MINNEAPOLIS (NewsNation Now) — The trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged in the death of Black man continues Thursday after the jury heard a bystander who wept on the witness stand and watched unreleased surveillance footage of George Floyd’s final moments.
Video is playing a huge role in the early stages of the trial. A mountain of footage — both official and amateur — was presented Wednesday at former police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder trial that showed how Floyd’s alleged attempt to pass a phony $20 bill at a neighborhood market last May escalated into tragedy one video-documented step at a time.
Video has been key evidence since the beginning of the trial. Minutes into his opening statement, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell spoke about the widely circulated video shot by teenage bystander Darnella Frazier, before playing parts of the footage for the jury.
The video shows Chauvin with his knee wedged into the back of Floyd’s neck. Chauvin didn’t move even as Floyd’s body went limp.
“He put his knee upon his neck and his back, grinding and crushing him, until the very breath … until the very life, was squeezed out of him,” Blackwell told jurors.
New video Wednesday included surveillance video from inside the Cup Foods store where Floyd was accused of passing the counterfeit bill, as well as street-level surveillance video outside the store from two different cameras: one from in front of Cup Foods and the other from a restaurant across the street.
The 19-year-old cashier working at the convenience store where Floyd spent some of his final moments testified to feeling “disbelief, guilt” over Floyd’s death.
“If I would’ve just not taken the bill, this could’ve been avoided,” Christopher Martin testified, joining the burgeoning list of onlookers who said they felt a sense of helplessness and lingering guilt over the Floyd’s death.
Martin sold him a pack of cigarettes. He told the jury he thought the bill was counterfeit and considered just letting the store deduct it from his wages but then decided to tell his manager, who told Martin to go and confront Floyd, who had gotten back into a car outside. Floyd was later arrested outside.
A security-camera scene of people joking around inside the store soon gave way to the sight of officers pulling Floyd, who was Black, from his SUV at gunpoint. The extended body-camera footage gave jurors the fullest view yet of the roughly 20 minutes between when police first approached Floyd’s vehicle to when he was loaded into an ambulance.
Charles McMillian, a 61-year-old bystander who recognized Chauvin from the neighborhood, saw the arrest and told Chauvin he didn’t respect what Chauvin had done.
“That’s one person’s opinion,” Chauvin could be heard responding. “We gotta control this guy ’cause he’s a sizable guy… and it looks like he’s probably on something.”
McMillian said he heard Floyd cry out for his mother during the encounter and testified he “feels helpless. I don’t have a mama either. I understand him.”
Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson sought to use the same evidence to show that Chauvin and his fellow officers found themselves in an increasingly tense and distracting situation, with the growing crowd becoming more and more angry over Floyd’s treatment.
Lawyers for Chauvin, 45, said he followed his police training and is not guilty of the charges brought by the Minnesota attorney general’s office of second-degree murder, third-degree murder or second-degree manslaughter.