By Koda Slingluff and William McCurry
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – On Day 3 of the explosive murder trial of ex-police officer Derek Chauvin Wednesday, a clerk from Cup Foods, bystanders, and a police lieutenant testified to watching Chauvin press his knee into George Floyd for more than nine minutes, squeezing the life out of him.
One witness, Charles McMillian, became very emotional as he related to Floyd not having his mother.
The first witness today was 19-year-old Christopher Martin. Martin, at the time Floyd was murdered, was a cashier at Cup Foods and was working from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. that night.
Martin testified that, among tobacco products in the store, there is also a deli and a T-Mobile in the store where you could get your phone fixed and other services. When Floyd entered the store, Martin claimed he saw Floyd because he was a “big guy.”
When Floyd entered the store and Martin saw him, Martin testified that he had never seen Floyd before. While Floyd was in the store he had a conversation with him: “I asked him if he played baseball, he said no, I play football.”
Martin explained to the jurors “so when I asked him if he played baseball it took him a little long to get to what he was trying to say, so it would appear that he was high.” Martin had the impression he was under the influence of something when he entered the store.
Later in the store when Floyd approached the counter to buy cigarettes, Martin testified that he was able to understand him completely.
After Floyd purchased the cigarettes, Martin noticed he paid with a counterfeit bill because it had a “blue pigment to it, kinda like a $100 bill would have, so I assumed it was fake.” The store has a policy where if cashiers accept a counterfeit bill for payment, it comes out of the employee’s paycheck.
After he took the counterfeit bill from Floyd, Martin informed his manager about it. Martin’s manager told him to “go out to the vehicle and ask him to come inside and discuss what just happened.”
Martin approached Floyd’s SUV twice. The first time he approached his vehicle, he went with a coworker. He approached the passenger side of the vehicle and did most of the talking to Floyd’s friend in the front passenger seat.
“I notified them that they needed to come back inside because the bill was fake and my boss wanted to talk to them,” Martin said. Martin testified that after he told them to come back inside, Floyd “seemed like he didn’t want this to happen, he seemed like ah, why is this happening.”
They did not agree to come back into the store and Martin made his way back inside. When he got back inside, he informed his manager Floyd didn’t want to come in and he was told to go back out and try again.
They still did not want to come back into the store. After Martin returned the second time, his manager told them to call the police.
When the police arrived, they had to witness the scary sight everyone has been outraged about: Chauvin taking Floyd’s life. Martin explained that he didn’t work at Cup Foods for as long as he could have because he “did not feel safe working there.”
The next witness to testify was 45-year-old Christopher Belfrey. On May 25, 2020, he was going to Cup Foods and parked right behind Floyd’s Mercedes-Benz and saw the officers approach his vehicle.
Belfrey started recording when the officers approached Floyd’s vehicle and saw the officer pull out his firearm. When the officer pulled the firearm out, it startled him and he stopped recording because he “didn’t want to be in the middle of the commotion.”
After he stopped recording, he drove closer to where the officers walked Floyd. He thought it was over because Floyd was detained and so he kept driving past the incident.
As the court moved forward with more witnesses, Charles McMillian was very emotional as he was shown the video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck.
McMillian was driving past Cup Foods when he saw the officers walking the man across the street, where then he parked and got out because he was being “nosey and wanted to know what was going on.”
While testifying in court, he was shown the viral video that everyone has seen of the incident and had to relive this nightmare over again. In the video, you can hear Floyd cry out for his mother.
As McMillian heard this, he broke out into tears because he could relate to Floyd not having his mother. “I lost my mother in June,” cried McMillian. McMillian was sobbing and the court had to take a short break.
McMillian returned to the stand after a 10-minute break. Prosecutor Erin Elridge continued to show him video footage from the arrest, taken by a camera across the street, to ask McMillian about his perspective on what happened scene by scene.
In the midst of the officers’ struggle to force Floyd into the car, McMillian exchanged some words with him. He told Floyd to “get up and get in the car” before saying “you can’t win, man.”
His statements were an attempt to help the man, he said, adding, “Basically what I’m saying is he can’t win because once, like I said, once the police get the cops on you, you can’t win. So I’m trying to tell him just cooperate with them, just get up get in the car, go with them, you can’t win.”
Floyd cried out, “I can’t” in response.
McMillian then began speaking toward the officers, saying, among many other things “he’s a tough guy but he’s not even resisting arrest.”
He testified that he knew that the man was in trouble. He saw foaming at his mouth and heard him gasping that he could not breathe. The officer kept Floyd restrained as he stopped moving and fell silent, and by the time the ambulance arrived, McMillian said he already knew that Floyd was lifeless.
The paramedics drove away. As Chauvin went back to the squad car, McMillian spoke to him. A portion of the interaction is available as video evidence, captured both through the street camera and Chauvin’s body camera. The two sources were composited into one video for the court.
In the video, McMillian can be heard saying, “I don’t respect what you did.” Some of the audio is unclear, but McMillian explained to the court what he said in full.
“I think I said to him, ‘five days ago I told you the other day go home to your family, for the next guy’s family safe, but the dead guy is looking at you as a maggot.’”
The final witness of the day was James Jeffrey Rugel, a Minneapolis PD Lieutenant with extensive experience with technology systems programs for the department.
Rugel was examined by prosecutor Steven Schleicher, who noted that his personal involvement in the George Floyd case was “somewhat limited” and he was brought to court as a “foundational witness.”
Rugel was key in the establishment and operation of the police department’s Strategic Information Center, which can do everything from sending information to cops in real time to accessing and operating any of the city surveillance cameras.
Rugel explained that he created the center “from the ground up,” working as its first manager and writing the standard operating procedures.
Rugel went on to talk about the department’s body camera policies. He explained that officers must always wear a camera, always have it on a ‘stand by’ mode, and must have it on actively when responding to anything with the public or “anytime something we might want to review later” happens.
The body cam has a button to activate it, which will kick on the sound recording function. It then captures the previous 30 seconds of footage as part of the file. Because of this, the body camera exhibits submitted to the court have 30 seconds of silence at the beginning.
He explained, “When the cameras are on but not activated, they’re actually recording much like a DVR on your TV. When you press the button to activate it, that kicks on the sound and it saves the previous 30 seconds without sound. So the thought is whatever caused you to turn on your camera would be captured.”
Schleicher then played three clips of body camera footage, from the three officers other than the defendant. The clips showed the moments before, during, and after Floyd’s death.
Footage from Officer Thomas Lane showed Lane approaching Floyd’s car, gun drawn. Within seconds Lane begins to curse and wave his gun, saying “put your hands right f**king there” and gesturing to the wheel.
Floyd starts crying after the cop tells him to put his hands on his head. He appears compliant, but visibly shaken as he says “last time I got shot, I was doing the same thing, man.”
As Lane attempts to pull him out of the car by the arm, Floyd says, “Please don’t shoot me man. Please, man. I just lost my mom.”
He was soon pulled onto the sidewalk and asked his name. Visibly panicking, he is pushed toward the squad car, saying “you gotta believe me, I’m not that type of guy, I’m gonna die, man. I’m claustrophobic, I’ve got anxiety. I’m gonna die, man. I’m not a bad guy.”
The rest of the footage included familiar moments of restraint and violence as the officers gave up trying to get him in the car and forced him face-first onto the road. The next moments shown are already intimately detailed in notorious video and media around the world.
The final body cam clip was several seconds from Chauvin himself. The clip was a struggle and a shove toward the ground, before the camera clatters under the vehicle. A moment of darkness, and the video ceases.
With that, the jurors were dismissed for the day.
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