Charles McMillian, a witness in the police killing of Houston natve George Floyd broke down in tears during his Wednesday testimony in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
As he watched the graphic body camera footage of the Floyd death, McMillian, 61, was overcome with emotion. The footage showed McMillian standing by Minneapolis police officers as they detained Floyd. The late Floyd was seen and heard calling out for his mother during his arrest and repeatedly shouting “I can’t breathe,” moments during McMillian’s testimony that moved him to tears.
Floyd, who was still four years away from turning 50, was declared dead after Chauvin pressed his knee against his neck for 9 minutes, 29 seconds as Floyd lay face-down on the pavement, handcuffed and crying “I can’t breathe.” Donald Williams III, an MMA fighter who testified on Tuesday, described Chauvin’s actions as “shimmying” for the “kill choke.”
For McMillian’s part, he testified that he felt “Helpless” while seeing Floyd’s enocunter with Chauvin and the other Minneapolis officers on the scene.
“I don’t have a momma either, I understand him,” he said.
McMillian testified that he urged Floyd to comply with the officers, and he can be heard on video telling Chauvin to “get your knee off his neck.”
“I’m watching Mr. Floyd, I’m trying to get him to understand that when you make a mistake, once they get you in handcuffs there’s no such thing as being claustrophobic, you have to go,” McMillian said. “I’ve had interactions with officers myself and I realize once you get in the cuffs you can’t win.”
Judge Peter Cahill called for a brief break after McMillian’s raction to the video. Once the proceedings resumed, another video was shown, video footage from Chauvin’s body-camera that showed McMillian speaking with the former officer after Floyd’s limp body was taken away in an ambulance.
McMillian testified that he and Chauvin had a conversation five days earlier about getting home safe to his family.
“I pulled up to the squad car somewhere in south Minneapolis, and I see Mr. Chauvin, and I told him like I tell other officers that the end of the day you go home to your family safe and that the next person goes home to their family safe,” he said.
But that peaceful end to a long day was never experience for Floyd as he did not survive his encouter with Minneapolis police.
McMillian reminded Chauvin of their conversation, noting that a man like Floyd should also be allowed to get home safely to his family. Chauvin clapped back and defended his actions, saying, “We’ve gotta control this guy because he’s a sizable guy, looks like he’s probably on something.”
When prosecutor Erin Eldridge asked McMillian, “Why did you feel the need to talk to Mr. Chauvin?” McMillian replied: “Because what I watched was wrong.”
“And did you feel it was important to tell him?” Eldridge said.
“Yes ma’am.” McMillian answered.
Several witnesses to Floyd’s death have testified this week, many speaking in tom=nes of regret about what they failed to do in the moments leading up to Floyd’s death.
Christopher Martin, the 19-year-old convenience store cashier who was handed a counterfeit $20 bill by Floyd — an act which set in motion Floyd’s fatal encounter with police — testified Wednesday that he watched Floyd’s arrest outside with “disbelief — and guilt.”
“If I would’ve just not tooken the bill, this could’ve been avoided,” Martin lamented while testifying earlier this week.
Chauvin, 45, is charged with unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. He has pleaded not guilty.
“For all those people that continue to say that this is such a difficult trial, that this is a hard trial, we refute that,” Floyd family attorney Ben Crump said. “We know that if George Floyd was a white American citizen, and he suffered this painful, tortuous death with a police officer’s knee on his neck, nobody, nobody, would be saying this is a hard case.”