A witness in the police killing of George Floyd broke down in tears during his testimony in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial on Wednesday.
Witness Charles McMillian, 61, sobbed on the witness stand as he watched graphic body camera footage of himself standing by Minneapolis police officers as they struggled to detain Floyd. The victim called out for his mother during his arrest and repeatedly shouted “I can’t breathe.”
As theGRIO previously reported, Floyd, 46, was declared dead after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against his neck for 9 minutes, 29 seconds as Floyd lay face-down on the pavement, handcuffed and crying “I can’t breathe.”
“Helpless” is how McMillian said he felt while watching Floyd’s encounter with the officers, Star Tribue reports. “I don’t have a momma either, I understand him.”
McMillian testified that he urged Floyd to comply with the officers, and he can be heard on video telling Chauvin to “get your knee off his neck.”
“I’m watching Mr. Floyd, I’m trying to get him to understand that when you make a mistake, once they get you in handcuffs there’s no such thing as being claustrophobic, you have to go,” McMillian said. “I’ve had interactions with officers myself and I realize once you get in the cuffs you can’t win.”
The video left McMillian crying on the witness stand, prompting Judge Peter Cahill to call for a brief break. Once the proceedings resumed, video from Chauvin’s body-camera was shown, in which McMillian is seen speaking with the former officer after Floyd’s limp body was taken away in an ambulance. McMillian testified that he and Chauvin had a conversation five days earlier about getting home safe to his family.
“I pulled up to the squad car somewhere in south Minneapolis, and I see Mr. Chauvin, and I told him like I tell other officers that the end of the day you go home to your family safe and that the next person goes home to their family safe,” he said.
McMillian reminded Chauvin of their conversation, noting that a man like Floyd should also be allowed to get home safely to his family. Chauvin clapped back and defended his actions, saying, “We’ve gotta control this guy because he’s a sizable guy, looks like he’s probably on something.”
When prosecutor Erin Eldridge asked McMillian, “Why did you feel the need to talk to Mr. Chauvin?” McMillian replied: “Because what I watched was wrong.”
“And did you feel it was important to tell him?” Eldridge said.
“Yes ma’am.” McMillian answered.
Several witnesses on the scene that fateful day have testified this week about what they failed to do in the moments leading up to Floyd’s death.
An earlier report on theGRIO noted that the convenience store cashier who was handed a counterfeit $20 bill by Floyd — setting in motion the Black man’s ill-fated encounter with police — testified Wednesday that he watched Floyd’s arrest outside with “disbelief — and guilt.”
“If I would’ve just not tooken the bill, this could’ve been avoided,” 19-year-old Christopher Martin lamented at Chauvin’s murder trial, joining the burgeoning list of onlookers who expressed a sense of helplessness and lingering guilt over Floyd’s slow death last May.
Prosecutors used Martin and other witnesses to help lay out the rapidly escalating sequence of events that ended in tragedy. They also played store security video of Floyd inside Cup Foods and yet another piece of amateur footage of him outside, adding to the mountain of video documenting what happened.
Chauvin, 45, is charged with unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. He has pleaded not guilty.
“For all those people that continue to say that this is such a difficult trial, that this is a hard trial, we refute that,” Floyd family attorney Ben Crump said. “We know that if George Floyd was a white American citizen, and he suffered this painful, tortuous death with a police officer’s knee on his neck, nobody, nobody, would be saying this is a hard case.”
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