George Floyd’s girlfriend on Thursday testified about his prior drug use at the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer facing murder and manslaughter charges over his death.
Courteney Ross, 45, Floyd’s girlfriend of nearly three years, took the witness stand on the fourth day of the trial of Derek Chauvin.
Chauvin, 45, was captured on video kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed Floyd for more than nine minutes during his May 25, 2020 arrest for passing a counterfeit $20 bill in a store.
The video of Chauvin, who is white, restraining Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, went viral and sparked protests against racial injustice and police brutality around the world.
Also testifying on Thursday was a paramedic who said Floyd was “unresponsive” and appeared to be in cardiac arrest when he and a partner arrived on the scene in an ambulance.
Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, has claimed Floyd’s death was caused by the drug fentanyl and underlying medical conditions and he queried Ross extensively about Floyd’s history of drug use.
Ross, a mother of two who works in a coffee shop, said she had been Floyd’s girlfriend since August 2017.
She cried as she recounted their first meeting, which took place at a homeless shelter where Floyd had been working as a security guard.
Ross said she had gone there to visit the father of one of her sons and Floyd saw her looking sad in the lobby and asked in his “great deep Southern voice” if he could “pray” with her.
“It was so sweet,” she said. “I had lost a lot of faith in God.”
Ross acknowledged that both she and Floyd had struggled with opioid addiction.
“We both suffered from chronic pain,” she said. “Mine was in my neck and his was in his back.”
“Addiction, in my opinion, is a lifelong struggle,” she said. “We got addicted and tried really hard to break that addiction, many times.”
Ross said she and Floyd each had prescriptions for pain relievers but sometimes they got pills on the “black market.”
She said Floyd had been hospitalized for several days in March 2020 for an overdose.
Floyd had been “clean” after that, she said, but he appeared to have begun using pills again in the two weeks before his death.
– ‘He was limp’ –
Nelson asked Ross whether Floyd had purchased pills previously from Morries Hall, who was with Floyd the day that he died.
Ross said she believed that he had at times obtained pills from Hall.
Asked by Nelson what she thought about Hall, Ross said “I didn’t like Morries very much.”
Hall filed a notice with the court on Wednesday that if he is called to testify at Chauvin’s trial he will invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Ross was followed on the witness stand by Seth Bravinder, a paramedic who drove the ambulance that provided the first medical attention to Floyd.
Bravinder said that when he arrived police officers were still on top of Floyd and he was “unresponsive.”
“I did not see him moving or breathing,” he said. “He was limp would be the best description. He was unresponsive.”
Asked if Floyd was in cardiac arrest, Bravinder said “As we learned, yes.”
He said efforts to resuscitate Floyd and get his heart started again were unsuccessful.
Ben Crump, a Floyd family attorney, released a statement after Ross’s testimony denouncing what he called “defense attempts to construct the narrative that George Floyd’s cause of death was the Fentanyl in his system.”
“We want to remind the world who witnessed his death on video that George was walking, talking, laughing, and breathing just fine before Derek Chauvin held his knee to George’s neck, blocking his ability to breathe and extinguishing his life,” Crump said.
Police body camera footage of Floyd’s arrest was shown on Wednesday to the nine-woman, five-man jury hearing the case in a heavily guarded Minneapolis courtroom.
On the footage, a distressed Floyd says repeatedly that he “can’t breathe” and calls for his mother until he eventually passes out.
Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the police force, faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge — second-degree murder.
The other three former police officers involved in the arrest — Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng — are to be tried separately later this year.
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