Chauvin trial: Day 4 testimony from girlfriend of George Floyd, paramedics, retired sergeant

Derek Chauvin Trial

FILE – This May 25, 2020, file image from a police body camera shows bystanders including Alyssa Funari, left filming, Charles McMillan, center left in light colored shorts, Christopher Martin center in gray, Donald Williams, center in black, Genevieve Hansen, fourth from right filming, Darnella Frazier, third from right filming, as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was recorded pressing his knee on George Floyd’s neck for several minutes in Minneapolis. To the prosecution, the witnesses who watched Floyd’s body go still were regular people — a firefighter, a mixed martial arts fighter, a high school student and her 9-year-old cousin in a T-shirt emblazoned with the word “Love.” (Minneapolis Police Department via AP, File)

MINNEAPOLIS (NewsNation Now) — The trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged in the death of George Floyd continued Thursday, a day after prosecutors played extensive video footage of Floyd’s struggle with police officers trying to arrest him.

Floyd’s girlfriend, Courteney Ross, was first to take the stand Thursday morning. Ross described first meeting Floyd in 2017 at a Salvation Army shelter where Floyd was a security guard. Ross said Floyd offered to pray with her at that first meeting.

They took walks in the parks and around the lakes of Minneapolis, which was still new to the Texas-raised Floyd, and ate out a lot. Ross said Floyd adored his mother whom he was still grieving, enjoyed football and working out daily.

Ross described how both she and Floyd struggled with an addiction to opioids throughout their relationship. She said they also took the prescriptions of others, as well as illegal drugs. Sometimes they shook the habit, sometimes they relapsed. In March 2020, Ross drove Floyd to the emergency room because he was in extreme stomach pain, and she later learned he overdosed.

“Floyd and I both suffered from an opioid addiction,” said Ross describing the start of the addiction as a “classic story” saying they both suffered from chronic pain and were prescribed prescription medication.

After a court recess, a paramedic with Hennepin County, Seth Zachary Bravinder, was the second witness to take the stand Thursday. Bravinder was dispatched to the scene of Floyd’s arrest and administered medical assistance to Floyd.

Bravinder along with paramedic Derek Smith, who also testified Thursday, described Floyd’s condition from arriving at the scene, transporting him in the ambulance, and medical procedures administered.  The first call was a Code 2, for someone with a mouth injury, but it was upgraded a minute and a half later to Code 3 — a life-threatening incident that led them to turn on the lights and siren.

Bravinder said he saw no signs that Floyd was breathing or moving, and it appeared he was in cardiac arrest. Smith testified that he checked for a pulse and couldn’t detect one: “In layman’s terms? I thought he was dead.”

Bravinder said they loaded Floyd into the ambulance so he could get care “in an optimum environment,” but also because bystanders “appeared very upset on the sidewalk,” and there was some yelling. “In my mind at least, we wanted to get away from that,” he said.

On the way to the hospital, after driving three blocks, Bravinder had to stop driving the ambulance to help Smith administer aid when Floyd “flatlined.” They were never able to restore a pulse.

On cross-examination, Chauvin’s lawyer questioned why the ambulance did not go straight to the hospital, and he pressed Smith on Floyd’s condition as he lay on the pavement. The paramedic expressed himself in blunt terms, saying Floyd was “dead” or “deceased.”

Also Thursday, a Minneapolis police supervisory sergeant who was on duty the night Floyd died testified that he believes the officers who restrained Floyd could have ended it after he stopped resisting.

David Pleoger noted that officers are trained to roll people on their side to help with their breathing after they have been restrained in the prone position.

“When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could have ended the restraint,” Pleoger said.

“And that was after he was handcuffed and on the ground and no longer resistant?” prosecutor Steve Schleicher asked.

“Correct,” replied Ploeger, now retired.

Videos of Floyd’s final minutes dominates 1st week of trial

Video is playing a huge role in the early stages of the trial. A mountain of footage — both official and amateur — was presented Wednesday at former police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder trial that showed how Floyd’s alleged attempt to pass a phony $20 bill at a neighborhood market last May escalated into tragedy one video-documented step at a time.

Video has been key evidence since the beginning of the trial. Minutes into his opening statement, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell spoke about the widely circulated video shot by teenage bystander Darnella Frazier, before playing parts of the footage for the jury.

The video shows Chauvin with his knee wedged into the back of Floyd’s neck. Chauvin didn’t move even as Floyd’s body went limp.

“He put his knee upon his neck and his back, grinding and crushing him, until the very breath … until the very life, was squeezed out of him,” Blackwell told jurors.

New video Wednesday included surveillance video from inside the Cup Foods store where Floyd was accused of passing the counterfeit bill, as well as street-level surveillance video outside the store from two different cameras: one from in front of Cup Foods and the other from a restaurant across the street.

The 19-year-old cashier working at the convenience store where Floyd spent some of his final moments testified to feeling “disbelief, guilt” over Floyd’s death.

“If I would’ve just not taken the bill, this could’ve been avoided,” Christopher Martin testified, joining the burgeoning list of onlookers who said they felt a sense of helplessness and lingering guilt over the Floyd’s death.

Martin sold him a pack of cigarettes. He told the jury he thought the bill was counterfeit and considered just letting the store deduct it from his wages but then decided to tell his manager, who told Martin to go and confront Floyd, who had gotten back into a car outside. Floyd was later arrested outside.

A security-camera scene of people joking around inside the store soon gave way to the sight of officers pulling Floyd, who was Black, from his SUV at gunpoint. The extended body-camera footage gave jurors the fullest view yet of the roughly 20 minutes between when police first approached Floyd’s vehicle to when he was loaded into an ambulance.

Charles McMillian, a 61-year-old bystander who recognized Chauvin from the neighborhood, saw the arrest and told Chauvin he didn’t respect what Chauvin had done.

“That’s one person’s opinion,” Chauvin could be heard responding. “We gotta control this guy ’cause he’s a sizable guy… and it looks like he’s probably on something.”

McMillian said he heard Floyd cry out for his mother during the encounter and testified he “feels helpless. I don’t have a mama either. I understand him.”

Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson sought to use the same evidence to show that Chauvin and his fellow officers found themselves in an increasingly tense and distracting situation, with the growing crowd becoming more and more angry over Floyd’s treatment.

Lawyers for Chauvin, 45, say he followed his police training and is not guilty of the charges brought by the Minnesota attorney general’s office of second-degree murder, third-degree murder or second-degree manslaughter.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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