CONTENT WARNING – SOME READERS MAY FIND THE GRAPHIC SCENES DESCRIBED HERE DISTURBING
George Floyd’s struggle with three Minneapolis police officers trying to arrest him, seen on bodycam video, has been shown in court at the trial of one of the officers.
The footage included Floyd’s panicked cries of “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” and “I’m claustrophobic!” as the officers tried to push him into the back of a police SUV. At one point, Floyd bucks forward, throwing his upper body out of the car.
Officers eventually give up, and Floyd thanks them – and is then taken to the ground, face down and handcuffed.
Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee pins his neck, another officer’s knee his back, and a third officer holds his legs. As this happens the officers talk calmly about whether he might be on drugs.
Officer Thomas Lane was recorded saying:
He wouldn’t get out of the car. He just wasn’t following instructions.
The officer also asked twice if the officers should roll Floyd on his side, and later said he thinks Floyd is passing out. Another officer checked Floyd’s wrist for a pulse and said he could not find one.
The police on trial
The officers’ video was part of a mountain of footage and witness testimony in Chauvin’s trial on murder and manslaughter charges, showing how his alleged attempt to pass a counterfeit 20-dollar note at a neighbourhood market last May escalated into Floyd’s death.
A security camera scene of people joking around inside the store soon gave way to the sight of officers pulling Floyd from his SUV at gunpoint.
The extended bodycam footage gave jurors the fullest view yet of the roughly 20 minutes between when police first approached Floyd’s vehicle to when he was loaded into an ambulance. When Floyd was finally taken away by paramedics, Charles McMillian, a 61-year-old bystander who recognised Chauvin from the neighbourhood, told the officer he did not respect what Chauvin had done.
Chauvin could be heard responding:
That’s one person’s opinion. We gotta control this guy ’cause he’s a sizable guy… and it looks like he’s probably on something.
Floyd was 6ft 4in and 223 pounds, according to the post-mortem examination, which also found fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system. Chauvin’s lawyer said the officer is 5ft 9in and 140 pounds.
Chauvin, 45, is charged with murder and manslaughter for kneeling on the 46-year-old’s neck for nine minutes, 29 seconds, as he lay face down in handcuffs.
The most serious charge against the now-fired officer carries up to 40 years in prison.
“You can’t win”
Floyd’s death, along with the harrowing bystander video of him gasping for breath as onlookers yelled at Chauvin to get off him, triggered protests around the world and a reckoning over racism and police brutality across the US.
As Floyd was pinned down by Chauvin and other officers, bystander McMillian could be heard on video saying to Floyd, “You can’t win” and “Get up and get in the car”.
Floyd replied: “I can’t.”
The defence has argued that Chauvin did what he was trained to do and that Floyd’s death was not caused by the officer’s knee, as prosecutors contend, but by Floyd’s illegal drug use, heart disease, high blood pressure, and the adrenaline flowing through his body.
The arrest and alleged murder came after Floyd reportedly handed a cashier at Cup Foods, 19-year-old Christopher Martin, a counterfeit note for a pack of cigarettes.
Martin said that he watched Floyd’s arrest outside with “disbelief – and guilt”. “If I would’ve just not taken the bill, this could’ve been avoided,” Martin said, joining the burgeoning list of witnesses who expressed a sense of helplessness and lingering guilt over Floyd’s death.
Martin said he immediately believed the 20-dollar note was fake. But he said he accepted it, despite believing the amount would be taken out of his pay by his employer, because he did not think Floyd knew it was counterfeit and “I thought I’d be doing him a favour”. Martin then second-guessed his decision and told a manager, who sent Martin outside to ask Floyd to return to the store.
Floyd and a passenger in his SUV twice refused to go back into the store to resolve the issue, and the manager had a co-worker call police, Martin said.
Martin said that when Floyd was inside the store buying cigarettes, he spoke so slowly “it would appear that he was high”. He also described Floyd as friendly and talkative.
Fund our Investigations Unit
You can help us investigate corruption, expose injustice and uncover the truth.
As one of the only independent investigations units in the country, we work for you – but we need your help to keep going. We need to raise £10,000 to continue our groundbreaking investigations. Can you chip in?