Charles McMillian broke down in tears as he again heard George Floyd crying out for his deceased mother in his dying moments.
The 61-year-old third-grade teacher took the witness stand Wednesday and cried as he watched police body-camera footage of Floyd’s arrest, offering the most powerful moment yet in the murder trial of former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin.
“I can’t help but feel helpless,” said McMillian, who was the first person to come upon the arrest in progress last May 25. “I don’t have a mother either, so I understand him.”
McMillian’s testimony marked the fifth time a witness cried while on the stand at Hennepin County Courthouse for the high-profile trial. On Tuesday, a high school student told prosecutors through tears that she’s spent sleepless nights apologizing to Floyd for not intervening as Chauvin kneeled on his neck. A firefighter also became emotional on the stand, expressing guilt over not being able to resuscitate Floyd after officers rebuffed her advances toward the dying Black man. Another bystander, a Black martial artist, teared up as he explained why he decided to call the cops on the officers detaining Floyd.
McMillian was the very first person to stop on the street outside the Cup Foods store and observe the arrest underway. In the video prosecutors played of Floyd’s initial encounter with police, McMillian is heard pleading with Floyd, asking him to cooperate with police as best he can.
"You’re in cuffs. You can't win," McMillian told Floyd as police struggled to put him into the vehicle.
"I'm not trying to win," Floyd responds before explaining to officers that he suffers from claustrophobia. Floyd then tells officers that he’d be willing to do anything else, including lie down on the ground.
After hearing Floyd scream out for his mother as police bodycam footage showed Chauvin kneeling on the Black man’s neck, a weeping McMillan explained that he too lost his mother “on June 25,” not specifying what year. Judge Peter Cahill called for a brief break after the emotional moment.
“In my instinct, it was over for Mr. Floyd,” McMillian said after the break.
The 61-year-old teacher revealed that he had seen Chauvin sitting in his squad car five days before Floyd’s May 25 arrest and subsequent death. Floyd’s death sparked months of international protests decrying police brutality against the Black community.
Footage of the incident showed McMillian exchanging words with Chauvin after Floyd’s lifeless body was taken away from the scene.
“I don't respect what you did,” he told Chauvin.
“Well, that's one person's opinion,” Chauvin said. “We got to control this guy because he's a sizeable guy and looks like he's probably on something.”
"You respect me, I’ll keep respecting you,” he told Chauvin before walking away. “You have a good night, you go home safe to your family.”
The defense declined to cross-examine McMillian.
Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis PD at the time of Floyd’s death, is facing second- and third-degree murder charges, as well as second-degree manslaughter charges. He faces up to 65 years in prison. The trial is expected to last another two to three weeks.