SAN JOSE, Calif. – As Seal Beach tourist Charles McMillian strolled down Main Street this month — wearing his distinctive white-framed glasses — a couple stopped to greet him.

"Oh, they just wanted to thank me for my testimony," McMillian explained with a shrug as he took a seat outside Old Town Cafe.

A few months ago, the 61-year-old man was just another face in the crowd and, like many, struggling to get by.

Then, on March 31, millions around the globe saw his riveting eyewitness account of George Floyd's horrific death. As McMillian puts it now, "When I cried, the whole world cried."

That night, in his Seal Beach apartment, Richard Glassman was one of those people. Watching the evening news, McMillian's tears moved him to tears, as well.

"I could tell he'd had a hard life, but he still had the power to love and to do the right thing," said Glassman, also 61. "I told my wife, 'I want to give him a vacation.'"

Janis Glassman, who is battling breast cancer, instantly agreed: "I said, 'Sure, if we can swing it, let's do it.'"

After a little detective work, Richard Glassman tracked down the Facebook page for McMillian's son, Charlie. Then, on April 20 — the day the jury found Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts — Glassman sent an invitation to Charlie McMillian via Messenger.

"Your dad is a great human being. my hero," Glassman wrote. "I live in Seal Beach, CA. We would love to fly your dad out here for a vacation."

Charlie, 31, didn't quite know what to make of it. "To be honest," he said, "I blew it off."

Then a few days later, he mentioned the note to his father, who reacted with greater enthusiasm. "I said, 'Text him right now that I'll come,' " Charles McMillian remembered.

"He procrastinates," McMillian added. "So I stood there and looked over his shoulder until he did it."

Once they all communicated, Glassman extended the offer to the younger McMillian.

On Wednesday, May 5, the two landed at Long Beach Airport. It was Charlie McMillian's first flight. And neither McMillian had ever before seen the ocean, so that was their first priority.

"It was really exciting — the big waves and stuff," Charles McMillian said.

For the next week, the father and son traveled in style on the Glassmans' dime — cruising the coastline in a rented Mustang convertible, relaxing at an oceanfront Sunset Beach hotel, shopping for souvenirs and sampling local fare.

"It cost us a fortune but it's worth it," Glassman said.

The unlikely friendship between Richard Glassman and Charles McMillian begins with very different backstories.

Glassman grew up in suburban Yonkers, N.Y. "Nobody in my high school was Black," he said. "I've spent a lot of my life prejudiced without realizing it. I was one of those 'I don't believe in white privilege' people."

After graduating from the University of South Florida with a degree in criminal justice, Glassman moved to Southern California in 1984 with plans of joining a police department. Instead, he managed a Los Angeles BMW dealership for years.

In 2007, Glassman decided to pursue his original dream and became a sworn officer — landing at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility. He found it fulfilling to work with young people whose futures had been waylaid by poverty and gang involvement.

"You can't 'rehabilitate' someone who has never been 'habilitated' in the first place," Glassman said. "You are starting from scratch."

But in 2014, Glassman was seriously injured by a group of boys who tried to pry a key from his hand. He was awarded a Medal of Valor, but a damaged hip and knee kept him from returning to the job that had forever changed his perspective on the justice system. "It's absolutely rigged against Black people and other minorities," said Glassman, who describes himself as a "liberal conservative."

While Glassman was navigating his middle-class childhood in the 1960s, McMillian was picking cotton alongside his mother on a sharecropper's farm in Mississippi. He made $13 a day — enough to lure him away from school after only third grade.

"We were like slaves," he said. "We had no running water. The nearest store for miles was on the plantation, so all of our money went right back to the plantation owner."

McMillian moved to Minnesota at age 15 to live with his brother. For the next few decades, he survived paycheck to paycheck, scraping by on low-wage jobs. He also struggled with alcohol and drug addiction but has been sober for 21 years.

Over the decades, partnerships produced eight children, ages 43 to 12. "I'm close to all my kids," McMillian said. "They're my whole life."

McMillian rents a room in a boarding house five blocks from the convenience store where Floyd allegedly passed a counterfeit $20 bill, prompting the ill-fated police call.

"Drugs, prostitution — everything goes on in my hood," McMillian said. "I'd like to get out of it but I don't make enough money."

Fortunately, his son has managed to bypass some of those tribulations.

Mostly raised by his mother, Charlie McMillian — a high school football and hockey star — enjoys the benefits of a better education than his dad's. He and his longtime girlfriend — parents of three children — recently bought a house outside Minneapolis.

"Now that I've seen California, I wish we could move here," he joked, "but we're in escrow."

Father and son work together for a car wash chain; Charles as a clerk and Charlie as a supervisor.

"He's like my attorney," the elder McMillian said. "He knows me inside and out and corrects me when I'm wrong."

Indeed, Charlie McMillian swiftly stepped in when his dad started to discuss the other three officers involved in Floyd's death. "He's probably going to be called as a witness again," Charlie pointed out.

J. Alexander Kueng, Tou Thao and Thomas Lane are awaiting their trials. Separately, a federal grand jury indicted all four former police officers May 7 on charges of violating Floyd's civil rights.

On May 25, 2020, Charles McMillian's arduous path led him to a street corner a few blocks from his home near downtown Minneapolis. Driving by the intersection, he noticed police activity and pulled over to check it out.

"Any other time I might have just kept driving," McMillian said. "We see this kind of thing all day, every day, in my hood. I don't know what made me stop this time. I just had this hunch something bad was going to happen."

McMillian joined a group of onlookers watching officers struggle to push a handcuffed suspect into a police car. Chauvin arrived and pressed a knee on the prone man's neck - for the next nine minutes and 29 seconds, even after Floyd had stopped moaning.

In now-famous videos, witnesses implore officers to let Floyd breathe. Yet McMillian — wearing beige shorts, a black T-shirt and white rubber slippers — appears to be the only one directly interacting with Floyd. "I kept my eyes focused only on George," McMillian said.

McMillian can be heard pleading with Floyd, "Get up and get in the car, man!"

"I will. I can't move," Floyd responds.

McMillian also was the only bystander to confront Chauvin after Floyd left in an ambulance. Just a few days before, the two had passed one another on a sidewalk and exchanged pleasantries of sorts — with McMillian offering Chauvin a prophetic blessing: "You go home to your family safe and let the next person go home to their family safe."

After reminding Chauvin of that previous encounter in a conversation caught on the officer's body camera, McMillian told him, "I don't respect what you did."

Despite his anger and bereavement, however, McMillian did not participate in demonstrations that followed Floyd's death. Nor did his son, although he knows what it's like to be pulled over repeatedly based on questionable pretext — in his case, for a dirty back window, for a dangling air freshener, for a GPS device on the dashboard.

Suffering flashbacks and nightmares, Charles McMillian said he still feels traumatized. "I will never get over it," he said.

Reliving those heartbreaking memories on the witness stand — especially when Floyd called out for his mother — McMillian openly wept. Still, he never allowed himself stage jitters.

"I made up my mind not to get nervous or else I would make a mistake," he said. "I feel good about how I did. My testimony helped send him [Chauvin] to prison."

It also helped make McMillian a bit famous — his face rendered all the more recognizable by those white-framed glasses.

His regular glasses were broken that day. "I needed $55 to get new ones, but I didn't have it. So I wore my spares," McMillian said. "I don't even like them — but now they're my trademark. I'm going to auction them off someday."

The McMillians flew back home Wednesday, May 12. Their hosts already miss them.

"They're just down-to-earth, funny, good people," Janis Glassman said. "I wish we were able to do more for them."

Charlie McMillian set up a gofundme site to help his father pay for therapy and a trip to his mother's grave in Mississippi.