MINNEAPOLIS — Just days into the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, jurors have already heard from nine witnesses to the death of George Floyd, and several have broken down in tears on the stand describing their attempts to intervene on his behalf.
The witnesses included a 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, two high school seniors, and an off-duty Minneapolis firefighter.
Some engaged in heated exchanges with Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson, whose questions have suggested the crowd of bystanders that gathered at the scene was threatening and distracting to the officers. When Nelson asked Genevieve Hansen, the firefighter, if the crowd was “upset,” she said: “I don’t know if you’ve seen anybody be killed, but it’s upsetting.”
As the exchange grew more confrontational, the judge reprimanded Hansen for arguing with the court. She returned to the witness stand for about five minutes Wednesday.
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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- Cup Foods cashier Christopher Martin, 19, told jurors Wednesday morning that he took the counterfeit $20 bill from George Floyd the day he died.
- Genevieve Hansen, 27, a firefighter with state and EMT certifications, 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.
- Darnella Frazier, the teenager who recorded the infamous video showing the arrest and death of George Floyd, testified Tuesday, saying the incident changed her life.
- She was among four witnesses Tuesday who were minors at the time of the incident and testified off-camera, with only the audio livestreamed.
Cup Foods employee who took counterfeit $20 bill from Floyd testifies
Cup Foods cashier Christopher Martin, 19, told jurors Wednesday morning that he was the man 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.
Martin said he noticed Floyd was a big man, so he asked him if he’d played baseball. Martin said Floyd responded that he’d played football.
“It kind of took him a little long to get to what he wanted to say. He sounded a little high,” Martin said.
Lead prosecutor Matthew Frank played for jurors about 10 minutes of video from inside the store, which initially showed Floyd acting restless as he flipped through bills before roaming the store. Floyd can be seen dancing in line before he tries to buy cigarettes and hands over what was later determined to be a fake $20.
Attorney Jerry Blackwell, for the state, said Monday that it was not clear if Floyd knew that the $20 bill was forged. But that regardless, it was a misdemeanor, minor crime.
After Martin sold Floyd a pack of cigarettes, store video showed he held aloft the $20 bill that Floyd paid with. Martin said he noticed the bill was likely a fake, similar in hue to $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.
Martin told his manager his suspicions before leaving the store and walking up to Floyd’s car.
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.”