Chilling police body camera footage was shown to the jury on Wednesday at the trial of the white policeman accused of killing George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man whose death touched off anti-racism protests around the world.
The video taken by the bodycams of the four police officers involved in Floyd’s May 25, 2020 arrest was introduced by prosecutors on the third day of the trial of ex-Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin.
Chauvin, 45, who was captured on bystander video kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed Floyd for more than nine minutes, is charged with murder and manslaughter.
The bodycam videos include the moment Floyd was arrested at gunpoint for allegedly passing a fake $20 bill and his desperate pleas that he “can’t breathe” as he is pinned facedown in the street by officers.
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.
Lane’s bodycam video shows Floyd saying “Please don’t shoot me” as he is pulled out of his car outside the store where he paid for a pack of cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 banknote.
Floyd is handcuffed and taken to a squad car where he becomes increasingly distressed and struggles with the officers who are trying to put him in the back of the vehicle.
“I’m claustrophobic, man,” Floyd says repeatedly. “Why you doing me like this? Don’t do me like this man.”
After Floyd falls out of the car into the street, three officers pin him down with Chauvin kneeling on his neck.
Chauvin’s body camera was knocked off in the struggle and falls under the car but the cameras of the other officers continued to operate.
Floyd says repeatedly that he can’t breathe. “Mama, I love you,” he says. “My stomach hurts, my neck hurts.”
At one point, one of the officers says “I think he’s passed out” and asks if they should “roll him on his side.”
The bodycam footage continues until an ambulance arrives and takes an unconscious Floyd to hospital, where he was declared dead.
– ‘Disbelief and guilt’ –
Besides the bodycam video, court proceedings on Wednesday featured the emotional testimony of a store clerk who said he regretted accepting the fake $20 bill from Floyd.
“If I would have just not taken the bill, this could have been avoided,” said Christopher Martin, a cashier at Cup Foods.
Martin, 19, said he knew right away the banknote was fake but took it anyway.
“I was planning to just put it on my tab,” he said, meaning the amount would be taken out of his paycheck. “I offered to pay for it.”
Martin said he told the store manager about the fake bill, however, and the manager eventually called the police.
Martin said Floyd appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol while he was in the store but was “very friendly, approachable, talkative.”
“He seemed to be having an average Memorial Day, just living his life,” Martin said. “He did seem high.”
Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s defense attorney, claimed in opening arguments that Floyd’s death was due to drugs and underlying medical conditions and not asphyxiation.
Martin said he left the store again when he heard “yelling and screaming” outside.
“I saw (Chauvin) with his knee on George’s neck on the ground,” he said. “George was motionless, limp.”
Asked by prosecutor Matthew Frank what he felt at the time, Martin became visibly upset and said “disbelief and guilt.”
Also testifying on Wednesday was Charles McMillian, 61, who said he was driving by that day and stopped to see what was going on.
McMillian, the first bystander on the scene, can be heard on video at one point telling the struggling Floyd “you can’t win” and to get into the back of the police squad car.
McMillian began sobbing as police bodycam video of Floyd’s arrest was played, removing his glasses and wiping his eyes with tissues until Judge Peter Cahill called a brief recess.
“I felt helpless,” McMillian said.
McMillian also confronted Chauvin after the incident. Asked by a prosecutor why he did so, McMillian said: “Because what I watched was wrong.”
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.
His trial is expected to last about a month.