Witnesses of George Floyd”s death while in police custody recounted their sadness and anger at having been prevented from helping the man during his arrest last May.
Several bystanders testified in court through tears on Tuesday, stating that they were upset about the event and knew as they witnessed the arrest outside a convenience store in Minneapolis that Floyd was dying.
They spoke as prosecutors presented their case against police officer Derek Chauvin, charged with murder and manslaughter for his role in Floyd’s death.
Bystander video showed Chauvin pinning down Floyd’s by the neck with his knee for more than nine minutes as the man cried out that he could not breathe. The incident sparked mass protests about police violence and racial injustice across the United States last year.
Witness Darnella Frazier, the 18-year-old who filmed the video of the arrest, said she thought of her own family members when she remembered Floyd.
“It’s been nights I stayed up apologising and apologising to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” Frazier said.
“But it’s like, it’s not what I should have done. It’s what he (Chauvin) should have done.”
Genevieve Hansen, another one of the bystanders who shouted at Chauvin as he pinned Floyd down, cried on Tuesday as she said she was unable to come to the man’s aid.
Hansen is a Minneapolis firefighter with emergency medical training.
“There was a man being killed,” said Hansen, who testified in her dress uniform and detailed her emergency medical technician training.
“I would have been able to provide medical attention to the best of my abilities. And this human was denied that right.”
Chauvin described as ‘unmoved’ by bystanders
Multiple witnesses described Chauvin as unmoved by pleas to take his knee off of Floyd’s neck.
“He didn’t care. It seemed as if he didn’t care what we were saying,” said Frazier.
Chauvin continued to kneel on Floyd while fellow Officer Tou Thao held the crowd of about 15 bystanders back, even when Hansen identified herself as a firefighter and pleaded repeatedly to check Floyd’s pulse, according to witnesses and bystander video.
“They definitely put their hands on the Mace, and we all pulled back,” Frazier told the jury.
Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson attempted to portray the onlookers as angry and agitated and a potential threat to police.
“I felt like there wasn’t really anything I could do as a bystander,” another tearful witness, Alyssa Funari said, adding that she felt she was failing Floyd.
“Technically I could’ve did something, but I couldn’t really do anything physically … because the highest power was there at the time,” she said, referring to the police.