MINNEAPOLIS — George Floyd could be heard pleading for his life and saying “I can’t breathe” in four police body-worn camera videos prosecutors played for jurors Wednesday afternoon in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Earlier, a witness who glimpsed the first moments of George Floyd’s arrest broke down sobbing on the witness stand. Charles McMillian, 61, took off his glasses and wiped the tears from his eyes, saying “oh my god” after seeing video of Floyd calling for his mother and saying “I can’t breathe.” The court then took a brief break before McMillian returned to the stand.
Over the last three days, jurors have heard from 11 witnesses to Floyd’s death, and several have broken down in tears on the stand describing their attempts to intervene on his behalf. Tuesday’s witnesses included a firefighter, 911 dispatcher, a cashier working across the street, a mixed martial arts fighter, the teenager who recorded the now viral video of Floyd’s death and her 9-year-old cousin.
Floyd, a Black man, died in police custody on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin, who is white, pinned his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as Floyd cried out “I can’t breathe” more than 20 times. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
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- The prosecution called its 12th witness, Lt. James Rugel of the Minneapolis Police Department, Wedneday afternoon, and played four police body-worn camera
- The prosecution called its 11th witness Wednesday afternoon: Charles McMillian, who lives near Cup Foods.
- Witness Christopher Belfrey, 45, told jurors Wednesday he was “startled” by what he saw went to Cup Foods for food on May 25, 2020.
- Cup Foods cashier Christopher Martin, 19, told jurors Wednesday morning that he took the counterfeit $20 bill from George Floyd the day he died.
- Shareeduh Tate, George Floyd’s cousin, is the Floyd family representative in the courtroom for the second time. Tate, 50, is a registered nurse in Houston.
- Genevieve Hansen, 27, a firefighter, briefly returned to the stand Wednesday morning. Hansen said Tuesday if officers had allowed her to assist Floyd, she would have checked for a pulse, called 911 and started chest compressions.
- On Tuesday, four witnesses testified who were minors at the time. Among them was Darnella Frazier, the teenager who recorded the infamous video showing the arrest and death of George Floyd.
‘Please don’t shoot me,’ George Floyd pleads in body-cam video
George Floyd could be heard pleading for his life in body-camera videos prosecutors played for the jury Wednesday afternoon.
Prosecutors called Lt. James Rugel, an officer in Minneapolis since 1989 who manages the technology business unit, to the stand on Wednesday afternoon testified to the authenticity of city surviellance video capturing scenes of Floyd’s death and related police body-worn camera videos.
Prosecutors showed jurors a police department-run video clip of about six-plus minutes of officers arriving at the scene of Cup Foods from a camera attached to the Speedway gas station across the street from the store.
Rugel said he was familiar with the officers from the incident of May 25, 2020, and he has reviewed the footage from the four officers at the scene, including Chauvin. Three officers involved are being tried in August for aiding and abetting Chauvin in the second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter of George Floyd.
Prosecutors played the body-cam video from officer Thomas Lane, who can be seen on video walking over to Floyd’s SUV. Lane quickly draws his firearm and tells Floyd to get out of the car. It was Lane’s fourth day on the job.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Floyd said. “Let me see your hands,” Lane said. “Put your f*** hands on the wheel.” Soon, Floyd pleads, “Officer, please don’t shoot me.” Floyd appears to be initially resisting but is handcuffed within about two minutes.
“I’m not on nothing,” Floyd said, when asked if he was on something. “Please let me talk to you,” Floyd said. “I’m claustrophobic. I’ve got anxiety. I don’t wanna go in.”
“You’re still going in the car,” Lane replied. “Please stay with me man,” Floyd said. “I will,” Lane said. Later, Lane repeatedly told Floyd that he would roll the windows down.
Floyd kept pleading: “I’m not a bad guy, man. I’m not a bad guy. Please. Please,” before they put him to the ground. Bystanders can be heard warning officers Floyd is going to have a heart attack. One of the officers can be heard saying, “He’s not moving.”
Lane can be seen with what looks like the equipment for a hobble restraint, which is part of the “maximal restraint technique” for a resisting person. Lane, possibly speaking on a police radio, said: “He wouldn’t get into the car. He wasn’t following instructions.”
“He’s got to be on something,” one of the officers said.
As Floyd repeatedly cries out in the video, Lane says “deep breaths,” then asks one of the other officers if Floyd had a PCP pipe on him. “Yeah, I think he’s passed out,” says Lane, prompted by a bystander saying he was passed out. “Yeah, he’s breathing,” says an officer.
According to the video, Lane is the first person who gets off of Floyd. Chauvin continues to keep his knee on Floyd while a paramedic checks his neck for a pulse. He appears to slightly ease up pressure, but does not take his knee off until the paramedics are ready to load Floyd onto the gurney.
Prosecutors then played the body-cam video of officer J. Alexander Keung, showing a different angle of the same moments. The video shows Floyd speaking with Floyd once he is outside the SUV and seated on the sidewalk. Floyd thanks the officers and spells his name and gives his date of birth.
As officers attempt to move Floyd into the squad car, Keung says, “Man you’re not listening to nothing we’re saying so we’re not listening to nothing you’re saying.”
Officers shove Floyd to the ground and try to force him into the squad as Floyd pleads with the officers, stating he’s claustrophobic. One of the officers removes what appears to be a pipe from Floyd’s pocket.
Floyd tells officers that he wants to “lay on the ground.”
A bystander says “Bro, you about to have a heart attack.”
Floyd says, “I know. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”
One of the officers, possibly Chauvin, ultimately says, “take him out,” of the car.
As Floyd shouts that he can’t breathe, Lane says, “You’re talking fine, man. Deep breaths.”
“I’m through, I’m through,” Floyd says.
“You’re doing a lot of talking….it takes an awful lot of oxygen,” an officer says.
Charles McMillian, 61, took the stand Wednesday afternoon and gave jurors the earliest and closest eyewitness view thus far of what happened the day George Floyd died. McMillian, wearing a light grey dress shirt, at one point broke down on the witness stand as he recounted his memories.
Questioned by prosecutor Erin Eldridge, McMillian said he lives near Cup Foods, where the tragedy happened, and had been driving his 2006 Dodge Caravan last May 25 when he saw activity with police. He said he saw a police officer outside the door of a blue Mercedes vehicle and pulled over to see what was going on: “Being nosy, you know, being nosy.”The jurors laughed.
He saw the officers taking the man he now knows was George Floyd out of the Mercedes. “I was looking away, then, when I turned back, I saw Mr. Floyd handcuffed. Then they started to walk him down the sidewalk,” said McMillian. Floyd said something, but he couldn’t recall what. At that point, the officers let Floyd sit down, he said.
McMillian testified that he knew Chauvin’s face from seeing him around the neighborhood. On at least one occasion, McMillian had even spoken with the officer about treating people humanely during arrests. Five days before Floyd died, McMillian was driving past a Minnesapolis patrol car; he peered inside, saw Chauvin, and pulled his car alongside the police vehicle.
In apparent reference to a person Chauvin was questioning or arresting, McMillian told Chauvin “what I tell all officers . . . At the end of the day, you go home to your family safe, and you let that person go home to their family safe.”
Prosecution video and audio evidence played in court showed McMillian wearing a black tee shirt and gray shorts as the police struggle with Floyd unfolded. McMillian said he and Floyd started talking: “I was telling Floyd, ‘comply with them, just get in the car, you can’t win.'”
The audio showed McMillian walking down the sidewalk and yelling advice to Floyd. “Because I have had interactions with the cops myself, and I understand once you get in the cuffs, you can’t win,” explained McMillian, who added he was trying to “make the situation easier.”
The video showed he appeared to be the only witness on the sidewalk during the initial struggle. At that point, he appeared to be roughly ten to twelve feet away, with his hands on his hips. The video showed McMillian moving closer as the patrol car rocked from the struggle and Floyd screamed “I can’t breathe.”
McMillian started sobbing as the struggle and Floyd’s yells both intensified. He took off his glasses and wiped his eyes as he watched the video, saying “Oh my god.” Rodney Floyd, George Floyd’s brother who was sitting in the courtroom, held his hands and looked down, shaking his head and refusing to watch. Two Black men on the jury did not appear to watch the graphic video and stared ahead, stone-faced.
Judge Peter Cahill ordered a ten-minute recess to allow McMillian to compose himself before the trial session resumed. McMillian huddled outside in the hallway with prosecutors, who tried to comfort him and get him to relax. When prosecutors resumed playing the graphic video, four of the jurors did not watch. Chauvin took notes and then looked up, watching the video.
Asked by Eldridge what stood out to him from what Floyd shouted during the struggle, McMillian said: “When he kept saying ‘I can’t breathe,’ and when he said, I can’t breathe, Mama, they’re killing me.” McMillian said Floyd “appeared to be in and out, with foam running out of his mouth.”
The audio showed McMillian responded with shouts of his own. “Let him breathe, man,” he yelled to the cops. “Your knee on his neck, that’s wrong, man,” he complained. Moments later, paramedics arrived in an ambulance. When they reached the scene, “I knew then in my mind and my instinct that it was over for Mr. Floyd,” McMillian testified.
McMillian said he had a subsequent exchange with Chauvin. Prosecution video and audio of the interaction shows Chauvin said, “I know you,” in a friendly voice as he pointed to McMillian. In court, McMillian said: “In my mind, I said to Mr. Chauvin … five days I said go home to your family safe and let them go home to their families safe. But today I look at you as a maggot.”
McMillian confirmed that the audio played in court showed that he told Chauvin, “I don’t respect what you did.” Asked by Eldridge why he’d said that, McMillian said: “Because it was wrong.”
Chauvin defense attorney Eric Nelson opted not to cross-examine McMillian, and Cahill declared an afternoon recess before the next government witness.
Late Wednesday morning, lead prosecutor Matthew Frank questioned Christopher Belfrey, 45, who went to Cup Foods for food on May 25, 2020, and parked his red van on the corner of 38th and Chicago behind the blue SUV Mercedes-Benz that George Floyd sat in with two other people.
Belfrey said he saw two officers approach the vehicle in front of him, and one of them drew a handgun, pointed it and opened the door at whoever was in the driver’s seat.
He said he was “startled” by what he saw and began recording on his phone. He stopped when he saw the commotion. He said he stopped recording because he was “slightly still scared and nervous, one of the officers was staring at me, like why are you recording.”
In the video exhibit, officer Thomas Lane is seen with his gun out and then reholsters it. He talks to Floyd and begins to pull Floyd’s arm to get him out of the car. Officer J. Alexander Keung approaches, and the two are wrestle with Floyd. Floyd can be heard yelling the word “please,” but the sound isn’t clear.
Belfrey said he heard an officer say, “let me see your hands,” and heard Floyd say “I’d been shot before” as they pulled him out.
Belfrey, who was in the car with his fiancée, continued filming. The video exhibit plays without audio of the couple talking. The video shows Floyd, who appears handcuffed, sitting on the ground with his back to the restaurant Dragon Wok and the two officers standing near him.
“One officer went over to the other people in the vehicle and started asking them questions,” Belfrey said. “The other officer had Floyd sit on the ground.”
He then saw the officers placing Floyd in the police car and decided to leave the scene. “I thought he was detained, I thought it was all over, so I kept driving home,” he said.
Nelson had no cross-examination questions for Belfrey.
Cup Foods cashier Christopher Martin, 19, told jurors Wednesday morning that he was the person who took the counterfeit $20 bill from George Floyd — the incident that led to the call to police that brought Chauvin and the other officers to the scene.
Frank played for jurors video — not made public before — from inside the store, which initially showed Floyd acting restless as he flipped through bills before roaming the store, at times appearing to dance or stretch. Jurors seem riveted by the sight of Floyd.
After Martin sold Floyd a pack of cigarettes, he said he noticed the bill was likely a fake, similar in hue to a $100 bill. He explained that the store’s policy was to dock employee’s salaries for the cost of counterfeit bills they accepted for purchases.
‘All from a counterfeit bill’:What we know about fake currency and George Floyd’s death
When Martin went outside with a coworker to get Floyd back into the store, Martin said Floyd seemed like he was awake, countering defense claims that Floyd was taking a nap.
“I saw people yelling and screaming,” Martin said of the “commotion” that developed outside the store once police arrived and he went outside.
“I saw Derek with his knee on George’s neck on the ground,” he said.
Security video outside the store showed Officer Tou Thao pushing one of Martin’s co-workers back on the sidewalk and further from the where Chauvin was atop Floyd. Martin said the video showed the co-worker did not push or touch the police officer.
Martin testified that he experienced emotions of “disbelief and guilt” after Floyd was taken away in an ambulance. “If had just not taken the ($20) bill, this could have been avoided,” he said.
Martin who ultimately left his job at Cup Foods because he didn’t feel safe, said during cross-examination that he thought Floyd “maybe didn’t know” that the bill was a fake.
“He seemed very friendly, approachable, talkative,” Martin told Frank during redirect. “He seemed to be having an average Memorial Day, just living his life, but he did seem high.”
Minneapolis firefighter testimony: Genevieve Hansen says she would have checked for a pulse
Genevieve Hansen, 27, a Minneapolis firefighter and trained EMT, returned to the witness stand early Wednesday. She said Tuesday that she was off-duty on a walk last Memorial Day when she saw flashing lights and heard a bystander yelling.
Hansen teared up Tuesday during testimony about being blocked from helping Floyd as Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck area.
On Wednesday, she acknowledged on cross examination from defense attorney Eric Nelson that she did not have her work ID with her at the time she came upon the scene.
“I was concerned to see a handcuffed man who was not moving with officers with their whole body weight on his back and a crowd that was stressed out,” Hansen said Tuesday
What you missed from Day 2 of the Chauvin trial: Emotional testimony from teen witnesses
Hansen said she was immediately concerned about Floyd because “he wasn’t moving” and “his face looked puffy and swollen.” She also noticed he was in an altered state, no longer responding to painful stimuli – the knee on his neck with body weight behind it.
She said she immediately identified herself because she thought Floyd “needed medical attention.” Hansen said she would have checked for a pulse, called 911, begun chest compressions and had someone bring over an external defibrillator from the gas station to help restart his heart.
She is heard on video begging officers to check Floyd’s pulse. “I could have given medical assistance, and that’s exactly what I should have done,” she said. “(But) the officers didn’t let me into the scene.”
Hansen said she began recording the scene “because memories of witnesses are never going to be as good as a video.”
In a 911 call Hansen made following the incident, she said, “I literally watched police officers not take a pulse and not do anything to save a man,” according to a recording played for the jury.
Witnesses say they wanted to intervene on George Floyd’s behalf but were ‘scared’
Witnesses on Tuesday described attempts to call officers off of George Floyd’s body and said they were frightened to approach the officers, who reached for their chemical spray.
Donald Williams, a mixed martial arts fighter, told the court he was on his way to Cup Foods, where Floyd was arrested, when he encountered Floyd “pleading” for his life. Williams told the court he asked officers to stop the “blood choke,” which is a form of chokehold that renders someone unconscious.
Darnella Frazier, the teen who recorded the viral bystander video of the incident, told jurors said she felt in danger because officers placed their hands on their chemical spray when she or others in the group tried to move closer to Chauvin and Floyd. “I didn’t understand why the Mace was even needed at all,” she said.
More:Darnella Frazier, the teenager who recorded George Floyd’s death on video, says it changed her life
Frazier said she has stayed up some nights “apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life. (But) it’s not what I should have done. It’s what he (Chauvin) should have done.”
Tuesday afternoon, the court heard from Alyssa Nicole Funari, 18, and her 17-year-old friend. The two said they were going to Cup Foods to get an auxiliary cord on the day Floyd died. Funari recorded three videos of the incident with her friend’s phone.
“He looked like he was fighting to breathe,” Funari said of Floyd, adding, “I slowly knew that if he were to be held down much longer he wouldn’t live.”
Funari, crying, said she wanted to intervene but was unable to because “there was a higher power there” – an officer was pushing the crowd back. “There was nothing I could do as a bystander there,” she said, adding, “I couldn’t do physically what I wanted to do.”