Tuesday, April 20

George Floyd’s last hours

New York Correspondent



It is impossible to know if the ex-cop Derek Chauvin will take the stand to defend his innocence in the trial for the death of George Floyd. The episode of police abuse against the black minority that last summer shook the US and the world has reached the end of its first week. At least another two weeks of evidence and witness questioning remain, and it is unclear whether the defense will choose to call Chauvin to defend his thesis that Floyd did not die from the suffocation of the policeman’s knee against his neck, but rather there is reason to believe that the determining factor in his death was a mixture of drug use, medical condition and the adrenaline of the moment.

This week, at least, the jurors who will decide the fate of Chauvin, who faces murder charges, could see what the reaction of the policeman right after the arrest that ended with Floyd’s death. The Prosecutor’s Office presented this Wednesday unseen recordings of the personal cameras of the police officers who participated in the operation, including that of Chauvin. In an excerpt, Chauvin interacts with one of the passers-by who witnessed the arrest. The policeman had suffocated Floyd, handcuffed and lying on the ground, pressing his knee against his neck, for almost ten interminable minutes that several witnesses witnessed, and that some recorded on their mobile phones. Right after an unconscious Floyd was taken away by an ambulance, one of those, Charles McMillan, confronted Chauvin, told him that he had no respect for the way he had treated the victim.

“It is the opinion of one person,” replied the policeman, the first time that public opinion has heard anything about Chauvin’s reaction to his performance, recorded with his body camera. “We had to control this guy because he’s a big guy,” he justified before adding: “It seems like he was probably wearing something.”

Those few words distill the defense that Chauvin’s lawyers will use: Floyd had to be controlled by the cop because of his size – “it was not an easy fight,” said Eric Nelson, who leads his defense, in opening statements at the trial – and the drugs that he had used was a decisive factor in his death and not so much the drowning tactic used by the officer.

Those images have not been the only novelty contributed by the first days of the trial. In Wednesday’s session, a reconstruction of the last minutes of Floyd’s life was made with other recordings not seen until now. For example, the one in the security camera at Cup Foods, the Mineapolis where the tragedy started. In the image you see a smiling, animated Floyd, who greets a client affectionately – he was a regular in the establishment, the typical local neighborhood where basic necessities are sold, food, fast food, snacks, drinks, cafes, there are millions of them in the US – chat with one of the employees. Floyd wears the same clothes in which he appears in the video of his arrest, the one that ran like wildfire on social networks and caused protests throughout the country, a narrow black tank top that barely covers his great muscles and wide pants.

Then the moment that triggered it all. Handles a wad of bills and pays with one of 20 dollars. The clerk soon realized that it was false, went looking for him and ended up calling the police. At trial, the clerk, Christopher Martin, 19, showed guilt: if he had let it go – employees pay with their salary if they slip false bills – Floyd would not have died.

“Don’t shoot me, man.”

Images recorded by the body cameras of the other three officers who participated in the arrest could also be seen. All three, like Chauvin, were expelled from the Minneapolis police force and are awaiting trial for complicity in Floyd’s death. In them they can see how they go after Floyd, put in his vehicle after passing through the store, they point their guns at him and demand that he show his hands. “Don’t shoot me, man,” Floyd begs from the car. “I just lost my mother!” The victim resisted for several minutes to enter the car under arrest. At that moment Chauvin was already on the scene, who ended up executing the maneuver in which Floyd lost his life.

Many pieces are missing to be explained in the trial of Floyd’s death. Some may have been lost. This Thursday it was learned that Chauvin’s defense will not be able to count on the testimony of Morries Hall, the man who was in Floyd’s car at his arrest. In his opening statement, the police attorney claimed that Hall and another person who was in the car, Shawanda Hill, they were to testify that Floyd had taken two pills – presumably opiates – just before the officers arrived.

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