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Paramedic Derek Smith is Questioned in Derek Chauvin Trial. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired April 1, 2021 - 14:30   ET





And if you could pull up to the microphone.

And we've been having witnesses take off their mask, if you could do that, if you feel comfortable.


CAHILL: And if you could start by stating your full name, spelling each of your names.

SMITH: Repeat that, please.

CAHILL: State your full name, spell each of your names.

SMITH: Full name. Spell my name. My name is Derek Smith, first name, D-E-R-E-K, last name is Smith, traditional spelling, S-M-I-T-H.

CAHILL: Ms. Aldridge?


Good afternoon, Mr. Smith.


ELDRIDGE: What do you do for work, sir?

Can you hear me? I'm sorry.

SMITH: Yes. Currently, I am a paramedic with Hennepin EMS.

ELDRIDGE: And how long have you work with Hennepin EMS?

SMITH: Going on four years this summer.

ELDRIDGE: And have you worked as a paramedic or in the capacity as a paramedic before that?

SMITH: I worked for Gwinnett County down in Georgia for approximately a year as a trainee, pretty much paramedic school for fire and EMS. I also worked BLS as a paid on-call firefighter for the city of Andover.

ELDRIDGE: I'm having a little bit of trouble hearing you. Did you say VLS?

SMITH: BLS, basic life support, first responder stuff.

ELDRIDGE: Could you describe what basic life support training you got.

SMITH: EMT stuff. Minneapolis Fire Department.

ELDRIDGE: So, before going through your paramedic training, had you initially received some EMT or basic type of life support type training?

SMITH: Correct.

ELDRIDGE: All right. So, in terms of your job as a paramedic with Hennepin EMS, what do you do on a day-to-day basis?

SMITH: We respond to various calls for emergency medical services in various environments.

ELDRIDGE: And are those wide-ranging? Could you give some examples of the types of calls that you respond to?

SMITH: Examples of calls I respond to? Car accidents. Intoxicated people. Overdoses. Seizures. Heart attacks. Stubbed toes.


ELDRIDGE: So, it could be a variety of things, is that right?

SMITH: Correct.

ELDRIDGE: And does that include cardiac arrests?


ELDRIDGE: OK. And when you respond to a cardiac arrest, what does that mean?

SMITH: A cardiac arrest, when I respond to that?

ELDRIDGE: What's a cardiac arrest?

SMITH: A cardiac arrest is an individual that is, in lay terms, dead, not producing a pulse, not breathing.

ELDRIDGE: So, when you, as a paramedic, use terms like "cardiac arrest" or "full arrest," is that what you mean?

SMITH: They're, in lay terms, dead, yes.

ELDRIDGE: OK. So, I'm going to direct your attention to May 25 of last year.


ELDRIDGE: Were you on duty as a paramedic with Hennepin EMS that day?


ELDRIDGE: And did you respond to a call that evening?

SMITH: Yes, Miss.

CAHILL: Just a little bit back. That way -- not quite. There you go.


SMITH: Sorry, sir.

CAHILL: Not a problem. We have to adjust for everybody.


CAHILL: All right.

Ms. Eldridge?

ELDRIDGE: Thank you, Your Honor.

If you can't hear me, let me know and if I can't hear you, I'll let you know.

SMITH: Thank you, Miss.

ELDRIDGE: Getting back to May 25, what -- what was the initial code or the initial type of call that you understood you were responding to?

SMITH: We were called code two, which means nonemergent, to a mouth injury.

ELDRIDGE: And then at some point en route to that scene, was that call upgraded?


ELDRIDGE: And what was the information you had at that time? In terms of the --

SMITH: At that time, it was code three.

ELDRIDGE: And what is code three?

SMITH: Lights and sirens, get there with due regard as quickly as possible. ELDRIDGE: And at that point in time, was that all the information you

had in terms of first being code two and then code three? Did you have any additional information about why it was elevated to a code three?

SMITH: At that time, I had no additional information, other than code three.

ELDRIDGE: Where did you ultimately respond to that code three call? Was that in the area of 38th and Chicago?

SMITH: That's correct.

ELDRIDGE: And what did you observe? What did you see when you arrived on scene?

SMITH: What did I observe when I arrived on scene? There was a police squad, an individual laying down, three officers on the individual.

There was lots of -- there was multiple people. There was multiple cell phones out. There was elevated tones used. It didn't feel like a welcoming environment.

ELDRIDGE: So, when you arrived, you said that you saw three officers on top of an individual, that individual that they were on top of, was he later identified?


ELDRIDGE: And was that individual identified to be George Floyd?


ELDRIDGE: So, when you come up and you see the scene, three officers on top of George Floyd, and you said, other individuals with cell phones out, what did you do when you arrived?

SMITH: What did I do when I arrived on scene? Assessed all corners around us, kind of just gauged what was going on. I walked up to the individual, noticed he wasn't moving. I didn't see any chest rise or fall on this individual. He was in handcuffs at the time. I went up and -- sorry.

ELDRIDGE: When you approached, you said he was in handcuffs. As you approached him to inspect further, were the officers still on top of him?

SMITH: The officers were still on him when I approached.

ELDRIDGE: And what did you do when you approached?

SMITH: I was assessing the scene and running through what care needed to be meted.

ELDRIDGE: Did you take some initial steps, like checking for a pulse?

SMITH: I checked for a pulse. ELDRIDGE: And did you also check the individual, Mr. Floyd's pupils?

SMITH: I did.

ELDRIDGE: And what did you determine at that point?

SMITH: They were large, dilated.

ELDRIDGE: So you determined that his pula pupils were large, dilated. What about a pulse?

SMITH: I did not palpate a pulse.

ELDRIDGE: You didn't feel or detect a pulse?

SMITH: Did not detect a pulse.

ELDRIDGE: And what did his condition appear to be to you, overall?


SMITH: In lay terms, I thought he was dead.

ELDRIDGE: So, what did you do next?

SMITH: I kind of looked for my partner and told him, I think he's dead, and I want to move this higher.


SMITH: And I will begin care in the back.

ELDRIDGE: Did you say you would begin care in the back?

SMITH: Of my rig.

ELDRIDGE: And is the rig where your equipment is to deal with something like a cardiac arrest?

SMITH: Yes, Miss.

ELDRIDGE: I'm going to show you something that has not been admitted but has been marked as exhibit 56. I will just show it on your screen at the moment. Do you see that on your screen?

SMITH: It's kind of a blurred, but yes.

ELDRIDGE: Can you see it now if you reposition a little bit?



Over here, Judge?


I get the gist of it, yes. Touching the carotid artery, there's no pulse.

ELDRIDGE: So you recognize this image as yourself checking for Mr. Floyd's pulse? Is that a fair and accurate picture of that?

SMITH: Yes, Miss.

ELDRIDGE: Your Honor, I would offer exhibit 56.

CAHILL: Any objection?


CAHILL: Fifty-six is received.

ELDRIDGE: And I would ask to publish it.

All right. And I think you just described this as you checking for carotid pulse, is that right?

SMITH: Correct.

ELDRIDGE: What is a carotid pulse? What does that mean?

SMITH: Area of the neck, you want to check for that, closest to the heart. There should be one there if you're up and breathing.

ELDRIDGE: OK. And at the time that you're checking.


ELDRIDGE: I'm sorry. Say that again.

SMITH: I meant alive. I said breathing.

ELDRIDGE: So I don't have to circle back to that.


ELDRIDGE: You're checking for a carotid pulse. What was your response to that? It would be one that you would find if you were -- please finish your thought.

SMITH: Repeat that, please.

ELDRIDGE: I apologize.

SMITH: No, it's on me.

ELDRIDGE: What are you -- why do you check the carotid pulse, and what would you expect?

SMITH: In a living person, there should be a pulse there. I did not feel one. I suspected the patient to be dead.


SMITH: In lay terms.

ELDRIDGE: And at the moment that you were checking for this carotid pulse, are the officers still positioned on top of Mr. Floyd?


ELDRIDGE: All right.

I'm going to take down exhibit 56 and I'm going to put on the screen an exhibit that has already been admitted as exhibit 248 if we could put that up, please.

And then does this show a different angle of your initial -- well, what does this show here? Do you see yourself in this picture?


ELDRIDGE: OK. And what are you doing?

SMITH: I'm at the top of the screen there in that brown uniform.

ELDRIDGE: And you can use the stylus.

SMITH: Am I supposed to touch --

ELDRIDGE: It's a touch screen so you can point out where you were.

SMITH: That's me.

ELDRIDGE: And what are you doing in this picture?

SMITH: I think I'm grabbing my flashlight and I'm assessing what's going on here.

ELDRIDGE: OK. And then in terms of using your flashlight, is that something you use to assist with checking pupils?

SMITH: Yes, Miss.

ELDRIDGE: OK, so while you were at the head of Mr. Floyd, did you check both his pulse and his pupils?

SMITH: Yes, Miss.

ELDRIDGE: All right. We can take that down.

So, at that point, what happened next after you did those things?

SMITH: After I checked pulse and pupils?

ELDRIDGE: Yes. SMITH: I looked for my partner and provided him that I believed the

individual to be deceased and I wanted to get off scene and I would start cure in the back.

ELDRIDGE: And did you take steps to make that happen?

SMITH: Yes, we grabbed our stretcher and pulse and canvas and we were starting to prep to move the patient.

ELDRIDGE: And did you have any interaction with the officers in terms of moving the patient?

SMITH: Once we got the poles and canvas on the ground, the officers were very helpful in moving the patient on to the canvas.

ELDRIDGE: So, did the officers assist you in moving?


ELDRIDGE: The patient? Did you have to provide some direction to them in terms of moving the patient?

SMITH: Yes, at one point, I had to tell one of them to get out of the way, they were in my way.

ELDRIDGE: OK. And then what -- why was that? What were you trying to accomplish?


SMITH: I wanted to get my patient to my rig as quickly as possible so I could begin my resuscitation efforts. He was standing in between the stretcher and where I needed to be. He needed to be eliminated from the situation.

ELDRIDGE: Were you trying -- what was -- you said as quickly as possible. Why were you trying to get things done as quickly as possible?

SMITH: For my patient. Patient care.

ELDRIDGE: And is timing something important when it comes to someone who's in cardiac arrest?


ELDRIDGE: Why is that?

SMITH: His heart isn't beating, and it should be. And the longer it isn't beating, the greater the likelihood this individual will not be resuscitated.

ELDRIDGE: OK. So, did you ultimately load the patient on to the ambulance?

SMITH: Yes. ELDRIDGE: And did you end up -- did one of the officers on scene come

with you?

SMITH: We had one officer from Minneapolis, yes.

ELDRIDGE: And why was that?

SMITH: I needed somebody to start chest compressions.

ELDRIDGE: And when you arrived on scene, had there been any -- did you observe anyone rendering any medical care or chest compressions when you arrived?

SMITH: When I arrived on scene, there was no medical services being provided to the patient.

ELDRIDGE: OK. So, when you got on the ambulance, did you do some further assessment of the -- of Mr. Floyd's condition?


ELDRIDGE: And was it at that point that, well, what did you do next?

SMITH: We're in the back of the rig?


SMITH: I had them shut the doors. I took the Minneapolis police officer with me. I started to -- the individual to better --

ELDRIDGE: Just a second there. Why do you have to do something like that?

SMITH: To better assess to what's going on, to get room to just do my job and provide patient care.

ELDRIDGE: And when you de-clothe an individual, does that provide further access in terms of any iv or other options for you?


ELDRIDGE: Did you -- so what did you observe at that point as you were doing your initial assessment of Mr. Floyd?

SMITH: He had some superficial injuries to his face and shoulder, it appeared. I reconfirmed that he was pulseless and wasn't breathing. I had to take the handcuffs off. I was getting the clothes removed so I could prepare to take care of this individual.

ELDRIDGE: And did you personally take off the handcuffs?

SMITH: Yes. I took off the handcuffs.

ELDRIDGE: How are you able to do that as a paramedic?

SMITH: I have a pair of handcuffs keys. ELDRIDGE: So in the line of your work, you're able to use those keys

to take handcuffs off an individual?


ELDRIDGE: And is that the key that you used?


ELDRIDGE: And did you provide some additional direction to the law enforcement officer who was with you?


ELDRIDGE: And what was the nature of that?

SMITH: I inquired to the events prior to my arrival, and I also directed him to do chest compressions.

ELDRIDGE: And was that when those -- upon your direction, was that when chest compressions first began, to your knowledge?

SMITH: To my knowledge, chest compressions began when I initiated them with Minneapolis P.D.

ELDRIDGE: And when you say initiated them, was that a direction that you gave to the officer to start expression compressions?


ELDRIDGE: All right. I'm going to put on the screen an exhibit that has been admitted as exhibit 57.

All right. So, just walking back through what you just testified about, can you just describe what's shown here?

SMITH: That is the patient on our stretcher. That is the back of our ambulance. That is me. In a paramedic uniform. In a paramedic uniform. I am checking for a carotid pulse.

ELDRIDGE: And was this subsequent to, after your initial check on the street?

SMITH: I was reconfirming my initial assessment.

ELDRIDGE: And again --

SMITH: Still did not have a pulse.

ELDRIDGE: OK. And then let's move to exhibit 58, please.

And what are you doing in exhibit 58?

SMITH: Checking for pulse, repositioning.

ELDRIDGE: And when you say repositioning, just tell the jury why you might reposition somebody.

SMITH: I was just hoping to find a pulse and reposition for an airway. Just reconfirming that I needed to start working the cardiac arrest.

ELDRIDGE: And had anything changed in terms of your initial assessment?

SMITH: No, Miss.


ELDRIDGE: So, you were not able to detect a pulse?

SMITH: Correct.

ELDRIDGE: Did he appear to be breathing?

SMITH: No, Miss.

ELDRIDGE: Exhibit 59.

You indicated you had given some direction to an officer to start chest compressions. Can you describe what is shown here?

SMITH: That appears to be the officer starting chest compressions.

ELDRIDGE: Let's move to exhibit 60, please.

In terms of injuries noted, what injuries did you observe on Mr. Floyd?

SMITH: Relatively superficial injuries that I don't believe at the time would result in a cardiac arrest.

ELDRIDGE: You made two arrows, one to the nose area and one to the left shoulder area. In terms of your treatment of the patient, were these -- you said superficial, were these not your primary concern?

SMITH: No, the cardiac arrest was my primary concern.

ELDRIDGE: We will put exhibit 61, which has already been admitted, on the screen.

And with respect to the injuries, is this image consistent with what you were describing?

SMITH: Yes. Superficial.

ELDRIDGE: You're pointing to -- you made an arrow on the nose area. What did you observe there?

SMITH: I didn't suspect a life-threatening injury.

ELDRIDGE: Was there blood or something else you saw there?

SMITH: Appeared to be blood, a superficial injury.

ELDRIDGE: That injury not life threatening is what you are talking about?

SMITH: Not in my opinion.

ELDRIDGE: You were dealing with the cardiac arrest?

SMITH: Yes, ma'am.

ELDRIDGE: We can take that down, please.

Ultimately, did you and your partner move with the patient to another location?

SMITH: Once the individual was loaded I directed my partner to move us somewhere more secure and update fire.

ELDRIDGE: When you say update fire, what does that mean?

SMITH: To our location and we are working a full arrest.

ELDRIDGE: So I understand, when you inform fire you are working a full arrest, what is the message you are trying to get across? Is there a need you have?

SMITH: I requested code 3 as soon as I got on scene, and I was reaffirming to my partner where we are going, please get there to help because we are in the back working a cardiac arrest alone.

ELDRIDGE: What is your concern with working a cardiac arrest alone and needing fire?

SMITH: I'm -- there's a lot to be done. I am only human.

ELDRIDGE: While you are relocating and your partner is driving and you are in the back, are you continuing to assess the patient and continuing to work on the patient?


ELDRIDGE: So what during that period of time did you observe about his condition? Maybe, more specific, anything about a lack of rhythm when it came to --

SMITH: Well, I noticed he was in insicily (ph), meaning he is not producing electrical activity in the heart.

ELDRIDGE: So you say once you got the pads on -- you said flat lined, is that right?


ELDRIDGE: And I will try and finish the question --

SMITH: Sorry. I will shut up. Go. (LAUGHTER)

ELDRIDGE: No problem. No problem.

Let me just back up so we are clear. I believe you said he was flat lined once he got the pads on, and can you describe once you have pads on a patient, what are you able to see on your monitor?

SMITH: Since I did not see a pulse, I put the pads on and it allows us to provide a defibration in the event the rhythm presented as much, and being that it was asicily (ph), it is a non-shockable rhythm per protocol.

ELDRIDGE: You said the pads are connected to a ZOLL monitor?


ELDRIDGE: What is a ZOLL monitor?

SMITH: It can take blood pressure and --

ELDRIDGE: Is that how you can see the patient's heartbeat on your monster?



ELDRIDGE: And you said he was in a non-shockable rhythm, is that right?

SMITH: That's right.

ELDRIDGE: So does that mean defibrillation would not be something you could do, correct?

SMITH: Per protocols, you don't shock asicily (ph).

ELDRIDGE: Why is that?

SMITH: It's not what you do. You want to change the rhythm, in my understanding -- it's not a rhythm and it needs interventions to get to a better rhythm.

ELDRIDGE: In terms of what it means when you say flatline, what does that mean in terms of patient status?

SMITH: It means they're dead.

ELDRIDGE: OK. And what were you doing in terms of trying to provide whatever care you could provide knowing that he was in asicily (ph)? What were the next steps you took?

SMITH: I was working a cardiac arrest.

ELDRIDGE: So when you work a cardiac arrest, what do you do? SMITH: You just use chest compressions. I was trying to get our pads

on the gentleman, and I was getting airway equipment ready, and starting to prep meds and access points.

ELDRIDGE: And after the ambulance was parked at another location, did your partner come back and assist with those things?


ELDRIDGE: Ultimately, did -- did you set up the things that you needed to set up per your protocols in terms of iv and airway and those kinds of things?

SMITH: By the time my partner got in the back?


SMITH: I hadn't done everything, no, but I was in the process of attempting to resuscitate the individual.

ELDRIDGE: While you were en route you were working on a patient and you were working continuously when your partner came back?

SMITH: Yes, we were continuing to work the cardiac arrest.

ELDRIDGE: Ultimately, did Minneapolis firefighters meet you at the location was had requested?

SMITH: Eventually we met up, yes.

ELDRIDGE: And then what happened at that point?

SMITH: Then we had the airway set up oxygen, and we was on the monitor. And I started handing out drugs because we had to mix our Epys and spike saline bags, and just as much as you can.

ELDRIDGE: Let me stop you there. Because you just told us a lot of information. You said hand out drugs, I mean, is there specific other particular drugs you give when you are dealing with a cardiac arrest?


ELDRIDGE: Do those include epinephrine and sodium bicarbonate?


ELDRIDGE: Do you have particular concerns or courses of action when somebody may have been pulseless for a relatively extended period of time?


ELDRIDGE: And maybe -- did you follow those protocols in this case?


ELDRIDGE: OK. So after the firefighters get on the ambulance and the officer leaves at some point, do you proceed on to the medical center?

SMITH: At some point we did.

ELDRIDGE: What was the determining factor in that? What had to happen before you were able to move to the hospital in your view?

SMITH: In my view, we got him to a relatively stable condition where I could manage his cardiac arrest. And I had him on the monitor and I was able to just kind of conduct more or less this cardiac arrest while providing the treatments.

ELDRIDGE: While you were on route, that continued, that treatment continued the whole way there?


ELDRIDGE: And while traveling the route to the hospital, did you administer a shock?



ELDRIDGE: Can you describe why you did that and why it came about?

SMITH: We were monitoring the patient. And I believe to have saw a run of an algorithm that indicates defibrillation, which I did provide.