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A high schooler said her inability to stop George Floyd’s death still keeps her awake at night, nearly a year later. A martial artist openly cried on the witness stand as he recalled seeing the 46-year-old Black man’s life slip away. A 9-year-old girl told the jury that seeing him lose consciousness made her both sad and angry.
On Tuesday, Day Two in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial, the prosecution called several witnesses who’d watched as the former Minneapolis police officer kneeled on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. And they all talked about the immeasurable trauma of witnessing the Black man’s death that would set off an entire summer of protests against the police treatment of Black Americans.
“It’s been nights I’ve stayed up apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more,” 18-year-old Darnella Frazier told special prosecutor Jerry Blackwell through tears on Tuesday in the Hennepin County Courthouse in downtown Minneapolis. “For not physically interacting and not saving his life.”
“But it’s like, it’s not what I should have done. It’s what he should have done,” Frazier continued, referencing Chauvin, who is facing 65 years in prison for second-and-third-degree murder as well as second-degree manslaughter.
Frazier was 17 when she recorded cellphone video of Floyd’s death last May as cops were arresting him for using counterfeit money at a local convenience store. She had stopped by Cup Foods on Minneapolis’ southside with her 9-year-old cousin, whom she ended up sending away from the horrific scene.
“I heard George Floyd saying ‘I can’t breathe, please. Get off of me. I can’t breathe.’ He cried for his mom. He was in pain,” said Frazier, who was one of two witnesses to express guilt over not being able to help Floyd. “It seemed like he knew it was over for him. He was terrified. He was suffering. This was a cry for help.”
Frazier’s young cousin also took the stand. While her testimony was brief, the unnamed minor was clear about how Floyd’s death made her feel.
“I was sad and kind of mad,” she said. “Because it felt like he was stopping his breathing, and it was kind of like hurting him.”
Alyssa Nicole Funari, who was also present at the scene, took the stand next. The 18-year-old, who was 17 at the time, said she was looking to buy an aux cord when she noticed Floyd’s arrest taking place. When she realized the severity of his condition, she began to record the incident with her phone.
She cried as the courtroom played portions of Floyd’s death as recorded by bystanders.
“It was difficult because I felt like there wasn’t really anything I can do as a bystander,” she said after taking a moment to gather herself. “I was powerless there. I felt like I was failing him.”
All three girls were obscured from cameras in the courtroom as they testified because they were under the age of 18 at the time of the arrest last year.
Donald Williams, whose testimony began Monday afternoon, also recalled feeling helpless as Chauvin pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck. After Chauvin refused to listen to bystanders’ pleas to stop restraining an unresponsive Floyd, Williams called 911 on the officers. That emergency call, in which he called the officers “murderers,” was played in court Monday as one of the new pieces of evidence.
“I just felt like it was the right thing to do,” Williams said Tuesday morning wiping tears away from his face. “I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t know what to do.”
Williams said that as a Black man, he felt the need to speak out on behalf of a dying Floyd.
Lastly, Genenieve Hansen, an off duty firefighter and EMT who witnessed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd, also became emotional on the stand as she discussed the officers refusing to let her give medical attention to the dying Black man. She told the jury Tuesday that she would have given chest compressions and also suggested the officers do that as well. Neither happened.
She also called 911 and recorded video, as other bystanders did.
“There was a man being killed,” Hanson said. “And I would have been able to provide medical attention to the best of my abilities, and this human [Floyd] was denied that right.”
On Day One of the trial, a 911 dispatcher told the jury that she, too, made a call in hopes of intervening in Floyd’s death. Jena Scurry, who watched his arrest through a police security camera, said that she called Chauvin’s sergeant out of a gut instinct that something was wrong.
“Something is not going right. Whether it be they needed more assistance. Just something wasn’t right,” she said.
Opening statements in the criminal trial of Chauvin, a now-former 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department, began Monday after three weeks of jury selection. The trial is expected to last another two to four weeks.