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“Check His Pulse”: In Derek Chauvin Trial, Outraged Bystanders Describe Witnessing George Floyd Death

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Jurors in Minneapolis heard another series of dramatic testimonies during the third day of the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for killing George Floyd. A teenage clerk named Christopher Martin at the Minneapolis convenience store outside which Floyd was killed told jurors during questioning that he felt guilty for reporting the fake $20 bill to his manager, who called the police on George Floyd. Jurors also heard a recording of Charles McMillian, who witnessed George Floyd’s death last year, approaching Chauvin to say, “I don’t respect what you did,” as Floyd’s body was being loaded into an ambulance. We air dramatic excerpts from witness testimony on the third day of the murder trial in Minneapolis.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Jurors in Minneapolis have heard another day of dramatic testimony in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who’s on trial for killing George Floyd last May by kneeling on his neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. Chauvin, who is white, is charged with second- and third-degree murder, as well as manslaughter, for killing George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black father. Floyd’s death sparked international protests calling for racial justice.

Floyd’s arrest and death on May 25th last year occurred after the Cup Foods convenience store called the police accusing Floyd of using a counterfeit $20 bill. To this day, it’s not known if Floyd even knew he had used a counterfeit money. Moments after police arrived at the scene, officer Thomas Lane pointed a gun at Floyd and then pulled him out of a parked car, cursing at him. On Wednesday, a teenage clerk at the store named Christopher Martin told jurors during questioning he felt guilty for reporting the fake $20 bill to his manager, who called the police on Floyd.

MATTHEW FRANK: What was going through your mind during that time period?

CHRISTOPHER MARTIN: Disbelief and guilt.


CHRISTOPHER MARTIN: If I would have just not taken the bill, this could have been avoided.

AMY GOODMAN: One of the most moving moments of the trial came Wednesday when Charles McMillian, who also witnessed George Floyd’s death, rewatched a police bodycam clip of George Floyd begging for his life after he was handcuffed by police. A warning to our audience: This clip contains graphic video of police violence.

GEORGE FLOYD: I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.

THOMAS LANE: Thank you.

GEORGE FLOYD: I can’t breathe.



DEREK CHAUVIN: [inaudible], Hobble?


ALEXANDER KUENG: Yeah, it’s in the —


ALEXANDER KUENG: — I think, one of the front pouches —


ALEXANDER KUENG: — on my right side bag.


THOMAS LANE: Can we get EMS Code 2, for one bleeding from the mouth?

DEREK CHAUVIN: You’re under arrest, guy.

GEORGE FLOYD: All right. All right. Oh my god.

DEREK CHAUVIN: So you’re going to jail.

GEORGE FLOYD: I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.


GEORGE FLOYD: I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe, man.

ERIN ELDRIDGE: Stop it right here, please. Mr. McMillian, do you need a minute?

CHARLES McMILLIAN: [weeping] Oh my god.

MATTHEW FRANK: Just take your time. Let us know when you’re ready.

ERIN ELDRIDGE: We’ll just give you a moment, Mr. McMillian. I’m not sure if there’s water for you, as well. If you need a break to get some water, let me know. We can take a break.

AMY GOODMAN: After the break, the 61-year-old African American bystander, Charles McMillian, returned to be questioned about what he saw when police killed George Floyd.

ERIN ELDRIDGE: What stood out to you about what Mr. Floyd was saying when you saw him on the ground?

CHARLES McMILLIAN:When he kept saying, “I can’t breathe,” and when he said, “Mama, they’re killing me.”

AMY GOODMAN: During the trial Wednesday, jurors also heard a recording of Charles McMillian approaching officer Derek Chauvin moments after George Floyd’s limp body was put in an ambulance. McMillian told Chauvin, quote, “I don’t respect what you did.”


DISPATCHER: Can you advise the fire department, if they’re still with you, they need to go to 36th and Park —

CHARLES McMILLIAN: What you did, well, I’m objecting. But that’s your job.

DEREK CHAUVIN: All right. That’s —

DISPATCHER: — to assist with a [inaudible] arrest?

CHARLES McMILLIAN: But I [inaudible] respect what you did.

DEREK CHAUVIN: That’s one person’s opinion.

CHARLES McMILLIAN: But no, no, no. I’ve got to get in — I’ve got to get in [inaudible].

DEREK CHAUVIN: We’ve got to — we’ve got to control this — we’ve got to control this guy, because he’s a sizable guy.

CHARLES McMILLIAN: Yeah. And I tried — I tried to get him — get in the car.

DEREK CHAUVIN: That looks like he’s — looks like he’s probably on something.

AMY GOODMAN: On Wednesday, jurors were also shown police bodycam footage of the bystanders who attempted to save George Floyd’s life as officer Chauvin kneeled on his neck.

GENEVIEVE HANSEN: I’m a firefighter for Minneapolis.

DONALD WILLIAMS: He’s not responsive right now!

TOU THAO: OK, so you wouldn’t know. Get off the street!



DONALD WILLIAMS: He’s not responsive right now! He’s not responsive right now, bro!

GENEVIEVE HANSEN: Does he have a pulse?

DONALD WILLIAMS: No, bro, look at him! He’s not responsive right now, bro!

GENEVIEVE HANSEN: Check for a pulse, please. Check for a pulse.

DONALD WILLIAMS: Bro, are you serious? You’re going to just let him sit there with that on his neck, bro?

GENEVIEVE HANSEN: Let me see a pulse!

DONALD WILLIAMS: Is he breathing right now? Check his pulse!

TOU THAO: All right. How long are we going to have this conversation?

DONALD WILLIAMS: Check his pulse!


DONALD WILLIAMS: Check his pulse, Thao.

TOU THAO: All right.

DONALD WILLIAMS: Thao, check his pulse. Thao, check his pulse, bro. Bro, check his pulse, bro. You’re bogus, bro!

TOU THAO: All right. Don’t do drugs, guys.

DONALD WILLIAMS: You’re bogus. “Don’t do drugs,” bro?

TOU THAO: Exactly.

DONALD WILLIAMS: What is that? What do you think that is? You saw — you call what he doing OK?

TOU THAO: Get back on the —

DONALD WILLIAMS: You call what he doing OK? You call —

GENEVIEVE HANSEN: Badge number 7162.

DONALD WILLIAMS: You call what you doing — you call what he doing OK?

TOU THAO: Are you really a firefighter?

GENEVIEVE HANSEN: Yes, I am, from Minneapolis.

TOU THAO: OK, OK. Then get on the sidewalk!

DONALD WILLIAMS: Bro, you call — you think that’s OK?

GENEVIEVE HANSEN: You show me his pulse!

DONALD WILLIAMS: Check his pulse!


GENEVIEVE HANSEN: Check it right f—ing now!

TOU THAO: Get back on the sidewalk.

DONALD WILLIAMS: The man ain’t moved yet, bro. The man ain’t moved yet, bro.

GENEVIEVE HANSEN: [inaudible] on the street.

TOU THAO: OK. Where? Where?



DONALD WILLIAMS: Bro, you’re a bum, bro.

AMY GOODMAN: One of the eyewitnesses to George Floyd’s murder, the mixed martial artist Donald Williams, told prosecutor Matthew Frank he called 911 after seeing Chauvin put Floyd in what Williams had earlier called a “blood choke.”

MATTHEW FRANK: At some point, did you make a 911 call?

DONALD WILLIAMS: That is correct. I did call the police on the police.

MATTHEW FRANK: All right. And why did you do that?

DONALD WILLIAMS: Because I believe I witnessed a murder.

MATTHEW FRANK: And so you felt the need to call the police?

DONALD WILLIAMS: Yeah, I felt the need to call the police on the police.

AMY GOODMAN: Another one of the eyewitnesses was an off-duty firefighter and EMT named Genevieve Hansen, who was out for a walk. On Tuesday, she told prosecutor Matthew Frank she wanted to check George Floyd’s pulse and give him chest compressions, but she was prevented from doing so by the police.

GENEVIEVE HANSEN: I was really concerned about — I thought his face looked puffy and swollen, which would happen if you are putting a grown man’s weight on someone’s neck. I noticed some fluid coming from what looked like George Floyd’s body. And in a lot of cases, we see a patient release their bladder when they die. I can’t tell you exactly where the fluid was coming from, but that’s where my mind went. He wasn’t moving. …

MATTHEW FRANK: What’s the point of doing chest compressions?

GENEVIEVE HANSEN: Pumping — pumping the blood for somebody that’s not doing that themselves, trying to get a pulse back.

MATTHEW FRANK: And were you able to do that, any of those steps?


MATTHEW FRANK: Why weren’t you able to do any of that?

GENEVIEVE HANSEN: Because the officers didn’t let me into the scene. I also offered — in my memory, I offered to kind of walk them through it, or told them, “If he doesn’t have a pulse, you need to start compressions.” And that wasn’t done, either.

MATTHEW FRANK: Is this — are these things that you wanted to do?

GENEVIEVE HANSEN: It would have — it’s what I would have done for anybody.

MATTHEW FRANK: When you couldn’t do that, how did that make you feel?

GENEVIEVE HANSEN: Totally distressed.

MATTHEW FRANK: Were you frustrated?


MATTHEW FRANK: Ms. Hansen, you know, as I told you, we can take our time, so feel free to just take a minute to — if you need a drink of water, go ahead.


MATTHEW FRANK: How were you doing that, trying to get the officers to focus on you and get help?

GENEVIEVE HANSEN: I think, in my memory, I tried different tactics of calm and reasoning. I tried to be assertive. I pled and was desperate.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Genevieve Hansen, a Minneapolis firefighter and EMT. Jurors on Tuesday also heard from Darnella Frazier. She was just 17 years old when she used her cellphone to film the killing of George Floyd. Her image was not broadcast on the court television feed because she was a minor at the time of Floyd’s death.

DARNELLA FRAZIER: I heard George Floyd saying, “I can’t breathe. Please, get off of me. I can’t breathe.” He cried for his mom. He was in pain. It seemed like he knew. It seemed like he knew it was over for him. He was terrified. He was suffering. This was a cry for help. …

JERRY BLACKWELL: Now, Mr. Nelson asked you a few questions about your video going viral and how that’s changed your life. Remember that, at the end?


JERRY BLACKWELL: Would you tell the ladies and gentlemen how your viewing, experiencing what happened to George Floyd has affected your life?

DARNELLA FRAZIER: When I look at George Floyd, I look at — I look at my dad, I look at my brothers, I look at my cousins, my uncles, because they are all Black. I have a Black father. I have a Black brother. I have Black friends. And I look at that, and I look at how that could have been one of them.

It’s been nights I stayed up apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life. But it’s like, it’s not what I should have done. It’s what he should have done.

JERRY BLACKWELL: All right. Thank you, Darnella.

JUDGE PETER CAHILL: That’ll finish the answer. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Now 18 years old, Darnella Frazier, who filmed the police killing of George Floyd. When we come back, we’re going to speak to Mel Reeves of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, the oldest Black-owned newspaper in Minnesota, plus Rashad Robinson of Color of Change. Stay with us.

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