They cursed at the cops and made videos, but witnesses say they were helpless to save George Floyd

You needed an auxiliary cable for your cell phone. Another took her 9-year-old cousin to the corner shop to buy snacks. An off duty firefighter was strolling home from a quiet garden, and another man who described himself as "nosy" was driving through his neighborhood and stopped when he saw police arrest a black man.
On the warm spring evening of May 25, 2020, she and others got together shortly after 8 p.m. outside the Cup Foods store on the corner of Chicago Avenue and East 38th Street in south Minneapolis, witnessed what prosecutors described as the agonizing murder of George Floyd by police officers.
Witness after witness testified this week at the trial of one of these former officers, Derek Chauvin, and told a jury, at times with tears and even sobs, what they saw in intolerable detail. Some commented on cell phone videos of Floyd dying.
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PHOTO: A picture of witnesses at the crime scene from Officer Thao's body camera during George Floyd's arrest in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, issued during the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin. (Minneapolis Police Dept.)
"You can't win"
Charles McMillian, 61, was in his Dodge Caravan in 2006 and stopped at a red light in front of Cup Foods. He was planning to turn east on East 38th Street when his attention was drawn to an encounter between police and a black man sitting in a blue Mercedes Benz SUV.
McMillian, who lives in the neighborhood, said he quit because he was "curious".
He said he got out of his van and watched the interaction - only later would he find out it was 46-year-old George Floyd.
PHOTO: Police officers attempt to remove George Floyd from a vehicle outside of Cup Foods in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. The image is from a video with a police camera that was shown at the Hennepin County courthouse in Minneapolis on March 31, 2021. (Court TV / Pool via AP)
"Basically, I saw the officer ask Mr. Floyd to get out of the truck," McMillian recalled.
After briefly allowing Floyd, who had been handcuffed, to sit on the sidewalk, two officers, who McMillian later learned were Thomas Lane and Alexander Kueng, learned that Floyd stood up when she crossed the street to him drove a police car parked in front of Cup Foods.
When officers tried to put Floyd in the police car, McMillian said Floyd appeared to be fighting and collapsing in the back seat and told officers he was "claustrophobic". McMillian said he started speaking to Floyd from afar. It turned out to be the last full conversation Floyd would have with another human.
PHOTO: Witness Charles McMillian wipes his face as he testifies in Minneapolis on the second day of the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on March 30, 2021 (Pool).
"I said to Mr. Floyd, 'Just follow them. Get in the car because you can't win,'" said McMillian.
Police camera footage played in court showed Floyd McMillian responding, "I don't want to win. I'm claustrophobic. I'm scared. I'm scared as a man."
As the officers fought with Floyd, two other former officers, Chauvin and Tou Thao, arrived on site. McMillian said he recognized Chauvin from an encounter last week when he told the officer, "At the end of the day, go to your family home safely."
MORE: What we know about the jury in the Derek Chauvin Trial
He said the officers forced Floyd into the back of the patrol car on the driver's side, fought him, and eventually removed him through the back passenger door. Floyd, still handcuffed, was laid prone on the floor. McMillian said he saw Chauvin put his knee on Floyd's neck when Lane and Kueng helped him hold him down.
When his face was pressed against the sidewalk, Floyd shouted loudly to McMillian or his dead mother.
"I feel helpless," said McMillian, who collapsed sobbing.
Out to buy snacks
Darnella Frazier, now an 18-year-old high school student, took her 9-year-old cousin Judea Reynolds to Cup Foods a few blocks from their house for some snacks. As they neared the store, Frazier led her cousin into the store and then went back to investigate something she noticed - police officers holding a black man next to a police car.
Frazier said she immediately started taping the incident on her cell phone.
"He was in pain," Frazier said of Floyd. "It seemed like he knew ... he knew it was over for him. He was scared. He suffered. This was a cry for help."
Other witnesses gathered. Frazier's cousin, Judea, came out of the shop, and when Frazier recorded the event, the little girl, wearing a green shirt with the word love on the front, stood beside her and watched in disbelief.
PHOTO: Defense attorney Eric Nelson and the defendant, former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, listen during Chauvin's trial at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis on April 1, 2021. (Court TV via AP, pool)
The youngest witness called so far to testify against Chauvin told Judea: "I was sad and kind of crazy because I felt he was preventing him from breathing."
Frazier testified that the crowd grew and that Thao held the people in check while Floyd continued to beg for his life.
MORE: Derek Chauvin's trial reveals survivors' trauma and guilt for witnesses for George Floyd's death
She said that after an ambulance arrived, Chauvin still refused to remove his knee from Floyd's neck, even though Floyd appeared to be unconscious.
"The medic ... he made a movement like 'get up' and basically told [chauvin] to move his knee. His knee was still there even when they came," she said.
"Blood thrush"
Professional MMA fighter Donald Williams II, 33, said he would only go to Cup Foods that day for a drink and clear his mind.
He testified that when Floyd got to the front of the store he was still begging for his life, under the weight of Chauvin's knee on his neck. He said he immediately recognized the position Chauvin Floyd was in as a "blood throttle," a technique he used in the ring to knock an opponent unconscious by cutting off the flow of blood to his head.
PHOTO: Donald Williams II testifies at the Derek Chauvin Trial on March 29, 2021. (Pool via ABC News)
"His breath got really hard," Williams said of Floyd. "You could actually hear him, you could see him struggling to actually gasp."
Williams testified that at one point he looked at chauvin.
"He looked at me. It was the only time he looked at me when I said it was a blood thrush," Williams testified.
MORE: Derek Chauvin's trial reveals the trauma and guilt of survivors for witnesses for George Floyd's death
Williams said after Floyd's seemingly lifeless body was taken away in an ambulance, he called 911 "because I believed I was a witness to a murder".
"Wasn't there anything I could do?"
Alyssa Funari, an 18-year-old twelfth grader, testified that she and a friend rode her grandfather's Buick to Cup Foods on May 25 to pick up an auxiliary cord for her phone. Before she could get to the door, however, she heard the sound of bystanders yelling at the police.
She said she could hear Floyd too.
"He said he couldn't breathe and his stomach hurt and he wanted his mother," Funari said. "I knew something was wrong at first, so I started recording."
"He looked like he was struggling to breathe. At first he was vocal and then he became less vocal," she added. "You could see in his face that he was slowly unable to breathe. His eyes rolled back and at some point he just sat or lay there."
She also started to burst into tears when she said, "It was difficult because I felt like there was really nothing I could do as a spectator."
On her testimony, 17-year-old Kaylynn Gilbert, the friend who accompanied Funari to the store, testified that she did not see any of the police officers trying to check if Floyd had a pulse or to walk away from him. When she became more concerned, she and other onlookers shouted at the officers.
She described Floyd's condition when paramedics arrived and asked the officers to get off him.
"He looked a bit like purple, like he wasn't getting enough circulation. He was really limp," Gilbert said. "I wasn't sure if George Floyd was dead by then, but I had a gut feeling."
Walk from a quiet garden
When the Minneapolis firefighter on duty Genevieve Hansen, 28, was on the scene, she said Floyd was passed out but Chauvin's knee remained on his neck.
Hansen, dressed in civilian clothes, said on the way back from a quiet garden that she had identified herself to the officers and asked if they had checked Floyd for a pulse.
PHOTO: Minneapolis firefighter Genevieve Hansen testifies at trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on March 30, 2021 in Minneapolis. (Pool via ABC News)
"I was concerned to see a handcuffed man who did not move, with officers with their whole bodies on their backs and a stressed crowd," Hansen testified.
Rather than being allowed to examine Floyd, she said Thao ordered her to get on the sidewalk and said to her, "If you are really a Minneapolis firefighter, you know better than to meddle."
"That's not right - that's exactly what I should have done," said Hansen. "There was no medical help on site and I got there and could have provided medical help."
They berated the police and made videos, but witnesses said they were helpless in saving George Floyd, who originally appeared on
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