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MINNEAPOLIS — The young Black cashier who sold George Floyd a pack of cigarettes moments before his death said he told his manager multiple times that he wanted to put Floyd’s purchase “on my tab” to avoid involving police.
Christopher Martin testified Wednesday in the murder trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin that he knew Floyd was handing him a fake $20 bill but took it anyway thinking he’d pay for the cigarettes out of his own pocket.
“I took it anyways and decided to put it on my tab, until I second-guessed myself,” Martin, a cashier at the Cup Foods store in South Minneapolis, told the jury at the Hennepin County Courthouse as he recalled the events of May 25, 2020. “As you can see from the video, I kept examining it, and I eventually told my manager.”
When the store manager later asked Martin to walk outside and confront Floyd about it as he was seated in a vehicle near the store, Martin said he asked his boss to put the cigarettes on his tab.
“That was the conversation that I had with my manager when I was saying that he did not want to come inside,” Martin, 19, continued. “I’d offer to pay, but he said no, just tell him to come inside.”
Martin spoke to another occupant of the car the first time he went over, and Floyd refused to go back to the store. Martin tried a second time, and Floyd still refused. That prompted the manager, Mahmoud Abumayyaleh, to call the cops. Minutes later, Floyd would die under the knee of officer Derek Chauvin, the 19-year veteran of the force charged with Floyd’s death. He faces 65 years in prison for second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Martin’s testimony shined a light on how Cup Foods employees appeared to treat Floyd’s alleged crime: minor enough to foot the bill.
The store policy at the time called for employees to pay for any fake currency they accepted from customers, an effort meant to keep workers accountable for the money they accepted.
After seeing a crowd gathered in front of the store, and then seeing an unconscious Floyd eventually die under Chauvin’s knee, Martin felt a lot of guilt, he told the jury.
"If I'd just not taken the bill, this could have been avoided," Martin told prosecutors.
Martin was only the latest trial witness who admitted to carrying guilt over Floyd’s death. On Tuesday, a high school student testified through tears that she’s spent sleepless nights apologizing to Floyd for not physically intervening as Chauvin kneeled on his neck. A firefighter also cried as she expressed guilt over not being able to resuscitate Floyd after officers rebuffed her advances toward the dying Black man.
Martin said he became emotional as he watched medical professionals at the scene place Floyd’s lifeless body onto a gurney.
"This is what we have to deal with," he told another Black bystander. "They're not going to help him."
At one point during his testimony, the cashier recalled seeing Floyd looking remorseful about the purchase and said that he suspected Floyd didn't know the bill he had was a fake.
“He was just kind of shaking his head, putting his hands in the air, kind of like, ‘Why is this happening to me? Why is this happening?’” Martin recalled about Floyd when he came back to the parked vehicle the second time.
Immediately after Floyd’s death, the Cup Foods grocery staff was targeted with community rage for having called 911 on him in the first place and setting the stage for a deadly encounter.
But that’s largely been forgotten in this community where Cup Foods is an institution, as well as an employer of local teens.
Earlier this month, Minneapolis resident and George Floyd Square activist Honey Jenkins told VICE News that the community has made sure Cup Foods employees know that no one holds what happened to Floyd against them.
“We just all moved on from it,” Jenkins said about Martin. “You just started your new job, you haven’t learned your bills yet, and we get it. Just practice a little more, but we still love you.”
In the months since Floyd died, Cup Foods has become the epicenter of George Floyd Square, a cop-free autonomous zone where activists and local residents gather and pay respects to the man whose death set off months of protests against police brutality across the U.S.
Wednesday marked Day Three in Chauvin’s criminal trial. The other former Minneapolis police officers involved in Floyd’s arrest, Tou Thou, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Keung, are expected to face trial in August.
Chauvin’s trial is scheduled to last two to four weeks.