Feelings of horror and fear were recalled in a Minneapolis court Tuesday as a series of onlookers testified about what it was like to see George Floyd slowly die below the knee of former cop Derek Chauvin in last May.
Six witnesses testified on the second day of Chauvin’s criminal trial: a 9-year-old girl, three high school students, a mixed martial arts fighter and a Minneapolis firefighter. All of them arrived at the scene hoping to buy snacks at a convenience store or for some fresh air – only to watch a man’s last breaths.
“I was sad and a little crazy,” the 9-year-old said. “Because it was like he was stopping his breathing, and it was kind of like hurting him.”
MMA fighter Donald Wynn Williams II said he was so disturbed by what he saw that he called 911 to report it. “I called the police on the police,” he said. “I thought I witnessed a murder.”
Minneapolis firefighter and EMT-certified Geneviève Hansen, who was out for a walk on her day off, testified that she wanted to help Floyd and repeatedly asked the police to check his pulse. They refused.
“I tried calm reasoning, I tried to be assertive, I pleaded and I was desperate,” she said. “I desperately needed to help.”
She also called 911 afterwards to report what the police had done. His call was the third of those reports; In addition to Williams, a Minneapolis 911 dispatcher who saw the arrest on a live video feed testified Monday that she alerted a police sergeant.
“You can believe in your own eyes that this is homicide,” lawyer Jerry Blackwell said Monday. “You can believe your eyes.”
Defense attorney Eric Nelson argued that the case was more complicated than this video. He said Chauvin was taking his training in police use of force and argued that Floyd’s cause of death was a combination of drug use and pre-existing health issues.
He also said passers-by turned into a threatening crowd, which distracted officers. In contentious cross-examinations on Tuesday of Williams and Hansen, he tried to get them to admit that they and the crowd were angry.
Chauvin, 45, has pleaded not guilty to unintentional second degree murder, third degree murder and second degree manslaughter. His trial comes 10 months after Floyd’s death sparked a summer of protests, unrest and a social account with America’s past and present against anti-black racism and aggressive police.
An off-duty firefighter was ‘totally in distress’
Hansen, the off-duty firefighter, testified while wearing her work uniform on Tuesday. She said she worried about Floyd’s health last May when she arrived at the scene while walking. “He wasn’t moving and he was handcuffed, and three grown men putting all their weight on someone is too much,” she said.
She identified herself as a Minneapolis firefighter and moved to help, but former officer Tou Thao denied her access to treat Floyd. Her refusal made her “totally distressed”, frustrated and powerless, she testified.
She eventually videotaped part of Floyd’s arrest on her phone and then called 911 to report it.
“When things calmed down, I realized I wanted them to know what was going on. I basically wanted to point it out, ”she said.
In cross-examination, she repeatedly challenged Nelson’s questioning and, at one point, answered a question with snark. “I don’t know if you’ve ever seen someone die in front of you, but it’s very upsetting,” she said.
After dismissing the jury for the day, Judge Peter Cahill warned Hansen, telling him to answer questions and stop arguing with Nelson. His testimony will continue on Wednesday.
“I watch this and I watch how it could have been one of them,” she said, crying. “I’ve been up for nights to apologize to George Floyd for not doing more, not interacting physically and saving his life. But that’s not what I do. should have done, that’s what he should have done. “
The third high school student said she saw Chauvin dig his knee into Floyd’s neck. She said that at one point, Chauvin pulled out his mace and started shaking it as passers-by called for officers to get off Floyd.
“I was afraid of Chauvin,” she said.
Witness says Chauvin used ‘blood choke’
Drawing on his own MMA experience, Williams said Chauvin performed a “blood choke” on Floyd and adjusted his positioning several times to keep the pressure on Floyd’s neck. He said he wanted to keep Chauvin away from Floyd but did not intervene physically because Officer Thao ordered him to stay away.
“I was really trying to keep my professionalism and make sure I speak for Floyd’s life because I felt like he was in great danger,” he said.
In controversial cross-examination, Williams admitted that he repeatedly called Chauvin and Thao and yelled at them even after Floyd was taken in an ambulance. Yet he rejected defense attorney Eric Nelson’s description that he had become “angry” at the scene.
“I turned professional. I stayed in my body. You can’t paint me to be angry,” he said.
The second degree murder charge indicates that Chauvin intentionally assaulted Floyd with his knee, which unintentionally resulted in Floyd’s death. The third degree murder charge says that Chauvin acted with a “depraved mind, with no regard for human life”, and the second degree manslaughter charge says that Chauvin’s “culpable negligence” caused Floyd’s death.
Chauvin could be convicted on all, some or none of the charges. Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines recommend about 12.5 years in prison for each murder charge and about four years for the manslaughter charge.
The testimony of witnesses at trial is expected to last approximately four weeks, followed by jury deliberations.