Derek Chauvin, who has pleaded not guilty to the murder of George Floyd, told a bystander, "We gotta put force, gotta control this guy because he's a sizable guy"

By Jeff Truesdell
April 01, 2021 12:40 PM
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Derek Chauvin; Charles McMillian
Derek Chauvin, at left, and Charles McMillian
| Credit: Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock (2)

At first, as he watched George Floyd struggle with Minneapolis police officers, bystander George McMillian urged Floyd to stop resisting.

"You can't win," McMillian, 61, could be heard saying on video played Wednesday in the trial of a former officer, Derek Chauvin, charged with Floyd's murder.

But McMillian's tone shifted as he watched almost the entirety of Floyd's detention, which ended as paramedics drove away with Floyd's lifeless body after he was handcuffed and held facedown on the pavement while Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes.

Video from Chauvin's body camera played in court captured McMillian approaching Chauvin to say the way he restrained Floyd wasn't right.

"That's one person's opinion," Chauvin answered him. "We gotta put force, gotta control this guy because he's a sizable guy. Looks like he's probably on something."

George Floyd, the man who was killed by police officers in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020.
George Floyd
| Credit: George Floyd

Both the Hennepin County medical examiner and a private pathologist hired by the Floyd family concluded that Floyd died by homicide. Chauvin, 44, has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Floyd, 46, a Black man, was detained by the white police officer and three others May 25 on suspicion of spending a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store. Viral bystander video that captured his final moments fueled outrage that led to protests worldwide over police brutality and racial injustice.

Derek Chauvin
Derek Chauvin
| Credit: Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock

On the third day of testimony in Chauvin's trial, more of those bystanders continued to speak about the guilt, remorse and trauma they've felt in the aftermath of the killing, creating a challenge for Chauvin's defense to reverse perceptions of the officer's alleged callousness in the encounter.

Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, argued in his opening statement that it was not pressure applied by Chauvin to Floyd's neck that resulted in Floyd's death, but rather Floyd's history of underlying health conditions and drug use.

Christopher Martin, 19, the store clerk who accepted the bill from Floyd for a purchase of cigarettes and then, as directed by his manager, alerted police when he thought the bill might be a fake, said he had become haunted by his role in the incident.

george floyd memorial in minneapolis
A memorial at the Minneapolis site where George Floyd was killed
| Credit: Getty

Surveillance video played for jurors showed Martin standing outside of the store, Cup Foods, watching as Chauvin kept Floyd pinned to the ground with his knee on Floyd's neck.

"If I would have just not taken the bill, this could have been avoided," Martin testified.

While observing the scene in the street, Martin said he told another Black man who also was watching the actions of Chauvin and other officers: "They're not going to help him."

McMillian broke down in tears, requiring a short recess, after watching video footage of Floyd's arrest that he told the court made him feel "helpless."

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He said he recognized Chauvin from previous interactions on the street, including one about five days earlier, which he described: "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 goes home to their family safe,'" he told the court.

But he told the court that when he encountered Chauvin after Floyd's death, he said to the officer, "Now I gotta look at you as a maggot."

In this image from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, and former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin listen as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides over pre-trial motions prior to opening statements, in the trial of Chauvin
Derek Chauvin, at right, with his attorney Eric Nelson, during his trial for killing George Floyd.
| Credit: AP/Shutterstock

Prosecutor Erin Eldridge, an assistant attorney in the office of the Minnesota Attorney General that is overseeing the case, asked McMillian why he spoke to Chauvin after observing what happened to Floyd.

"Because what I watched was wrong," McMillian said.

 "And did you feel it was important to tell him that?," Eldridge asked.

"Yes, ma'am," he said.

Three other officers on the scene with Chauvin — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — all were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, and will be tried apart from Chauvin this summer. All have pleaded not guilty.

Chauvin was fired a day after the killing. In the midst of jury selection that began March 8, the City of Minneapolis announced a $27 million settlement with Floyd's family in a civil lawsuit brought against the city, Chauvin and the other former officers.

Testimony is continuing.