On February 16-17, Defendant J. Alexander Kueng took the witness stand in his federal criminal trial. Here is a summary of his testimony.
Kueng first described his growing up in north Minneapolis, the oldest of five children as the son of a Black father and white mother. He attended Sheridan Elementary School and Patrick Henry High School. Police officers often came to his home because of problems created by his younger siblings. This prompted his not being a “fan of police” and later his decision to become a police officer to do a better job.
He went to college in New York State to play soccer. But after tearing his ACL, he returned home and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in sociology and criminology. He then worked in security and loss prevention at Macy’s on Nicollet Mall and then was a community service officer with the MPD before the 2018 Super Bowl in the city.
On May 25, 2020, Kueng was a rookie policeman, only a few days off probationary status.
Although he was in the first squad car on the scene and, therefore, was supposed to be the one in charge, everyone knew “it’s always the senior officer who is in charge,” i.e., Derek Chauvin, who was “very quiet, by the book, knowledgeable and commanding respect from other officers.” Chauvin was “fair but tough.”
At the scene, Kueng discussed his early attempt to push George Floyd into the back seat of a squad car. Floyd pushed back, slamming Kueng’s face on the Plexiglass divider in the car. “His behavior just went to extreme measures. He started shaking very violently and seemed to have no pain response.” This prompted Kueng to wonder if this man was suffering from excited delirium. “I felt I had no control. I felt like any moment he could shove me off.”
A little later Kueng, who was kneeling on George Floyd’s back, while Derek Chauvin had his knee near Floyd’s neck and Thomas Lane held his legs, testified that he was concerned about their ability to stop Floyd from thrashing around and, therefore, disagreed with Lane’s suggestion of changing the restraint. Instead, Kueng trusted and deferred to Chauvin as his senior officer.
Indeed, he agreed with his counsel’s suggestion that cadets are taught unquestioned obedience to their superiors, especially in light of probationary officers being subject to being fired at will. He believed that Chauvin could still have him unilaterally terminated. As a result, he worried about that possibility on every shift. Therefore, he never told Chauvin to get off Floyd. “I would trust a 19-year veteran to figure it out.”
When Kueng could not find a pulse for Floyd, who was face down on the street, he told Chauvin that he could not find a pulse and assumed that it was up to Chauvin to check for a more accurate assessment and make decisions on the “difficult balance between scene safety and medical care.” Kueng also said he was unable to confirm that Floyd did not have a pulse because he was unable to check for a carotid pulse as he had been trained.
Kueng also described his training of how to secure a site and the need to check someone’s neck pulse if he or she is in distress.
Under cross examination, Kueng was shown material from an emergency medical responder course he took that said someone might not be breathing adequately even though the person was talking and listed things to check for. Kueng agreed that such a situation called for reassessment and agreed that he was trained to roll someone on his side to help him breathe.
 Karnowski & Webber, Officer Charged in Floyd killing says he deferred to Chauvin, AP News (Fe. 16, 2022); Mannix & Olson, Kueng testifies of attempting to place Floyd in squad: “I felt like I had no control,’ StarTribune (Feb. 16, 2022); Karnowski & Webber, Officer charged in Floyd killing says he deferred to Chauvin, AP News (Feb.17, 2022); Karnowski & Webber, Prosecutors question officer in Floyd killing about training, AP News (Feb. 17, 2022), Olson & Mannix, Kueng says he didn’t see ‘serious medical need’ when George Floyd fell unresponsive, StarTribune (Feb. 17, 2022),