"We've Got To Control This Guy": Previously Unreleased Body Cam Footage Introduced in Chauvin Trial
It’s 10:56 PM in the Twin Cities and today’s report on Day 3 of prosecution testimony in the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd hasn’t been posted yet.
It hasn’t been posted yet because there’s so much to say, so many tiny details that nag against the brain like blood on the jagged edge of a tin can. In a full day in court dedicated to viewings of almost every bit of video footage of George Floyd’s murder, it might just be these tiny things preventing image after image of Floyd begging for his life from drowning out every good feeling one might have.
And that’s just the guy who’s spent all day trying to write about it here.
It’s 11:09 PM in the Twin Cities and today’s video footage showed us Chauvin never once doubting that he was absolutely entitled to squeeze the life out of a man because that’s what he decided to do. When Officer Thomas Lane suggested they roll Floyd over when he stopped moving, Chauvin declined. When Officer J. Alexander Kueng told Chauvin that he couldn’t feel Floyd’s pulse, the closest the man on trial got to an emotion was confusion. “Huh?” he asked. When witness Charles McMillian, who today wept profusely on the stand as video of Floyd’s death played, told him that what he did was wrong, Chauvin said (and the world heard, for the first time) "That's one person's opinion." Then, as he got back into his patrol car: “We’ve got to control this guy, because he’s a sizable guy.”
At that moment, that "sizeable guy"--once a living, breathing human being--was dead in the street, loaded on a gurney for a hospital trip that was far too late.
It’s 11:19 PM in the Twin Cities and McMillian was so distraught by the end of the video that Judge Peter Cahill called a recess so he could leave the courtroom, going out to the hall where prosecutors huddled around him helping him calm down so he could continue. That wasn’t the only unexpected recess of the day, as shortly after eyewitness and Minneapolis firefighter Genevieve Hansen completed her testimony and former Cup Foods clerk Christopher Martin took the stand, one of the jurors, a white woman in her 40s who was designated Juror 44 during selection, had a panic attack and had to leave the room.
It’s 11:28 PM in the Twin Cities and it’s proving impossible to not imagine the mundane moments shortly before Floyd’s death, some of which we saw on video from inside Cup Foods: him standing with a banana in his hand, talking with friends, goofing a bit, waiting to buy cigarettes. Christopher Martin taking what turned out to be a counterfeit $20 bill from him and considering just ignoring it. As he testified today, “I thought George didn’t really know that it was a fake bill. I thought I’d be doing him a favor.” When Martin informed his manager, he was ordered to go outside to the parked car where Floyd was sitting and ask him to come back inside. When he didn’t, Martin testified, another employee called 911. "If I would have just not taken the bill, this could have been avoided," Martin testified.
It's 11:36 PM in the Twin Cities and Martin, full of sadness and regret, testified that he told his mother not to leave their apartment above Cup Foods and then went outside and videoed some of the police officers confronting Floyd. He later deleted it for fear of being involved, as did eyewitness Christopher Belfrey, who testified today that he was driving down the street and stopped his car to record video as the police pulled Floyd out of the car he was sitting in. He dropped his phone when one of the police saw him and left, he said, because he "didn't want any problems."
It’s 11:43 PM in the Twin Cities and this writer can’t shake the sound of the 80’s classic rock hit “Centerfold” by the J. Geils Band playing on the radio in the squad car as Chauvin and his fellow officers accelerated the engine, sirens wailing, on the way to George Floyd’s death.
It’s 11:48 PM in the Twin Cities and after McMillian left the stand, the prosecution called Lt. James Rugel, who heads the division of the MPD that manages body cam data (among other things). The rest of the court day, from 2:50 PM until Cahill dismissed the jury roughly two hours later, consisted of State attorney Matthew Frank playing all the body cam video footage not already introduced into evidence, while Lt. Rugel verified that it was, indeed, official body cam footage.
It’s 11:59 PM in the Twin Cities and this report is about to publish. Meanwhile, people are gathered in downtown Minneapolis, or at home with their families, or trying to find a warm place to beat the cold front, many of them trying to understand what they saw today. Video after video, from different angles, of George Floyd crying for his mama, of Hansen demanding they check his pulse, of Donald Williams II shouting “he’s not even moving, man!” Of children’s voices cracking with worry and concern as they pleaded with Chauvin to remove his knee from Floyd’s neck. Video after video, watched by the jury, by the press, by the lawyers and the judge, by the entire world viewing the trial as it livestreams.
Video after video watched by Rodney Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, from his seat in the courtroom all afternoon, holding his stomach and shaking his head. Meanwhile, a few feet away, Chauvin stared at the screen, watching himself on May 25th, 2020, never once turning away.