Moments after George Floyd was taken away in an ambulance last May, former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin was confronted by a witness who took issue with Chauvin’s kneeling on Floyd’s neck.
“That’s one person’s opinion,” Chauvin responded as he got into his squad car. “We had to control this guy because he’s a sizable guy. It looks like he’s probably on something.”
The short clip from Chauvin’s own body camera, played in his criminal trial Wednesday, represents the first time the public has heard the ex-officer’s perspective in the 10 months since Floyd died under his knee, launching a worldwide protest movement, CNN reports.
Charles McMillian, the 61-year-old witness, testified that he observed Floyd’s arrest on May 25, 2020, and that he encouraged Floyd to comply with police, repeatedly saying, “you can’t win.” As Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck and Floyd cried out for help, McMillian can be heard on video telling police to “get your knee off his neck.”
After Floyd’s limp body was taken away, McMillian had a short conversation with Chauvin because “what I watched was wrong,” he said.
The third day of Chauvin’s trial featured testimony from several bystanders who interacted with Floyd as well as graphic excerpts of police body camera footage showing his arrest and final moments. In the videos, Floyd gasps that he’s claustrophobic, repeatedly says he can’t breathe and calls for his mother.
Much of the searing body camera video has previously been released to the public but its raw power for those in the court remained apparent. After a clip was played for McMillian, he broke down in tears on the stand, leading to a short break.
“I feel helpless,” he said. “I don’t have a mama either. I understand him.”
In the afternoon, with Minneapolis Police Lt. James Jeffrey Rugel on the stand, prosecutors played previously unseen footage from Chauvin’s body camera. His body camera fell underneath the squad car as Floyd went to the ground during the arrest, so the video does not show Chauvin on Floyd’s neck.
Chauvin, 45, has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Prosecutors have called several bystanders to describe their horror and fear at watching Floyd die last May. Their testimony furthers the prosecution’s opening statement that asked jurors to focus on video of the 9 minutes and 29 seconds that Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck.
“You can believe your eyes that it’s a homicide,” prosecuting attorney Jerry Blackwell said Monday. “You can believe your eyes.”
Defence attorney Eric Nelson has argued that Chauvin was following his police use of force training and Floyd’s cause of death was a combination of drug use and pre-existing health issues.
Christopher Belfrey, who came to Cup Foods to pick up food, testified that he saw officers walk up to Floyd’s vehicle and point a gun into the window. From inside his car, he filmed police handcuffing Floyd and later bringing him to a sidewalk.
“I didn’t know exactly what was going on. I didn’t want to be in the middle of so much commotion,” Belfrey testified. He said for that reason he moved his vehicle.