Derek Chauvin is charged with murder and manslaughter.
AFTER AN AMBULANCE took George Floyd away, the Minneapolis officer who had pinned his knee on the black man’s neck defended himself to a bystander by saying Floyd was “a sizable guy” and “probably on something”, according to police video played in court.
The video was part of a mountain of footage — both official and amateur — and witness testimony at Derek Chauvin’s murder trial that all together showed how Floyd’s alleged attempt to pass a fake 20 dollar bill at a neighbourhood market last May escalated into tragedy.
A security-camera scene of people joking around inside the store soon gave way to the sight of officers pulling Floyd from his car at gunpoint, struggling to put him in a squad car as he frantically said he was claustrophobic, and then pinning him to the pavement.
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.
“That’s one person’s opinion,” Chauvin could be heard responding. “We gotta control this guy ’cause he’s a sizable guy… and it looks like he’s probably on something.”
Floyd was six feet four inches and weighed 223 pounds, according to the autopsy.
Chauvin’s lawyer said the officer is five feet nine inches and weighs 140 pounds.
Chauvin, 45, is charged with murder and manslaughter, accused of killing the 46-year-old by kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes, 29 seconds, as he lay face-down in handcuffs.
The most serious charge against the now-fired white officer carries up to 40 years in prison.
Floyd’s death, along with the harrowing bystander video of him gasping for breath as onlookers yelled at Chauvin to get off him, triggered sometimes violent protests around the world and a reckoning over racism and police brutality across the US.
Events spun out of control that day soon after Floyd allegedly handed a cashier at Cup Foods, 19-year-old Christopher Martin, a counterfeit bill for a pack of cigarettes.
Martin testified yesterday 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 lamented, 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 bill was fake. But he said he accepted it, despite believing the amount would be taken out of his paycheque by his employer because he did not think Floyd knew it was counterfeit and “I thought I’d be doing him a favour”.
Martin said he initially planned to just put the bill on his own “tab” but then second-guessed himself and told a manager, who sent him outside to ask Floyd to return to the store.
But 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 testified.
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Martin said that when Floyd was inside the store buying cigarettes, he spoke so slowly “it would appear that he was high”. But he described Mr Floyd as friendly and talkative.
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.