MINNEAPOLIS (CN) — The trial of Derek Chauvin, the fired Minneapolis police officer charged with murder in the death of George Floyd, slowed down a little Wednesday morning after an emotionally charged round of testimony the day before.
Prosecutors called four eyewitnesses to Floyd’s fatal arrest to the stand Wednesday, but two of them missed the tense final moments before Floyd passed out on the concrete.
One of the two who was present, Minneapolis firefighter Genevieve Hansen, closed out Tuesday with emotional testimony about her shouting match with officers over Floyd’s pulse and a brief back-and-forth with Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill about her answers to defense attorney Eric Nelson’s questioning.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen somebody be killed, but it’s upsetting,” she told Nelson in response to a question about the increasingly agitated crowd watching Chauvin kneel on Floyd’s neck on Chicago Avenue on May 25, 2020. That answer was stricken from the record but was widely replayed on television and social media.
Hansen returned very briefly on Wednesday, with Nelson asking only if she provided any identification proving that she was a firefighter. She said she hadn’t. Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank asked a few questions clarifying her answers to Nelson the previous day, all of which were met with yes or no answers.
The afternoon saw testimony from another eyewitness, Charles McMillian. McMillian, 61, was one of the first witnesses on scene for Floyd’s arrest. From the curb, he’d encouraged him to comply with officers trying to get him into a squad car, shouting that “you can’t win.”
McMillian said he’d been on his way east on 38th Street when he saw police approaching the SUV Floyd and two friends were in. Asked why he stopped, he said he was “Bein’ nosy, you know, just bein’ nosy. I’m in the neighborhood, I’m a nosy person.” He started talking to Floyd, he said, in an effort to de-escalate the situation.
He said he’d met Chauvin before, and five days prior had told him “Like I tell all other officers, ‘at the end of the day, you go home to your family safe, and let the next person go home to their family safe.’”
A brief clip from Chauvin’s body camera — made public for the first time in court Wednesday — showed that the officer recognized him, too, though he said it was about two weeks prior. The rest of their interaction was hard to hear, but McMillian said the substance of it was that “you respect me, I’ll respect you. I told you go home to your family, let other people go home to their families.”
Asked why he made that statement, McMillian told prosecutor Erin Eldridge that “what I watched was wrong.”
Watching body-camera footage from then-officer Thomas Lane’s camera, McMillian’s exhortations to Floyd could be heard more clearly. The footage left McMillian visibly shaken and crying uncontrollably.
“I feel helpless,” he said. “I don’t have a mama either. I understand him.”
After a break, McMillan testified he started to realize things were going south in when he heard Floyd saying his stomach hurt and he couldn’t breathe.
“He’s saying things that maybe mean that he’s in trouble,” he said.
“What do you mean by that?” Eldridge asked.
“He’s gonna die…. I knew, when the paramedics arrived, in my mind, in my instincts, I knew that it was over for Mr. Floyd, that he was dead.”
Nelson declined to cross-examine McMillian after a conference with Chauvin and his assistant Amy Voss.