The convenience store cashier who sold cigarettes to George Floyd and was handed a counterfeit $20 bill in return took the stand Wednesday at Officer Derek Chauvin’s murder trial as prosecutors laid out the sequence of events that led to Floyd’s ill-fated arrest outside.
Christopher Martin, 19, said that as he stood on the curb a short time later, his hands on his head as watched Floyd’s arrest, he felt “disbelief — and guilt.”
“If I would’ve just not tooken the bill, this could’ve been avoided,” Martin testified, joining the burgeoning list of onlookers who said they felt a sense of helplessness and lingering guilt over the Black man’s death last May.
Prosecutors also played store security footage showing Floyd in Cup Foods for about 10 minutes, adding to the mountain of video documenting what happened.
Martin said he immediately believed the $20 that Floyd gave him was fake, but accepted it even though store policy was that the amount would be taken out of his paycheck.
Martin said he initially planned to just put the bill on his “tab” but then second-guessed himself and told a manager, who sent Martin outside to ask Floyd to return to the store.
Floyd was later arrested outside, where Chauvin pinned his knee on his neck for what prosecutors said was 9 minutes, 29 seconds, as a handcuffed Floyd lay face-down on the pavement. Floyd, 46, was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Martin said that inside the store, he asked Floyd if he played baseball, and Floyd said he played football, but it took Floyd some time to respond, so “it would appear that he was high.”
The defense has argued that the now-fired white officer did what his training told him to do and that Floyd’s death was not caused by Chauvin’s knee on his neck, as prosecutors contend, but by a combination of illegal drug use, heart disease, high blood pressure and the adrenaline flowing through his body.
Martin went outside as people were gathering on the curb and yelling at officers. He took out his phone and began recording, but later deleted it, explaining that the ambulance didn’t take the fastest route to the hospital so he thought Floyd died.
“I just didn’t want to have to show it (the video) to anyone,” he said.
Earlier, a Minneapolis firefighter who wept Tuesday as she recalled being prevented from using her EMT training to help Floyd returned to the stand briefly Wednesday.
Genevieve Hansen, one of several bystanders seen and heard shouting at Chauvin as he pinned Floyd down, described her desperation Tuesday as she recounted how she was unable to come to Floyd’s aid or tell police what to do, such as administering chest compressions.
“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, 45, is charged with murder and manslaughter. The most serious charge against him carries up to 40 years in prison.
Floyd’s death, along with the harrowing bystander video of him pleading that he couldn’t breathe as onlookers yelled at Chauvin to get off, triggered sometimes violent protests around the world and a reckoning over racism and police brutality across the US.
Several onlookers testified Tuesday about their increasing frustration, anger and despair as they begged Chauvin to take his knee off Floyd’s neck. Witnesses and video depicted police keeping back some of those on the sidewalk who tried to intervene.
Chauvin appeared unmoved by their pleas, according to the bystanders, including the teenager who shot the video that set off nationwide protests.
“He didn’t care. It seemed as if he didn’t care what we were saying,” said 18-year-old Darnella Frazier, one of several witnesses who testified through tears. She said he gave the bystanders a “cold” and “heartless” look.
Chauvin continued to kneel on Floyd while fellow Officer Tou Thao held back about 15 onlookers, 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.
The testimony from the prosecution witnesses was apparently aimed at showing that Chauvin had multiple opportunities to think about what he was doing and change course.
But Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson also sought to bring out evidence that the onlookers were agitated, in an apparent attempt to show that the police were distracted by what they perceived as a growing and increasingly hostile crowd.
Witnesses testified that no bystanders interfered with police.