A cashier who was one of the last people to speak with George Floyd before his deadly arrest on May 25 last year has testified at Derek Chauvin’s murder trial in the US city of Minneapolis that Floyd appeared to be high on drugs but was able to make friendly conversation.
Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, is being tried for murder and manslaughter in the death of Floyd on May 25, 2020. Floyd died after Chauvin pressed his knee on his neck for about nine minutes. The prosecution alleges Floyd died because of Chauvin’s actions, the defence is expected to argue that drugs and pre-existing medical conditions caused his death.
The trial is in its third day, and is being broadcast live allowing the world to watch the same evidence the 12 jurors and two alternates are seeing.
Silent security-camera video played for the jury shows Floyd dressed in a black tank top approaching Cup Food’s counter with a banana in hand, smiling and making cheerful conversation and putting his arm around a woman. Floyd appears to be filled with energy and constantly in motion, at one point almost dancing on the spot, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.
Christopher Martin,19, a cashier at the Cup Foods grocery store, accepted the $20 bill that triggered the events that followed that day.
He told the jury that he made a conversation with Floyd, asking him if he played baseball. Floyd seemed to take time to find his words but replied that he played football, Martin said.
“He seemed very friendly, approachable, he was talkative, he seemed to be having just an average Memorial Day, just living his life,” Martin recalled. “But he did seem high.”
Although the county medical examiner ruled Floyd’s death a homicide resulting from the police restraint, fentanyl and methamphetamine was found in Floyd’s blood at autopsy and Chauvin’s lawyers argue the death was really a drug overdose.
Martin sold Floyd a pack of cigarettes. He told the jury he thought the bill was counterfeit and considered just letting the store deduct it from his wages, but then decided to tell his manager, who told Martin to go and confront Floyd, who had got back into a car outside with two other passengers.
Floyd was “just kind of shaking his head and putting his hands in the air, like, ‘Why is this happening to me?’” Martin said.
Martin’s manager told a coworker to call the police after Floyd and the other passengers refused to come back inside the store.
Martin later said he was upset to see Chauvin on top of Floyd, and went up to another Black man on the sidewalk.
Martin said he felt guilty.
“I thought if I would not have taken the bill this would have been avoided,” he said.
Genevieve Hansen, an off-duty firefighter and paramedic also testified. She was near the scene of the arrest, and can be heard on the video screaming at the police to check Floyd’s pulse.
“I pled and was desperate,” she testified on Tuesday, dressed in her Minneapolis Fire Department uniform of a white shirt with a badge and black tie. A water bottle shook in her hand as she sipped it to calm her tears.
“It’s what I would have done for anybody,” she said.
She said another officer at the scene told her: “If you really are a Minneapolis firefighter, you would know better than to get involved.”
After her increasingly combative exchanges with Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s lead lawyer, Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill sent out the jury and chastised Hansen, warning her not to argue with the court or with lawyers and to return the following day.
On Wednesday, she was on the stand for only a few minutes. Nelson asked her if she showed the police her firefighter identification. She said “no”. Matthew Frank, a prosecutor, then asked her if she even had her identification with her. She said she did not, because she was off-duty.