Store clerk from Cup Foods testifies, body cameras shown to jury in Derek Chauvin trial Wednesday
More witnesses took the stand on Wednesday during the Derek Chauvin trial, including a teenage Cup Foods store clerk, Minneapolis Police Department lieutenant, an older bystander and a man who stopped at the store so his fiance could grab some items.
Body camera footage was shown from every former officer — Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao — at the scene of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in south Minneapolis on May 25.
One body camera was seen on the ground during the struggle as officers attempted to get George Floyd into the squad car. A witness who took the stand on Wednesday, identified as Lt. James Rugel with the Minneapolis Police Department, confirmed the camera was Chauvin’s. Rugel has been with the department for over 30 years and manages the technical equipment the department uses. State prosecutor Steve Schleicher called him “more of a foundational” witness.
Rugel said there are about 250 public safety cameras in high-traffic areas within the city. The cameras are on 24/7 and one of them is positioned on top of the Speedway across from Cup Foods.
Chauvin stated, “It takes a lot of oxygen to keep talking,” in response to Floyd pleading that he couldn’t breathe on body camera footage. After the ambulance was seen taking Floyd away from the area, Chauvin defended himself to bystanders by saying Floyd was “a sizable guy” and “probably on something,” according to police video played in court Wednesday.
When Floyd was finally taken away by paramedics, Charles McMillian, a 61-year-old bystander who recognized Chauvin from the neighborhood, told the officer he didn’t 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.”
McMillian showed heavy emotion while taking the witness stand after he was shown video of what played out last May. The court took a brief break so that McMillian could regain his composure to finish his questioning.
As Floyd was pinned down by Chauvin and other officers, McMillian, the bystander, could be heard on video saying to Floyd, “You can’t win” and “Get up and get in the car.”
“I can’t,” Floyd replied.
“I can’t, I feel helpless. I don’t have a mother either. I understand him,” McMillian said Wednesday before the court took a brief break.
When Lane confronted Floyd in his SUV, drew his gun and demanded with a few expletives that he show his hands, a panicky-sounding Floyd said, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” and “I got shot before.” Seemingly crying, he begged repeatedly, “Please don’t shoot me, man.”
When told to get into the squad car, Floyd repeatedly yelled, “I’m not that kind of guy!” and “I’m claustrophobic!” As officers shoved his upper body and then his legs into the car, he writhed and screamed, “Please! Please! … I can’t breathe!”
Officers were clearly exasperated as Floyd braced himself against the squad car and arched his body while the police tried to get him inside. At one point, he threw his upper body out of the car, and officers tried to push him back in. Officers eventually pulled him out and brought him to the ground. Floyd thanked officers as they took him out of the squad car.
Once Floyd was on the ground — with Chauvin’s knee on his neck, Kueng’s knee on his back and Lane holding his legs — the officers talked calmly about whether he might be on drugs.
Lane was heard saying officers found a “weed pipe” on Floyd and wondered if he might be on PCP, saying Floyd’s eyes were shaking back and forth fast.
“He wouldn’t get out of the car. He just wasn’t following instructions,” Lane was recorded saying. The officer also asked twice if the officers should roll Floyd on his side during the incident. Floyd eventually fell silent with Chauvin, Kueng and Lane remaining on top of him. Lane is heard saying “he’s passed out” in a calm demeanor.
Earlier that day, Floyd allegedly handed a Cup Foods cashier a counterfeit bill for a pack of cigarettes. That cashier, identified as 19-year-old Christopher Martin, testified on Wednesday. He stated 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 bill was fake. However, he said in court that Cup Foods does not train anyone how to determine if currency is fake. But he said he accepted it, despite saying the amount would be taken out of his paycheck by his employer because he didn’t think Floyd knew it was counterfeit and “I thought I’d be doing him a favor.” He added that the man seen as a passenger in body camera footage was inside the store with Floyd, and according to Martin, was acting “more suspicious” than Floyd.
However, Martin then second-guessed his decision and told a manager, who sent Martin 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 coworker call police, Martin testified.
The teenager said when Floyd was inside the store buying cigarettes, he spoke so slowly “it would appear that he was high.” But he described Floyd as friendly and talkative.
After police arrived, Martin went outside as people were gathering on the curb and yelling at officers. He said he saw Officer Tou Thao push one of his coworkers. Martin said he also held back another man who was trying to defend himself after being pushed by Thao.
“This is why you don’t do drugs, kids,” Thao tells the bystanders in his own body camera footage.
Another witness, 45-year-old Christopher Belfrey, testified, as he was seen pulling up with his vehicle behind Floyd’s when police arrived on the scene. Belfrey told the court he was waiting inside his vehicle as his fiance ran into Cup Foods to get something. He said he ended up moving his vehicle across the street because he saw one officer pull out his gun and approach Floyd’s vehicle.
Belfrey recorded two videos of the incident from different viewpoints, leaving when his fiancée got back into the car. He said as he was driving away that Floyd “looked detained.”
Chauvin faces second and third-degree murder charges, along with a second-degree manslaughter charge. He faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted. The court will resume Thursday morning, with motions expected to be addressed starting at 9 a.m. and the jury being brought in at 9:30 a.m.
Wednesday morning’s testimony was briefly interrupted when a juror stood and raised her hand and gestured toward the door. She later told the judge that she had been feeling stress and having trouble sleeping, but told the judge she was OK to proceed.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.