Medical examiner says George Floyd's encounter with former police officer Derek Chauvin caused his death


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George Floyd was a healthy 46-year-old man before he died in 2020 during a police encounter in Minneapolis, according to the doctor who performed Floyd’s autopsy. And while drug use and preexisting medical conditions may have contributed to his death, it was the encounter with law enforcement that caused it.

“To the best of my knowledge, he was generally healthy on May 25, before the events of that evening,” Dr. Andrew Baker, Hennepin County Chief Medical Examiner, testified Friday during the murder trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin.

Chauvin, who is white, was fired after video captured him placing his knee on Floyd’s neck, an unarmed Black man, for more than nine minutes, despite pleas from Floyd and bystanders to stop. “I can’t breathe,” Floyd said. He was later pronounced dead due to a lack of oxygen.

The former Minneapolis cop is on trial for second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter charges. His defense team has argued Chauvin was merely following department policy — a claim disputed by police — and that Floyd’s drug use contributed to his death.

During his autopsy, Baker said he did not discover any visible damage to Floyd’s heart or brain. And while the examination did reveal that Floyd had COVID-19, it did not uncover any damage to his lungs that would suggest it contributed to his death.

But Floyd did have heart disease and narrow coronary arteries, Baker testified.

“He already has a heart that needs more oxygen than a normal heart,” he said. And a physical encounter with law enforcement is “going to cause stress hormones to pour into your body,” including adrenaline, which is “going to ask your heart to beat faster, it’s going to ask your body for more oxygen.”

Although use of drugs, such as Fentanyl, and preexisting medical conditions may have contributed to Floyd’s death, Baker testified, it was not the cause.

“In my opinion, the law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression was just more than Mr. Floyd could take, by virtue of those heart conditions,” Baker said.

Floyd’s death spurred a summer of civil unrest, with Black Lives Matter protests across the US spurring new efforts to ensure accountability for police who abuse their power.

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