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Off-duty firefighter ‘was desperate’ for police to let her aid George Floyd, court hears

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.”


This image from a police body camera shows people gathering as Chauvin presses his knee on Floyd’s neck outside the Cup Foods convenience story in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. Floyd later died in hospital. (Minneapolis Police Department/The Associated Press)

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:

Judge Peter Cahill admonished witness Genevieve Hansen for her responses to defence counsel. 0:50

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

Darnella Frazier, the teenagers who shot the viral video of George Floyd, says she stays up at night apologizing for not doing more to help him. 1:07

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.”


Witness Donald Williams says he called 911 after watching Chauvin shove his knee into Floyd’s neck because he believed he had witnessed a murder. (Court TV/The Associated Press)

‘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.”


Defence attorney Eric Nelson, left, and Chauvin are seen in court on the second day of the murder trial into Floyd’s death. (Court TV/The Associated Press)

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CBC | World News

‘Was it perfect? No’: Top doctor discusses Canada’s early pandemic response

Canada’s top doctor told CBC News the federal government could have made earlier efforts to keep the COVID-19 pandemic from sweeping across the country — but moves to close borders and screen travellers for the illness sooner might not have made much of a difference.

In a wide-ranging interview, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam told CBC News that simply shutting the border to travellers from China and other COVID-19 hotspots earlier wouldn’t have stopped the virus from coming in from other countries — and that expecting officials to identify travellers at the border with virus symptoms was “unlikely.”

She also said the closure of the Canada/U.S. border did not happen sooner because it wasn’t part of the government’s pandemic preparedness plan.

“Could we have done more at the time? You can retrospectively say yes, absolutely, you could screen more, or you could change your stance. But at the time we had very, very few cases globally and in Canada,” Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam told the CBC’s Rosemary Barton.

Watch: Dr. Theresa Tam in conversation with the CBC’s Rosemary Barton

During her first sit-down interview since the COVID-19 crisis began, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam tells CBC’s chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton that some pandemic measures could have been better executed and could have happened sooner. 1:43

The World Health Organization (WHO) was reporting by mid-January that human-to-human transmission of COVID-19 was possible, but Canada continued to let in Chinese travellers — some from Hubei province, the source of China’s outbreak.

While Tam acknowledged that many Canadians believed that shutting the border “would solve the problem,” the virus “had already traveled somewhere else” by that time — something that became obvious when cases started showing up in Canada linked to countries that were not reporting significant numbers of COVID-19 cases, such as Iran and some European countries.

“At the same time, I think there were countries that did more,” Tam added, citing border closures and airport screening introduced by some European countries and Iran.

“And in the end it wasn’t that effective, if you actually think about the countries in the end that were impacted, because I think from a public health perspective we always knew that the border was just one layer of additional measure.”

Tam said that by early March, only ten cases in Canada could be traced back to travel from China.

Tam also said that screening measures at international airports and border crossings likely would have failed because many carriers don’t display symptoms.

Screening is “highly unlikely to be picking up people with symptoms as they are crossing the international border,” she said, insisting that the policy of informing travellers of COVID-19’s symptoms — and of agencies to contact in the event of illness  — was effective.

Closing the Canada/U.S. border

The WHO did not declare the novel coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic until March 11. Tam said that the idea of shutting Canada’s borders to international travel wasn’t in the playbook of most health experts in the early days of the outbreak.

“It’s something that I’ve never experienced before … or even people that went before me, with more experience than us, [they] had never envisaged the world shutting down,” she said.


On March 16, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada was closing its international borders to non-Canadians. Two days later, Canada and the U.S. announced they would be closing the shared border to all non-essential travel.

With the number of cases growing rapidly in the U.S., it might have seemed logical to close Canada’s southern border sooner. Tam said that notion was not part of the country’s pandemic preparedness plan.

“In our pandemic preparedness, we actually had something called the North American Pandemic Avian Influenza Plan,” she said. “Some of the assumptions in influenza pandemics, at least, was that if it was in one country, it was in the other country and that border measures may not be that effective because, in effect, the virus is on both sides of the border.” 

WATCH | Why Canada’s top doctor changed her stance on masks:

Part 2 of 3 of Rosemary Barton’s exclusive interview with Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam about Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 3:07

To date, the U.S. has reported more than one million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 56,000 dead. Tam said that partially closing the border with the U.S. did help to protect Canadians from increased exposure to the virus.

“Absolutely,” she said. “The volume of travel between the countries is huge for both essential, and sort of more discretionary, travel. So the two countries are very, very connected.

“We were very concerned about the United States … All the signs were there that certain areas of the United States were hotspots. And that was a bigger concern almost to our provinces and territories than Europe. Europe was a big concern, but also the United States, so we knew that more had to be done.”

Watch: Earlier this month, Tam and Freeland explained how closing the U.S. border helped to fight COVID-19:

Dr Theresa Tam Canada’s Chief Public Health officer and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland spoke with reporters on Thursday 2:12

Tam said that while some of Canada’s pandemic actions may not have been taken as soon as they could have been, federal and provincial governments have been increasing protective measures since the start. The federal government has been limiting the number of people it lets through the border, maintaining physical distancing and quarantine directives and distributing health advice.

“It’s just layers of protection really,” Tam said. “Some of them could have been stronger at the beginning, but all the other layers were being put in at the same time.

“Was it perfect? No. But I think as you’ve seen over time, and commensurate with a flexible, scalable response, those layers have kept being strengthened as well.”

Watch Rosemary Barton’s interview with Dr. Theresa Tam tonight and tomorrow night on The National — on CBC Television at 10 p.m. or CBC News Network starting at 9 p.m. ET.

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CBC | Health News

Zoë Kravitz Says She ‘Was In Tears’ Over Dad Lenny’s Speech at Her Wedding

Zoë Kravitz Says She ‘Was In Tears’ Over Dad Lenny’s Speech at Her Wedding | Entertainment Tonight

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