A doctor specializing in respiratory medicine testified in court Thursday that George Floyd died of asphyxia as a result of being handcuffed facedown on the street with former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on him.

Dr. Martin Tobin, who works in the intensive care unit at Hines VA Hospital in Illinois, said Floyd died of a “low level of oxygen,” also known as asphyxia or hypoxia.

“This caused damage to his brain … and it also caused a [pulseless electrical activity] arrhythmia that caused his heart to stop,” Tobin testified.

Floyd’s low oxygen level was caused by “shallow breathing” due to his being handcuffed in the prone position against the pavement as Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck as well as his back and side, according to Tobin.

Floyd was being “squashed” between the hard ground and the officers as they pushed his handcuffs high into his back, Tobin says. Such actions would “totally interfere with central features of how we breathe,” he added.

“It’s like the left side is in a vise,” Tobin testified. “It’s totally been pushed in, squeezed in from each side, from the street at the bottom and from the way that the handcuffs are manipulated. It’s not just the handcuffs. It’s how they are being held, where they are being pushed.”

“It’s as if a surgeon has gone in and removed the lung ― not quite, but along those lines,” Tobin added. “Very little opportunity for him to be able to get any air to move into the left side of his chest.”

Tobin gave his assessment to the court on the ninth day of witness testimony in Chauvin’s trial. Chauvin has been charged with second- and third-degree murder as well as manslaughter. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.



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