MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) – A cashier who was one of the last people to speak with George Floyd before his deadly arrest last May testified at Derek Chauvin’s murder trial in Minneapolis on Wednesday that Floyd appeared to be high on drugs but was able to make friendly conversation.
Chauvin, who is white, was fired by the city’s police department the day after he was captured on video with his knee on the neck of Floyd, a Black man in handcuffs. He has pled not guilty to murder and manslaughter charges, and a central dispute in the case is his lawyers’ contention that Floyd’s death, which was ruled a homicide, was instead a drug overdose.
The jury watched video on Wednesday that showed a cheerful-looking Floyd in his final minutes inside a grocery store before he ended up below Chauvin on the road outside, a scene that the cashier, Christopher Martin, told the jury he watched in disbelief.
Several other eyewitnesses, one a child of nine, have spent the last two days describing to the jury the shock of watching Floyd’s struggle beneath Chauvin as bystanders screamed at police that Floyd was falling unconscious. Video footage of the arrest on May 25, 2020, sparked global protests decrying police brutality against Black people. [L1N2LS1AX]
Here are some of the most important moments from the third day of testimony:
CHRISTOPHER MARTIN, EYEWITNESS AND CUP FOODS CASHIER
It was Martin, a cashier at the Cup Foods grocery store, who accepted the $20 bill that triggered everything that followed.
“I thought that George didn’t really know it was a fake bill,” Martin, 19, told the jury. He considered letting Cup Foods just dock it from his wages, but ended up telling his manager and a few minutes later police were arresting Floyd on suspicion of passing a counterfeit.
Silent security-camera video played for the jury shows Floyd dressed in a black tank top approaching Cup Food’s counter with a banana in hand, smiling and making cheerful conversation and putting his arm around a woman. Floyd appears to be filled with energy and constantly in motion, at one point almost dancing on the spot, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.
Martin, 19, told the jury that he made conversation with Floyd, asking him if he played baseball. Floyd seemed to take time to find his words but replied that he played football, Martin said.
“He seemed very friendly, approachable, he was talkative, he seemed to be having just an average Memorial Day, just living his life,” Martin recalled. “But he did seem high.”
Although the county medical examiner ruled Floyd’s death a homicide resulting from the police restraint, fentanyl and methamphetamine was found in Floyd’s blood at autopsy and Chauvin’s lawyers argue the death was really a drug overdose.
Martin sold Floyd a pack of cigarettes. He told the jury he thought the bill was counterfeit and considered just letting the store deduct it from his wages, but then decided to tell his manager, who told Martin to go and confront Floyd, who had got back into a car outside with two other passengers.
Floyd was “just kind of shaking his head and putting his hands in the air, like, ‘Why is this happening to me?’” Martin said.
Martin’s manager told a coworker to call the police after Floyd and the other passengers refused to come back inside the store.
Martin later said he was upset to see Chauvin on top of Floyd, and went up to another Black man on the sidewalk.
“They’re not going to help us, this is what we deal with,” he recalled telling the other bystander, referring to police.
Martin said he felt guilty.
“I thought if I would not have taken the bill this would have been avoided,” he said.
GENEVIEVE HANSEN, EYEWITNESS AND MINNEAPOLIS FIREFIGHTER
Genevieve Hansen, an off-duty firefighter and paramedic who was near the scene of the arrest, can be heard on the video screaming at the police to check Floyd’s pulse.
“I pled and was desperate,” she testified on Tuesday, dressed in her Minneapolis Fire Department uniform of a white shirt with a badge and black tie. A water bottle shook in her hand as she sipped it to calm her tears.
“It’s what I would have done for anybody,” she said.
She said another officer at the scene told her: “If you really are a Minneapolis firefighter, you would know better than to get involved.”
After her increasingly combative exchanges with Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s lead lawyer, Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill sent out the jury and chastised Hansen, warning her not to argue with the court or with lawyers and to return the following day.
On Wednesday, she was on the stand for only a few minutes. Nelson asked her if she showed the police her firefighter identification. She said no. Matthew Frank, a prosecutor, then asked her if she even it her identification with her. She said she did not, because she was off-duty.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Alistair Bell