July 24, 2021

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Derek Chauvin defends restraint of George Floyd in newly disclosed body-cam video, saying he was ‘probably on something’ – The Washington Post

6 min read

Chauvin’s body camera was knocked off during a struggle to place Floyd in a police car, capturing only audio of the incident. But the jury was shown a conversation between Chauvin and McMillian, a witness who confronted the White officer about his treatment of Floyd, that was captured as he was putting his camera back on.

The video showed McMillian, a 61-year-old Black man who had urged Floyd to cooperate with the police, telling Chauvin he didn’t “respect” how the officer had treated Floyd, who had just been taken from the scene by ambulance. “That’s one person’s opinion,” Chauvin replied, as the video showed him getting back into the passenger seat of his squad car.

“We’ve got to control this guy because he’s a sizable guy,” Chauvin added, as McMillian stood outside the car window speaking to the officer. “It looks like he’s probably on something.”

The video was presented along with hard-to-watch footage captured by body cameras worn by the other officers at the scene, as they confronted and then knelt on Floyd’s body, while he moaned and begged for his life before going limp. “You’re going to kill me!” Floyd declared at one point.

The footage, released last summer but played for the first time in court, showed another officer at the scene — Thomas K. Lane — asking whether they should roll Floyd’s body over after he stops moving — a suggestion Chauvin rebuffed. A short time later, officer J. Alexander Kueng tells Chauvin he can no longer detect Floyd’s pulse. “Huh?” Chauvin replied, his knee still on Floyd’s neck, where it remained for at least two more minutes.

The footage prompted some of the most intense testimony yet — including from McMillian, who was captured in the videos urging Floyd to cooperate with officers as they tried to push the panicked man into a squad car, and he broke down as the first images were played on a monitor at the witness stand.

McMillian clutched his head and began sobbing. “Oh my god,” he said, resting his head on the witness stand, his body shaking.

As Floyd was being detained by police, McMillian said, he told him: “Get on in the car because you can’t win.”

McMillian said he was trying to make the situation with Floyd easier based on his own interactions with police.

He said he understood that once placed in a police car, “You’re done.”

Floyd can be heard on the video saying he wasn’t trying to win. He repeatedly tells the officers that he is claustrophobic and “I’m not a bad guy.”

Asked by a prosecutor what he felt, McMillian struggled to speak. “Helpless,” he finally said, tears running down his face.

Hennepin County District Judge Peter A. Cahill called a brief recess to allow McMillian regain his composure.

McMillian testified that he had had previous interaction with Chauvin — the first witness on the stand to do so. He said he met Chauvin days before, running into him while the officer was on patrol in South Minneapolis, and recognized him as he watched him kneel on Floyd’s neck.

After Floyd’s body was taken away by ambulance, McMillian approached Chauvin, reminding him of their previous encounter — audio that was not immediately clear from the officer’s body camera. But McMillian recounted in court the conversation: “I told you that day, ‘Go home to your family safe,’ ” the man said he told Chauvin. “But today, I look at you as a maggot.”

Chauvin, who sat with his defense attorney at a nearby table, did not visibly react.

The former officer, who was fired in May, is charged with second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death.

The other officers at the scene — Kueng, Lane and Tou Thao — are charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter. Those officers, who were also fired, are scheduled to stand trial in August.

In other emotional testimony, prosecutors for the first time detailed the incident that led to Floyd’s arrest and eventually his death — including security video from inside Cup Foods, the market where an employee called 911 to report the passing of a counterfeit $20 bill that resulted in officers responding to the scene.

Christopher Martin, 19, a cashier at the time, recalled how Floyd had come into the store and appeared to be “high” but functional. The surveillance video presented in court showed Floyd, dressed in a black tank top and pants, casually walking around the store with a banana.

Floyd is shown fiddling with his pockets and shifting back and forth in stretch-like movements as he interacts with two people in the store, including Morries Lester Hall — a friend who was a passenger in the car he was driving that day.

Martin testified that Floyd purchased a pack of cigarettes with a $20 bill that he believed to be fake because of its blue tint. Under store policy, employees who are found to have accepted counterfeit bills have their pay docked for the amount, Martin said, but he testified that he initially considered putting the cost on his “tab” as a favor to Floyd.

He said a previous customer had tried to pass a fake $20 bill in an effort to “get over,” but he didn’t think that was Floyd’s intention.

“I thought that George didn’t really know that it was a fake bill,” Martin testified. “I thought I’d be doing him a favor.”

But Martin said he raised the issue with a manager who ordered him to go outside to where Floyd was sitting in a parked car and ask him to come back inside the store. When Floyd did not do so, another employee called 911 to report the counterfeit bill — a fateful call that would lead to the 46-year-old’s death.

Martin, who quit his job after Floyd’s death because he said he didn’t feel “safe,” recalled returning to work and noticing a commotion outside. Leaving the market to investigate, he found Floyd restrained, “motionless, limp” with Chauvin’s knee “resting” on the man’s neck.

Martin, who lived upstairs from Cup Foods, said he called his mother and told her not to come outside, and then he began filming the scene — a video he said he later deleted after watching Floyd’s body loaded into the ambulance that drove the opposite direction from the closest hospital, leading him to realize Floyd was probably dead.

Martin told the jury he felt “guilt” over Floyd’s death. “If I would have just not taken the bill, this could have been avoided,” he said.

The jury also heard from Christopher Belfrey, who had come to Cup Foods to pick up food and was sitting in a car directly behind the one Floyd was driving. He saw officers approach and point a gun into the window of Floyd’s vehicle, and he began filming as they pulled the man from the car and handcuffed him.

Belfrey testified he later moved to the opposite side of the street and filmed as the officers sat a handcuffed Floyd on the sidewalk. He said he dropped his phone after one of the officers noticed him filming and soon left the scene because he didn’t “want any problems.”

“We went to turn to go back home. We’ve seen them placing them in the police car. … And I kept on driving,” Belfrey testified. “I thought he was detained. I thought it was over.”

The day ended with the playing of body-camera footage captured by cameras worn by Kueng, Lane and Thao.

It was the third day in a row jurors were presented with graphic footage of the events surrounding Floyd’s death, and they sat staring into television screens that showed the intense encounter — which began with Lane pulling a gun on Floyd within 15 seconds of encountering the man in a parked car and ended with Floyd’s lifeless body being rolled onto a gurney.

At the back of the courtroom, Rodney Floyd, the man’s brother, looked away in anguish at the footage, at one point seeming to glare at Chauvin. A few feet away, the former officer sat riveted, appearing to watch every second of the footage.

Lateshia Beachum and Timothy Bella contributed to this report.

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