MINNEAPOLIS — Just days into the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, jurors have already heard from eight 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 was expected to return to the witness stand 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.
- Court was expected to resume at 9 a.m. CT Wednesday.
- Genevieve Hansen, 27, a firefighter with state and EMT certifications, said 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 jurors Tuesday who were minors at the time of the incident and testified off-camera, with only the audio livestreamed.
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Court was set to resume at 9 a.m. CT Wednesday. USA TODAY will be livestreaming the courtroom proceedings below or on YouTube.
Minneapolis firefighter testimony: Genevieve Hansen says she would have checked for a pulse
Genevieve Hansen, 27, had been working as a firefighter for a little over a year and was off-duty on a walk last Memorial Day when she saw flashing lights and heard a bystander yelling.
“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,” said Hansen, who appeared in court in her dress uniform, with a tie and badge on.
Hansen said that as she approached the scene, she recognized Chauvin from a call the day before. She said she didn’t know Chauvin or interact with him on the call. Chauvin “seemed very comfortable with his weight on Mr. Floyd” and had his hand in his pocket, Hansen said.
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.
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.”