through questioning, Zimmerman also agreed that use of force dynamics, the series of decision making, is based on a number of different things including those that could not be captured on body-worn camera.

Upon questioning by Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank, Zimmerman testified that it didn't matter the crowd's response as long as the crowd was not attacking officers.

"The crowd really shouldn't have an effect on your actions," he said.

The court recessed shortly before 11:40 a.m. The trial will resume Monday morning, April 5, around 9:15.

11 a.m. 'His safety is your responsibility. His well-being is your responsibility.'

The Minneapolis Police Department's longtime head of its homicide unit took the stand Friday morning and told jurors that once a person is handcuffed "that person is yours."

"He is your responsibility. His safety is your responsibility. His well-being is your responsibility," Lt. Richard Zimmerman said.

Minneapolis police Lt. Richard Zimmerman, the long time head of the departments homicide unit, testifies Friday, April 2, 2021, in Hennepin County District Court.
Minneapolis police Lt. Richard Zimmerman, the long time head of the departments homicide unit, testifies Friday, April 2, 2021, in Hennepin County District Court.

When asked by Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank if Zimmerman had ever been trained to kneel on the neck of someone who is handcuffed behind their back and in the prone position, Zimmerman answered "no, I haven’t."

Zimmerman added that it would be considered deadly force.

"Because of the fact that if your knee is an a person's neck, that could kill them," he said.

Zimmerman also said that according to his training, once a person is handcuffed, "you need to get them out of the prone position as soon as possible because it restricts their breathing."

"You need to get them off their chest," he said. "Your muscles are pulling back when you are handcuffed and if you are laying on your chest, that is constricting your breathing even more."

Handcuffing a person also changes the level of force an officer can use.

"Once a person is cuffed, the threat level goes down, all the way . They are cuffed how could they really hurt you?" Zimmerman said, noting that a person could still be combative but the threat to an officer of being injured is way down. "You could have some guy try to kick you or something but you can move out of the way. That person is handcuffed. The threat level is just not there."

10:30 a.m.: Minneapolis Sgt. Jon Edwards testifies

Minneapolis Police Sgt. Jon Edwards testified that he had just finished roll call around 8:30 p.m. May 25, 2020, when he received a phone call from now-retired Sgt. David Pleoger. Pleoger said he was at the hospital with a man who may or may not live, Edwards recalled.

With little other detail, Edwards headed down to 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, where he met former officers J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane. Edwards instructed both men to turn on their body-worn cameras and told them to tape off the areas where they interacted with George Floyd.

Minneapolis police Sgt. Jon Edwards testifies Friday morning, April 2, 2021, in Hennepin County District Court.
Minneapolis police Sgt. Jon Edwards testifies Friday morning, April 2, 2021, in Hennepin County District Court.

Edwards called in a number of officers on his shift to come down to the scene and help canvas the area for witnesses. The sergeant said he instructed Lane and Kueng to "chill out," as he knew there would be escort sergeants coming to escort the town down to be interviewed.

Edwards is the second Minneapolis police sergeant to testify as part of the trial. On Thursday, Pleoger testified that he felt Chauvin's restraint of Floyd should have ended "when Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance."

Thursday court recap

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, accompanied by his 


Defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, and former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin attend Chauvin's trial in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis April 1, 2021, in this courtroom sketch. (REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg)
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, accompanied by his Defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, and former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin attend Chauvin's trial in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis April 1, 2021, in this courtroom sketch. (REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg)

The Derek Chauvin trial on Thursday, April 1, began emotionally and ended technically.

Courteney Ross, George Floyd's girlfriend, testified about their relationship that began in 2017. She also went into detail about the couple's shared opioid addiction.

"Both Floyd and I, our story, it’s a classic story of how many people get addicted to opioids. We both suffered from chronic pain. Mine was in my neck and his was in his back. We both had prescriptions but after prescriptions that were filled, we got addicted and tried really hard to break that addiction many times," she said. "Addiction, in my opinion, is a lifelong struggle. It's something that we dealt with everyday. It's not something that just kind of comes and goes. It's something I’ll deal with forever."

The afternoon concluded with testimony from Hennepin County EMS paramedics Seth Bravinder and Derek Smith, Minneapolis Fire Capt. Jeremy Norton, and retired Minneapolis Police Department Sgt. David Pleoger. Pleoger was on duty when 911 dispatcher Jena Scurry called to express concern about things she was seeing on the pole camera across from Cup Foods.

Court is scheduled to start at 9:15 a.m. today. Judge Peter Cahill told the jury he expects a shorter day for them, ending at around 12:30 p.m.

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