Security videos made public for the first time Wednesday in the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing George Floyd showed what happened before Floyd’s deadly encounter with police.
Video from inside Cup Foods, the convenience store where a cashier said Floyd used a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes May 25, showed him in the moments before he was pinned under the knee of the former officer, Derek Chauvin, who is charged with second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter.
The audio was withheld from the store video, which showed Floyd chatting and laughing with shoppers and employees as he moved around the store. At one point, he purchased a banana.
Christopher Martin, 19, who was a cashier at the store and lived above it, testified Wednesday that he flagged the $20 bill and that he suspected that Floyd was “high” but that he was friendly and talkative. An autopsy determined that Floyd was intoxicated with fentanyl and had recently used methamphetamines.
Martin said he accepted the bill, despite a store policy that said the amount would be taken out of his paycheck, because he didn’t believe Floyd knew it was counterfeit. He also said he hadn’t been trained by Cup Foods to identify a counterfeit bill. The color of the bill made him suspicious that it was fake, he testified.
“I thought I’d be doing him a favor,” Martin said.
But Martin said that after he decided to alert his manager to the possibly fake currency, he twice went outside to the SUV Floyd was in at the manager’s direction to summon him inside to speak with the manager or pay for the purchase.
He said that after Floyd and another passenger in the SUV refused to come back into the store, he offered to pay for the purchase himself but that the manager had a clerk call 911.
Martin said that after he saw Floyd outside being pinned under Chauvin’s knee, he regretted having flagged the bill. Martin could be seen in video from outside the store with his hands over his head. He said he watched Floyd’s arrest with “disbelief and guilt.”
“If I would’ve just not taken the bill, this could’ve been avoided,” Martin said, joining a growing list of onlookers who testified that they felt a sense of helplessness and had experienced lingering guilt over Floyd’s death.
Martin said he recorded video of Floyd’s detainment but deleted it later that night because he believed Floyd had died and he didn’t want to be questioned about it.
He said he deleted the video because the ambulance that picked Floyd up “went straight on 38th instead of going straight on Chicago. And if you live in South Minneapolis, the easiest way to get to the hospital would have been straight on Chicago.” Martin said that made it “clear that he was no longer with us.”
Martin’s testimony and the video from inside the store are the first accounts during the trial of Floyd’s actions before police became involved. Along with previously released video from the body-worn cameras of Chauvin and the three other responding officers, the Cup Foods video gave jurors a more complete picture of Floyd’s last hour.
The first two days of witness testimony featured several bystander videos taken outside the store after police had arrived.
Martin’s testimony was followed Wednesday by that of two other bystanders and a police lieutenant, whose testimony served as a way to admit the body-worn camera video into evidence.
Charles McMillian, 61, who was driving near Cup Foods when he came upon Floyd’s arrest, sobbed on the witness stand after video was played of Floyd handcuffed on the pavement saying he couldn’t breathe and calling out for his mother. McMillian had yelled, “You can’t win!” at Floyd, according to bystander video.
Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Erin Eldridge played officer-worn body camera video and exterior store video that showed McMillian watching two officers having difficulty getting Floyd into their squad car. McMillian said he tried to persuade Floyd to get into the back of the squad car. Watching the video, McMillian shook his head.
Once the video stopped, McMillian was visibly upset and broke down in sobs, saying, “Oh my God.” He grabbed a handful of tissues and wiped his eyes and his face. McMillian said he felt “helpless” as he watched Floyd and the officers.
“I don’t have a mama, either,” McMillian said. “I understand him.” He said his mother died June 25. The judge called for a 10-minute break to allow McMillian to regain his composure.
Video recorded after Floyd was taken away in an ambulance showed McMillian approaching Chauvin, whom he said he had recognized from the neighborhood. McMillian testified that he had seen Chauvin as recently as five days earlier and that “I pulled up on the squad car somewhere in south Minneapolis, and I see Mr. Chauvin, and I told him like I tell all officers, at the end of the day, you go home to your family safe and that the next person go home to their family safe.”
In video from Chauvin’s body-worn camera shown Wednesday, McMillian confronts Chauvin as he gets into his squad car after Floyd was taken away in an ambulance. McMillian said he reminded Chauvin of what he had told him five days earlier.
Chauvin defends his actions, saying, “We’ve got to control this guy, because he’s a sizable guy. Looks like he’s probably on something.”
McMillian said he confronted Chauvin because “what I watched was wrong” and because he felt it was important to tell Chauvin that.