On April 9, 2021, at Derek Chauvin’s trial, Dr. Andrew Baker of Hennepin County shared his beliefs on how George Floyd died.
Dr. Baker’s autopsy report of Floyd in May of 2020 found that he died of cardiopulmonary arrest, which complicated the common knowledge that Floyd was suffocated. The autopsy also showed results of heart disease and recent methamphetamine use.
However, when asked what he thought about how Floyd died, he responded by explaining what he called “severe underlying heart disease.” He stated that because of these conditions, Floyd would already need more oxygen than the usual person, and the restraint on his lung pathways “was just more than Mr. Floyd could take by virtue of those heart conditions.”
A witness at this trial, forensic pathologist Dr. Lindsey Thomas, said that George Floyd would not have died on that day without being restrained by the police. She was able to rule out two possibilities of Floyd’s death that the defense had suggested, heart arrhythmia and fentanyl overdose, through video proof. She says that one dying of heart arrhythmia would be experiencing a sudden and quick death and that “There was nothing sudden about this death.” She went on to say that a person dying of fentanyl overdose would gradually become sleepier and said that she “felt comfortable” eliminating those two possible fatal incidents.
Supporting Dr. Thomas’ claim, Dr. Baker’s death report lists meth and fentanyl use as supporting underlying conditions, while subdual and restraint by law enforcement is the immediate cause of death.
Both Baker and Thomas have admitted that drug use and heart disease may have contributed to Floyd’s death when questioned by prosecutor Jerry Blackwell. However, both experts are confident that George Floyd’s death was, in the majority, caused by the subdual and restraint on Floyd by the police. “My opinion remains unchanged,” Baker said as his testimony concluded. “That was my top line then, [and] it would remain my top line now.”
George Floyd’s death was a catalyst for many events, especially the 2020 Black Lives Matter Movement. As Derek Chauvin’s trial continues, knowing how George Floyd died will be pivotal for use in future statements, as well as influence the judge’s ruling.