A Minneapolis firefighter who saw George Floyd being pinned to the ground by police officers while she was off duty testified at the Derek Chauvin murder trial Tuesday that she felt “totally distressed” that she was prevented from providing the 46-year-old Black man medical aid.
Genevieve Hansen was one of a series of bystanders who testified in Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis on the second day of the trial about what they witnessed on May 25, 2020, as police pinned Floyd to the ground after they detained him on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill at a convenience store.
That included the emotional testimony of Darnella Frazier, who was 17 when she took the viral video of Floyd’s arrest that sparked protests over police brutality and racial injustice around the world.
Chauvin, 45, who is white, faces two murder charges — second-degree unintentional murder and third-degree murder — in the death of Floyd. Chauvin, who was fired from the police force after Floyd’s death, is also charged with the lesser offence of second-degree manslaughter.
The prosecution claims Chauvin crushed his knee into Floyd’s neck, an application of unreasonable force that it says led to his death later in hospital. But Chauvin’s defence argues the 19-year veteran police officer did exactly as he had been trained to do and that Floyd’s death was the result of a combination of underlying medical conditions and drugs in his system.
Hansen, who testified in her dress uniform and said she had emergency medical technician training, had been out for a walk when she came across the officers and Floyd.
She said she observed that Floyd needed medical attention and was in an “altered level of consciousness.”
Would have checked for pulse
She told the court had she been allowed to assist, she would have requested additional help and had someone fetch a defibrillator from the nearby gas station.
She said she would have checked Floyd’s airway for any obstructions, checked for a pulse, and, if no pulse was found, would have started compressions.
But she said, the officers didn’t allow her to assist.
She was asked by prosecutor Matthew Frank how that made her feel.
“Totally distressed,” she said.
“Were you frustrated?” Frank asked.
“Yes,” she said, as she broke into tears.
Frank later asked her to explain why she felt helpless.
“Because there was a man being killed, and had I had access to a call similar to that, I would have been able to provide medical attention to the best of my abilities, and this human was denied that right,” she told the court.
She said she pleaded with police and “was desperate” for them to let her help.
WATCH | Judge Peter Cahill rebukes witness over testimony:
When ambulance arrived and took Floyd, she called 911. The recording of that call was played in court Tuesday. In it, Hansen tells the dispatcher that she had just watched police officers not take a pulse or do anything to save a man.
But during cross-examination, she grew testy with Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson. When asked about the bystanders expressing their anger at police, she told Nelson: “I don’t know if you’ve seen anybody be killed, but it’s upsetting.”
“I’m going to just ask you to answer my questions as I ask them to you,” Nelson said.
Judge rebukes witness
Her responses to Nelson earned her a stern rebuke from Judge Peter Cahill, who, after the jury had been cleared for the day, warned her that she should not argue with the court or counsel and that they have the right to ask questions.
“I was finishing my answer,” Hansen said.
“I will determine when your answer is done,” Cahill said.
Earlier in the day, court also heard from Frazier, the teenager who shot the viral video, who testified that she had stayed up at night apologizing for not doing more to help him.
Frazier, acknowledging that that video has changed her life, was tearful at times and testified that any of her Black friends or family members could have been in Floyd’s position that day.
She said she has stayed up at night “apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more, and not physically interacting, not saving his life.”
Then she added: “But it’s not what I should have done. It’s what he should have done,” in what appeared to be a reference to Chauvin.
Frazier told the court she had been walking to a corner store with her younger cousin on May 25, 2020, when she encountered police pinning Floyd to the ground.
“It wasn’t right. He was suffering. He was in pain,” she said.
WATCH | Teen who shot video of Floyd says she wishes she could have saved him
She said she sent her cousin into the store because she didn’t want her to see “a man terrified, scared, begging for his life.”
Frazier said she took out her phone and began recording. She later posted the video on social media, where it went viral around the globe.
As Frazier recorded, she said she heard Floyd say that he “can’t breathe,” for the officer to “please get off of me,” and that he cried for his mom.
“He was in pain. It seemed like he knew it was over for him. He was terrified. He was suffering. This was a cry for help,” she said.
As the crowd of bystanders became more hostile toward police, Frazier said that Chauvin applied more pressure with his knee to Floyd.
She said Chauvin’s response to the crowd was a “cold look, heartless.
“He didn’t care. It seemed as if he didn’t care what we were saying.”
‘I believe I witnessed a murder’
Court also heard from Donald Williams, another bystander and witness who continued his testimony from the first day of the trial.
Court heard a 911 recording of Williams, who testified he made the call because at the time, “I believe I witnessed a murder.”
“I felt the need to call the police on the police,” he said.
Williams can be heard on the call with a dispatcher, saying that Chauvin “just pretty much killed this guy who wasn’t resisting arrest.”