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Defense targets passers-by in George Floyd case

“As the crowd grew in size, their anger apparently increased as well,” Nelson said in his opening speech on Monday. “And remember, there’s more to the scene than what the officers see in front of them. There are people behind them, there are people across the street, there are cars stopping, people screaming. There is a growing crowd and what the officers perceive to be a threat.

The carefully calibrated language on each side is no accident. As Nelson cross-examined Donald Williams, a former mixed martial arts fighter and wrestler who also worked in security, he peppered his questions with the word ‘crowd’: “Have you ever dealt with a crowd of people?” “Have you ever had to deal with a crowd of upset people?” and “Is it easier or harder to deal with an upset crowd?”

Video from the scene suggests something less than a crowd – around 15 people can be seen on surveillance video on the sidewalk outside Cup Foods, where Chauvin pinned Floyd down the street. This camera shows Darnella Frazier, who made the most viewed spectator video, walking past her 9-year-old cousin, then returning to begin filming, one of the first people to stop and watch her. Others come together, one by one.

A still image from Constable Tou Thao’s body camera, who was facing passers-by and urging them to stay on the sidewalk, shows 14 people. At least five are women, including Frazier, her cousin and two teenage boys. A spectator is a small child. At least three people pull out their phones to capture the scene. Of the 14, only one – a teenage girl two steps down the street with her phone turned off – is on the sidewalk at this time, though live video shows others entering the street at times.

Nelson suggested there were more off-camera – across the street and across the intersection – although the widest camera view to date does not show crowd at the intersection. It also highlighted the passage of cars which may have increased the stress of the officers.

Mike Brandt, a local defense attorney who is closely monitoring the trial, said Nelson “obviously needed to come up with an explanation as to why the cops kept doing what they were doing.” He said he didn’t think it would be convincing.

“When you look at the ‘crowd’ you have visions of two or three people rolling out 180 degrees (if not more) around the officers,” Brandt said. “It really wasn’t.”

A video shot by Frazier and others showed people upset by what they were seeing. Blackwell said viewers first sought to “intercede with their voices” and then began filming. Before long, some implored Chauvin to have mercy on Floyd.

“You shot him – let him breathe,” someone shouted. A woman said, “How long are you going to hold him back?”

Concern grew when Floyd fell silent. “He’s not reacting right now,” someone said. Onlooker Geneviève Hansen, a firefighter, urged officers to check her pulse. Another asked: “Did they (swear) kill him?”

Hansen said she was on her way home from a walk when she saw the police vehicles.

“I was worried to see a handcuffed man who did not move, with police officers with all their weight on their backs and a stressed crowd,” she said.

She said she identified herself as a firefighter but officers refused to let her come to Floyd’s aid. She admitted to raising her voice and using foul language “because I was desperate” to help Floyd. In cross-examination, Nelson asked her how she would react if she was fighting a fire and a crowd of onlookers challenged her work. Hansen said she wouldn’t have a problem.

No spectator was more vocal than Williams, and Nelson worked to get him out.

Nelson asked if Williams was getting increasingly angry as the arrest continued, and the mixed martial arts fighter agreed he did. Nelson also noted that Williams called Chauvin names – “badass”, “real man”. He called him a “tramp” 13 times. When Williams appeared to come off the curb and Thao touched him, Nelson said Williams threatened the officer.

Williams did not disagree.

“Yeah, I did,” he said without hesitation. “That’s what I was trying to say.” But he said his anger was directed at what was happening to Floyd.

“You can’t paint me to be angry,” he told Nelson.

Frazier, too, was at the center of a notable exchange with Nelson. She confirmed to him that over time more and more people came together, voices got louder and people got angrier.

But Blackwell went on to ask Frazier if anyone had threatened the police, turned violent, acted unruly, or could properly be called a “mob.” No, she replied.

Did she see a spectator “do something to attack or threaten Mr. Chauvin?”

“No,” she replied.

“Did you see a single thing which indicated to you that Mr. Chauvin was afraid of you, of your little cousin or of only one of the spectators? Blackwell asked.

The answer, again, “No”

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