Firefighter EMT Genevieve Hanson returned to the stand for cross examination by defense counsel Eric Nelson Wednesday morning. Did she show the officers on the scene identification as a firefighter? She did not. Nelson had nothing more for her. With a question or two more from prosecutor Matthew Frank on redirect — she believed George Floyd needed immediate medical attention, but the officers other than Tou Thao didn’t talk to her — she was released.
Frank then called 19-year-old former Cup Foods cashier Christopher Martin to the stand. In May 2020 he was living with his mother and sister in an apartment above Cup Foods while pulling his shifts at the store from 3:00-8:00 p.m. Martin’s testimony took us inside Cup Foods to observe the events leading to George Floyd’s fateful arrest on May 25. Frank drew on Cup Foods surveillance video from inside the store to accompany Martin’s testimony. This is video we have not seen before.
The video shows Floyd hanging around in the store. He seems to have had his phone serviced in the store that day. He appears jumpy but genial in the video.
Martin chatted with Floyd before Floyd purchased cigarettes with the counterfeit $20 bill that prompted the call to the police. Based on Floyd’s delayed response to Martin’s question and his difficulty articulating, Martin figured Floyd was high. A few minutes later Martin sold Floyd a pack of cigarettes that Floyd purchased with a $20 bill that Martin thought was obviously counterfeit.
The rule at Cup Foods was that if an employee took a counterfeit bill it was docked from his pay. When Floyd left the store Martin raised it with his manager. Martin went out twice with coworkers to Floyd’s Mercedes to seek payment. They spoke to Floyd’s friend on the passenger side (I understood that he too had tried to pass Martin a counterfeit bill) while Floyd mimed “woe is me” in the driver’s seat.
At the manager’s instruction one of the coworkers called the police. Two officers arrived and met with the manager, who showed them where Floyd was parked across the street.
Within a few minutes Martin heard a commotion outside the store. He heard yelling and screaming. He saw Derek Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck. He called his mom and told her not to come downstairs. He started a recording of the police subduing Floyd, but deleted it after the incident. He said he was emotional watching the arrest, expressing “disbelief and guilt” over what he views as his contribution to it.
He saw the ambulance arrive and watched the officers and crew load Floyd onto it. Watching the ambulance head off, he thought they were not headed to the hospital and that Floyd had died. Martin is a credible and effective witness.
The State then called Christopher Belfrey. He too lives in the neighborhood. Forty-five years old, Belfrey is another of the bystanders who recorded a video of the incident leading to Floyd’s death, though his recording begins with Floyd’s initial arrest in the Mercedes. He was startled by the officer pulling a handgun on Floyd. He stopped recording and moved his car when he heard sirens approaching. He resumed recording. He said he felt “Kinda scared” when one of the officers stared at him. He though the incident was over when he saw Floyd placed in one of the police squads and drove off with his fiance. Nelson let him go without cross examination.
The State then called Charles McMillian. Sixty-one years old, Mr. McMilliam proved in his own way to be a devastating witness. He was a bystander who urged Floyd to cooperate with the police. He can be heard on video telling Floyd “You can’t win.”
He began sobbing after prosecutor Erin Eldridge played police bodycam video of Floyd saying over and over that he couldn’t breathe and calling for his mother. “Oh my God,” Mr. McMillian said as he hung his head and cried. Hearing Floyd call for his mama, Mr. McMillian stated, “I feel helpless. I don’t have a mama either, but I understand him.” He said his mother died this past June. As events unfolded, his instinct told him “it was over for Mr. Floyd.”
The State played video we hadn’t seen before during McMillian’s testimony. He can be heard talking to Chauvin. He told Chauvin on the scene after Floyd’s departure that he was “a maggot.” His told Chauvin his knee on Floyd’s neck — “that’s wrong.” Chauvin responded he “had to control a sizable guy.” Again, Nelson passed on cross examination.
The 47-minute video below captures all of Mr. McMillian’s testimony. It is well worth watching in its entirety.
Pro bono prosecutor Steve Schleicher called Minneapolis Police Lt. James Rugel to close out the day. Rugel runs the department’s technology unit. His testimony laid the foundation for introduction of the department surveillance and bodycam video into.
Without much in the way of commentary from Rugel, Schleicher played each of the officers’ bodycam footage of the incident leading to Floyd’s death. The video below includes Rugel’s foundational testimony as well as the bodycam video played for the jury.
The bodycam video is the first evidence of the larger context of the knee on the neck scenario. We haven’t heard much about it from either the prosecution or the defense. It’s easy to miss, but you can hear Floyd explaining his drug use — “I was just hooping earlier.” One of the officers describes Floyd’s eyes “shaking back and forth really fast. Is that PCP?” I think it is Officer Kueng who observes to Floyd, “You’ve got foam around your mouth too.”
We see the officers try to get Floyd seated in the squad car. He is wildly resisting and yelling he can’t breathe. Somewhere along the way it is noted that Chauvin’s body camera was under the squad car.