A witness to George Floyd’s death last spring began weeping as body camera footage was played in court Wednesday, prompting the judge to call for a break in former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s criminal trial.
Chauvin faces three charges for his actions May 25, when he knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes on the pavement outside a convenience store.
The witness, 61-year-old Charles McMillian, was the state’s 11th since the trial began in earnest this week. He described how he was driving by and saw police confronting Floyd ― previous testimony outlined how Floyd had been suspected of using a counterfeit bill ― and decided to stop.
“I’m a nosy person,” McMillian said. He testified that he got out of his car and attempted to persuade Floyd to go with the officers willingly in order to prevent Floyd from being harmed.
Once the incident was over and emergency responders had loaded Floyd into an ambulance, McMillian is shown on body camera footage engaging in a brief conversation with Chauvin in which he said the officer’s method of restraint was unnecessary.
“That’s one person’s opinion,” Chauvin replied. “We had to control this guy because he’s a sizable guy. It looks like he’s probably on something.”
McMillian had recognized Chauvin because five days earlier, he said, he had told him something he repeats to police officers in the community, saying that at the end of the day, the officers always get to go home safely, but others may not.
When prosecutors played video of Floyd struggling against Chauvin’s weight, he could be heard calling for his mother and repeatedly saying he could not breathe.
By the time the video ended, McMillian had lowered his head to cry. He said he felt “helpless” watching it.
“I don’t have a mamma either ― I understand him,” he said.
Judge Peter Cahill called a brief recess.
Once the court reconvened, McMillian could be heard pleading with Floyd in bystander video played for the court.
“You can’t win!” he shouted at the time.
“He appeared to be in and out” with “white foam running out of his mouth,” McMillian said of Floyd.
Several of the witnesses called to the stand so far in Chauvin’s trial became emotional when recalling Floyd’s death. One of them, 18-year-old Darnella Frazier, told the court she has stayed up at night “apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more” to save his life.
Chauvin, who was fired from the police force last year, was arrested and charged with murder in the week after video of Floyd’s death attracted viral attention around the world. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 40 years behind bars, but would be more likely to receive a sentence of 10 to 15 years.