Last May, an employee at a Minneapolis corner store who accused George Floyd of giving him a counterfeit $20 bill testified in court that he felt guilty knowing that their encounter resulted in Floyd’s death at the hands of former cop Derek Chauvin.
“This could have been prevented if I had only not taken the bill,” Christopher Martin, a 19-year-old Cup Foods cashier, testified in court on Wednesday. Soon after, he quit his job because he didn’t feel comfortable there.
Martin’s testimony came on the third day of Chauvin’s trial, after prosecutors called a number of bystanders to testify about their encounters with Floyd and Minneapolis Police on the fatal day.
When Floyd entered the store on May 25, 2020, Martin testified that he reacted slowly and appeared to be heavy. Floyd can be seen fiddling with things in his pockets and casually engaging with other customers and staff on surveillance footage played in court.
Floyd then purchased a pack of cigarettes with a $20 bill that Martin mistook for a counterfeit due to its blue color and texture. Martin informed his manager after carefully inspecting the bill, who instructed Martin and other employees to go out to Floyd’s vehicle and bring him back into the store to fix the problem.
When Floyd declined, the boss instructed an employee to call the cops, which resulted in Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds.
Martin is one of the bystanders who have voiced survivor remorse for what they did and didn’t do in the aftermath of Floyd’s death. On Tuesday, a high school student who filmed and posted video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd said she had lost sleep over the incident, pondering what she should have done differently.
“It’s been nights I’ve stayed up apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” she said. “But it’s not what I should have done, it’s what he should have done.”
Chauvin, 45, is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. He has pleaded not guilty.
Floyd’s death triggered a summer of protests, instability, and a societal reckoning with America’s history and present of anti-Black racism and violent policing.
Within the courtroom, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, attendance is strictly limited. The entire trial is being televised live, giving the public a rare glimpse into the most critical case of the Black Lives Matter period.
Genevieve Hansen, an off-duty Minneapolis firefighter, was cross-examined briefly during Wednesday’s testimony. She testified the day before that she was out for a walk on her day off in May of last year and came across Floyd struggling to breathe and being unconscious under Chauvin’s knee. She tried to support Floyd by asking police to search for a pulse several times, but they declined, leaving her feeling powerless and desperate.
“I tried calm reasoning, I tried to be assertive, I pled and was desperate,” she testified. “I was desperate to give help.”
During Tuesday’s cross-examination, Hansen became combative with defense attorney Eric Nelson, taking issue with his questions and answering with snark. “I don’t know if you’ve ever seen anyone die in front of you,” she said at one point.
Judge Peter Cahill chastised Hansen after dismissing the jury for the day, ordering her to answer questions and stop arguing. Nelson only posed one question when she returned to the stand on Wednesday morning to clarify she had not shown her ID to the officers on the scene.
A 9-year-old girl, three high school students, and a mixed martial arts fighter were among the six bystanders who testified on Tuesday. All of them had come to the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis to buy snacks or simply get some fresh air, just to witness Floyd’s last breaths.
“I was sad and kind of mad,” the 9-year-old testified. “Because it felt like he was stopping his breathing, and it was kind of like hurting him.”