Wednesday, June 10, 2020

How Did George Floyd Die and Who is Directly Responsible?

We are very aware of who George Floyd is and the circumstances surrounding his tragic death given the near non-stop media coverage in since the video emerged of the incident.

It is a terrible look with the officer kneeling on Floyd's neck and his passing after eight minutes and x seconds. I hadn't given much thought to the specifics of the incident until a comment on Facebook yesterday which set my mind in curiosity mode.

How did George Floyd die and who is directly responsible?

You will recall that I have researched and written a book tentatively titled, The Science Behind All Fighting Techniques. A chapter in that book is dedicated to Shime Waza (strangulation techniques). The police call these techniques neck restraints or neck holds for obvious reasons.

There are two types of these techniques that target the neck. The either target the carotid artery(s) or the front of the neck. Applying pressure to the side of the neck occludes the carotid artery(s) reducing blood supply to the brain resulting in loss of consciousness in 10-12 seconds. Applying pressure to the front of the neck forces the tongue backward blocking the windpipe passage and depriving the body of oxygen.

Floyd remained conscious therefore it is unlikely that the knee of the officer on the neck occluded the carotid artery(s). Floyd continued to speak saying that he could not breathe, therefore, I could not see how the knee was producing pressure on the front of the neck forcing his tongue backward to block the windpipe passage and deprive the body of oxygen. In that case he should not have been able to speak. In any event, when I studied the photograph, and I won't reproduce it because there is no need to share this horrible image of his last moments more than it has been, the officer had his knee on the side of the neck and not the back or front.

I hypothesised that the officers sitting on his back prevented his lungs from expanding thereby rending it impossible for Floyd to breath. The knee on the neck was to prevent Floyd from squirming, which it did thus preventing him from relieving the pressure on his back. I hypothesised that it was the officers on Floyd's back that are directly responsible for Floyd's death and not the officer kneeling on his neck.

Turns out that the independent coroner concurs with my hypothesis. There were two autopsies conducted. The following is extracted from a New York Times article about the subject:

The criminal complaint supporting a murder charge for the officer, which referred to the Hennepin County medical examiner’s preliminary findings, said the autopsy had discounted traumatic asphyxia or strangulation as the cause of Mr. Floyd’s death.

The private autopsy by doctors hired by Mr. Floyd’s family determined that he died not just because of the knee on his neck — held there by the officer, Derek Chauvin — but also because of two other officers who helped pin him down by applying pressure on his back. All three officers were fired last week, as was a fourth officer at the scene.

There is more in the article supporting the second narrative.

The inability to breathe was not complete because apparently we have around 6mins worth of oxygen in our bloodstream without it being replaced.

And then there is EDS, 'excited delirium syndrome.' From my as yet unpublished book,
It has been suggested that sudden deaths that have occurred when a neck restraint has been applied by law enforcement officers may be explained through ‘excited delirium syndrome’ (EDS). 

The actual cause of death associated with EDS is not known, however, it is often linked to the level of catecholamines in the body.

DiMaio and DiMaio (2006) suggest that EDS deaths result from a fatal cardiac arrhythmia (irregularity in rhythm) caused by, in addition to the release of catecholamines due to the struggle to restrain the individual experiencing the excited delirium episode, the excited delirium itself triggering a release of catecholamines. DiMaio and DiMaio suggest that the highest levels of catecholamines occur approximately three minutes after cessation of the activity, therefore, EDS fatalities often occur after the struggle has taken place and the subject has been subdued. 

What are the ramifications associated with this narrative. I am no lawyer so this is in no way definitive. The kneeling officer is charged with 2nd degree murder. If he was not directly responsible for the death of Floyd he may be found not guilty. The two officers sitting on his back are charged with being accomplices. If they are directly responsible for Floyd's death they are not accomplices.

The State Attorney laid the charges and he is a politician before being a prosecutor. It would be politically difficult for him to amend the charges particularly that the optics convict the kneeling officer in the public's mind. If these officers are not convicted, riots will most definitely ensue. If they are convicted of these charges, innocent men of THESE charges may be being sent to prison (the emphasis for the benefit of those who will argue send them to prison nonetheless).

One of the outcomes of this situation is relevant for martial arts and combat sports. Police and politicians are responding to calls for change by banning the use of neck holds/restraints by police (even though they were not used in this case). France has come out and banned their use by police after the Black Lives Matter protests. These techniques are described as being dangerous whenever used. In my chapter I refer to a coroner who called for their ban in the 90s and referred to them as a 'lethal weapon' because they are capable of causing death whenever used.

If they are potential lethal weapons and can cause death whenever used, why are they not banned from being taught by martial arts and used in combat sports? In light of this argument/discussion, ANYONE teaching these types of techniques in martial arts or combat sports should morally and ethically, if not legally, consider their continued teaching and use of these techniques. That consideration would include being fully informed about the subject and these techniques. To the best of my knowledge my chapter is the most comprehensive study of the subject.

As luck would have it, as soon as I published this post I read this news article about a subject dying from EDS while being restrained by police officers:

“Mr McGlothen had underlying heart disease and clearly was suffering from excited delirium. The combination of these factors caused his death.”

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