The man who witnessed the entirety of George Floyd's fatal arrest by Minneapolis police sobbed in court Wednesday and struggled to speak after seeing video of himself urging Floyd to get off the ground and go along with the officers.
With 61-year-old Charles McMillian on the witness stand, prosecutor Erin Eldridge played surveillance and police body camera video of officers handcuffing Floyd and pushing him into the squad on May 25, 2020. When she paused the video, McMillian dropped his head, gasped and said, "Oh, my God."
He fought to continue, saying he felt "helpless" seeing it again.
McMillian's anguished recollection came amid a day of illuminating testimony and video footage revealed publicly for the first time in which Floyd was seen inside Cup Foods buying cigarettes and Chauvin was heard defending his actions after the ambulance carrying Floyd left the scene. Prosecutors played back-to-back video from the body cameras of all four officers at the scene with Floyd's moans of pain, calls for help and cries of "I can't breathe" reverberating through the afternoon courtroom session.
Chauvin is on trial for second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter. Former Minneapolis police officers Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane are scheduled for trial in August on charges of aiding and abetting Chauvin.
After a short break to steady himself, McMillian returned to the stand and recounted how he had confronted Chauvin immediately after Floyd's limp body was loaded into an ambulance. He said he told Chauvin he once got along fine with police, but now looked at him as a "maggot."
McMillian is seen and heard in many of the videos from the scene. Explaining how he came to be there, McMillian said he was driving by Cup Foods when he saw the beginnings of Floyd's police encounter and pulled over because he was "nosy."
He is heard repeatedly urging Floyd to comply. "I'm watching Mr. Floyd, I'm trying to get him to understand that when you make a mistake, once they get you in handcuffs there's no such thing as being claustrophobic, you have to go. … I've had interactions with officers myself and I realize once you get in the cuffs you can't win," McMillian explained on the stand.
Floyd heard him, too, and responded directly.
When Floyd was under Chauvin's knee, McMillian said, "Get up and get in the car."
Floyd responded, "I will. I can't move."
McMillian said he recognized Chauvin at the scene, having encountered him five days earlier and spoken to him.
So outside Cup Foods, after McMillian saw the officers load Floyd's motionless, silent body into the ambulance, McMillian approached Chauvin again in an exchange captured on police body camera, although McMillian is difficult to hear.
"I think I said to him, 'Five days ago I told you at the end of the day go home to your family safe, and that the next person go home to their family safe, but today I gotta look at you as a maggot,' " McMillian said under questioning by Eldridge.
Chauvin, who has not spoken publicly in his own defense, did so briefly to McMillian that day in the exchange captured on video, saying, "We've gotta control this guy because he's a sizable guy, looks like he's probably on something."
Eldridge asked McMillian, "Why did you feel the need to talk to Mr. Chauvin?" McMillian replied: "Because what I watched was wrong."
Defense attorney Eric Nelson didn't question McMillian.
Some of the testimony in the trial will be more technical, but the first three days have been filled with scene video and traumatized eyewitnesses. Floyd's pained "I can't breathe" and calls for his "mama" have echoed through the days.
Floyd's youngest brother occupied the lone family seat in the courtroom for the afternoon session and did not watch the video when the officers were trying to get Floyd into the squad car. Rodney Floyd stared down, his eyes wide during that video moment.
When video was shown of George Floyd yelling "Mama" repeatedly and "I can't breathe," again Rodney Floyd averted his eyes while looking down and shaking his head. He had much the same reaction when video of the arrest was played later from each of the officers' body-worn cameras.
At midmorning, Judge Peter Cahill called an unexpected break when a female juror stood, waved, gestured toward the door and quickly left. Upon return, she sat in the witness stand for on-the-record questioning by the judge.
The white woman in her 50s, a health care administrator, told Cahill she was feeling "shaky but better." She said she's had trouble sleeping. "I've been awake since 2 a.m.," she said.
But she said, "I think I'll be OK going forward. … I feel like there's a tension that's gone a little bit."
Her need for a break came as jurors heard from 19-year-old Christopher Martin, who worked at Cup Foods and informed his manager of the suspected counterfeit bill Floyd used to buy cigarettes. Martin described Floyd as friendly, but that he appeared to be high on drugs.
During his testimony, prosecutors played video footage publicly for the first time from inside the store. Floyd was seen in his black tank top and navy blue pants, ambling around, picking up a banana, dropping it, and appearing to dance and wander. Also seen were Morries Hall and Shawanda Hill, who were with him in the SUV when he was first detained by police.
Martin said he considered not informing his manager of the fake bill, but store policy is that he would have to cover the loss. Under his manager's directive, Martin went outside twice to try to get Floyd to return but Floyd wouldn't. A co-worker called 911.
Minutes later, Martin went outside when he became aware of commotion on the street and saw Floyd pinned under Chauvin's knee. On video footage, Martin could be seen among the anxious bystanders calling on the police to save Floyd's life. Later, he was pacing with his head in his hands.
On the stand, Martin described feeling "disbelief and guilt."
Prosecutor Matthew Frank asked why.
"If I would have just not taken the bill, this could have been avoided," Martin replied.
He had worked at Cup Foods for four months, but quit soon after Floyd's death. "I didn't feel safe," he said.
Nelson's time questioning Martin dealt a fair amount with Floyd appearing to be under the influence of drugs. Martin confirmed that he told investigators earlier that Floyd's speech was delayed as he "was trying to form the words."
Also testifying Wednesday was Christopher Belfrey, 45, who was parked to pick up food with his fiancée when he saw Lane approach Floyd in the SUV with his gun drawn.
Belfrey began to record with his phone, but then moved his car across the street because "I didn't want to be trapped between the whole commotion going on."
He resumed recording as the officers sat Floyd on the pavement, but he soon stopped and left, saying he thought it was over when Floyd got in the squad car.