July 25, 2021

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Chauvin trial: Cops’ bodycams captured agony, intensity at Floyd scene – Minnesota Public Radio News

8 min read

MPR News is streaming live coverage of the trial. Some images or material discussed during the trial will be disturbing to many viewers. Watch the court proceedings live here:

3 things to know:

  • Thursday testimony starts with Courteney Ross, who was Floyd’s girlfriend

  • Store clerk testifies he’s haunted by decision to call police, after Floyd used a phony $20

  • Case expected to hinge on who or what is responsible for Floyd’s death


Updated 9:55 a.m.

Derek Chauvin’s murder and manslaughter trial resumed Thursday with George Floyd’s girlfriend taking the stand.

Courteney Ross began the morning talking about how she met Floyd, his kindness, and their mutual struggle with chronic pain that led to an addiction to opioids.

Ross said Floyd was close to his mother and struggled with grief when she died.

Bodycam video reveals anguish of arrest, restraint

The intensity, frustration and anguish of Floyd’s fatal encounter with Minneapolis police came into agonizing view Wednesday as prosecutors played extended police body camera footage capturing multiple views of the incidents that led to Floyd’s killing.

Viewed in succession, the videos offered a brutal, close-up look at officers struggling to push a handcuffed Floyd into a squad car, then pinning him to the pavement to subdue him as he pleads that he can’t breathe, while bystanders on the curb yelled that Floyd is dying.

While similar to bystander footage widely shared on social media, these views were intimate and harrowing, and cover the time periods before and after police confronted Floyd. They’re now evidence in the murder and manslaughter trial of ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

The videos from the body cameras of Chauvin and former officers J. Alexander Kueng, Tou Thao and Thomas Lane detail the initial contact with Floyd, the officers’ increasing frustration with him as they struggle to get him to obey orders and get in the squad, and Floyd’s growing sense that his death is near as he lay pinned on the street.

Chauvin, on trial for murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death, kept his knee pressed against Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes as the man pleaded that he couldn’t breathe. The three other officers face aiding and abetting charges. They’re expected to be tried later this year.

Two men sit behind a desk.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson (left) and defendant former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin (right) prepare for another witness on Wednesday.

Screenshot of Court TV video

‘This could have been avoided’

The fatal encounter started with a counterfeit $20 and a phone call.

Floyd had gone into Cup Foods at Chicago Avenue and 38th Street in south Minneapolis to buy cigarettes.

The 19-year-old store clerk who suspected Floyd had handed him a fake $20 for the purchase testified Wednesday that he first thought about just eating the cost himself but changed his mind and called over his supervisor.

The decision would lead to Floyd’s spiraling arrest outside Cup Foods.

The clerk, Christopher Martin, said that he was haunted by how his own actions played into Floyd’s killing. In security video footage shown to jurors, Martin could be seen outside the store watching with his hands on his head as the police restrain Floyd.

A man sits behind a desk with a computer in front of him.
Christopher Martin, 19, was a cashier at Cup Foods and lived with his mother and sister in an apartment above the store at the time of George Floyd’s death. He was called as a witness in the trial of ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Wednesday.

Screenshot of Court TV video

He told prosecutor Matthew Frank he was in disbelief and felt a sense of guilt — and that if he had not taken the bill, “this could have been avoided.”

Martin said that he had chatted briefly with Floyd when he walked into the store, asking the big man if he played baseball. “He said he played football.” Martin described him as friendly, as if he seemed to be enjoying his Memorial Day, although he did “seem high.”

After selling Floyd the cigarettes, Martin said he noticed a blue tint on the $20 bill he got from Floyd and assumed it was fake. Under store policy, he said, clerks who took counterfeit money had to pay the cost. He wrestled with whether to tell his boss.

He said he kept looking at the bill and finally thought to talk to his manager. When he did, the manager told him to find Floyd outside and ask him to make it right.

A store surveillance image of people inside the store.
In this image from store video, George Floyd (right) is seen inside Cup Foods on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis.

Court TV via AP, Pool

On the first try, Martin said Floyd, seated in the car, didn’t say anything. He just shook his head. After another unsuccessful attempt, the manager instructed another employee to call the police.

Jurors viewed the store camera video of Floyd buying cigarettes and seemed riveted by the sight of him as a customer, like anyone else.

Chauvin’s attorney is arguing that drugs contributed to Floyd’s death.

While watching the scene unfold, Martin started talking to another Black man outside the store. “At this point I was kind of emotional,” Martin told the court. He remembers telling the man: “They’re not going to help him — this is what we have to deal with.”

Martin said he called his mother — his family lived in the building upstairs from the store — and told her not to come down.

He told the court that he didn’t stay working at Cup Foods for much longer because he didn’t feel safe.

‘You can’t win’

A bystander who pleaded with Floyd to get in the squad car as police worked to arrest him testified that he was trying to de-escalate the increasingly tense situation between Floyd and the officers that led to Floyd’s killing.

Charles McMillian, 61, can be heard on video recorded by other bystanders telling Floyd to get in the car and that he “can’t win.” Floyd plaintively asks the officers not to put him in the back of the squad because he’s claustrophobic.

On the stand Wednesday, McMillian said he was trying to get Floyd to understand “once they get you in handcuffs, you’re going to go with them.”

He also pleaded with officers to “let him breathe” as Floyd lay handcuffed and pinned to the ground with Chauvin’s knee pressed against his neck for about nine minutes.

The prosecution played short clips of police body camera video during McMillian’s testimony. McMillian sobbed as he watched.

A man cries on the witness stand.
Charles McMillian tears up after watching video footage of George Floyd’s arrest during the Derek Chauvin trial on Wednesday in Minneapolis. McMillian was one of the first bystanders at the scene, and present in many of the videos that have played and will play.

Screengrab via Court TV video

Later in the testimony, prosecutors played video from Chauvin’s body camera where McMillian approaches Chauvin after Floyd has been taken away. He tells the officer the way he restrained Floyd wasn’t right.

“That’s one person’s opinion,” Chauvin responds. “We gotta put force, gotta control this guy because he’s a sizable guy. Looks like he’s probably on something.”

Chauvin’s defense attorney did not question McMillian.


Trial basics

A man speaks from behind a desk.
A view of the courtroom during pretrial motions in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on March 18.

Screenshot of Court TV video

Who’s who: A look at the key players in the trial.

Need to know: Key questions about the trial, answered.

What we know about the jurors: The 12 jurors and two alternates picked to review the case include a chemist, a youth volunteer, a cardiac nurse and an IT professional.

Chauvin’s lawyer is outnumbered, but has help: No fewer than four attorneys have appeared for the prosecution so far, compared to a single attorney to defend Derek Chauvin.

MPR News on its coverage: Nancy Lebens, the newsroom’s deputy managing editor, answered audience questions about our reporting plans.


George Floyd and his legacy

Community activists hold pictures of two men.
Community activists hold pictures of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery outside outside the governor’s residence during a protest in St. Paul on March 6.

Kerem Yucel | AFP via Getty Images file

Remembering George Floyd, the man: Before he became a symbol in the fight for racial justice, friends say Floyd was a “gentle giant” who sought a fresh start.

Making George Floyd Square: Here’s how the site of Floyd’s killing — 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis — is being reshaped.

Rescuing the plywood — and memorializing a movement: Two Black women are leading the effort to preserve the murals painted on storefront boards in the Twin Cities.

Calls for change: Here’s what some Floyd activists tell MPR News about their experiences with race in Minnesota, why they march and what they hope for the future.


Read more

People hold signs behind a banner.
People gather behind a banner and prepare to march through downtown Minneapolis to call for justice for George Floyd March 8.

Evan Frost | MPR News file

Video dominates trial in George Floyd’s death: A worldwide audience has been shown more than just the widely seen bystander video that set off nationwide protests last year.

Minneapolis considered hiring DJ, soccer coach in ‘influencer’ plan: The city had planned to pay six “trusted messengers” up to $2,000 apiece to share city updates and dispel misinformation during the trial. The plan was scrapped after news coverage and backlash online. (Axios)

Jurors will consider Floyd’s death — not the issue of race — in Chauvin trial: The proceedings set to begin with opening statements Monday are unlikely to address those themes directly, even as the case has become a flashpoint for racial justice in America. (Star Tribune)

Televised Chauvin trial due to pandemic yields wide access — and concern: For the first time, the world will be able to see every twist and turn of the case from a Minnesota courtroom, thanks to an unprecedented decision by Judge Peter Cahill.

NPR’s live blog: The latest from the murder trial of Derek Chauvin.


Questions about the Chauvin trial? Ask us

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