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Witnesses Take The Stand On 2nd Day Of Derek Chauvin Trial


We begin today in Minneapolis, where prosecutors for the state of Minnesota continue to build their case against Derek Chauvin. He's the former police officer on trial for the murder of George Floyd. Today was the second day of the trial. And among the witnesses called to the stand were several bystanders who watched as Chauvin held his knee on George Floyd's neck. NPR's Adrian Florido joins us now from Minneapolis.

Hi, Adrian.


CHANG: So I understand that these witnesses also talked about what they were feeling as they watched Floyd struggle to breathe under Chauvin's knee. Can you just tell us a little bit more about them and what they said today?

FLORIDO: Yeah, the witnesses today included Darnella Frazier - she's the teenager who filmed the cellphone video of Floyd's arrest that so much of the world has seen by now - also an off-duty firefighter who stumbled upon the scene. But the day started with someone who first took the stand yesterday, Donald Williams. He's a young man who, in that famous video, can be heard pleading with Chauvin to get off of Floyd's neck. I found his questioning by defense attorney Eric Nelson very interesting because Nelson has been saying that he's going to argue that officer Chauvin felt threatened by the crowd that gathered to watch the arrest. And Donald Williams, who is Black, spent several minutes pleading with officer Chauvin and, in some cases, insulting him as he pinned Floyd down. Now, here's the defense attorney asking Donald Williams a question.


ERIC NELSON: It's fair to say that you grew angrier and angrier.

DONALD WILLIAMS: No, I grew professional and professional, and I stayed in my body. You can't paint me out to be angry.

FLORIDO: It was a tense exchange. Most of the questioning from the defense attorney was tense. Williams also testified, though, that he called the police on the police to report that Floyd had been murdered just a little bit after the incident concluded.

CHANG: And you mentioned another witness, the teenager who filmed Floyd's arrest. What did she have to say?

FLORIDO: Darnella Frazier was 17 at the time of Floyd's arrest, and she and her young cousin were walking up to the Cup Foods store, where this whole incident started, to buy snacks. When she noticed what was happening, she pulled out her phone to film. And here's what she said when prosecutor Jerry Blackwell asked her to describe what she saw.


DARNELLA FRAZIER: I heard George Floyd saying, I can't breathe. Please get off of me. I can't breathe. He cried for his mom. He was in pain. It seemed like he knew. It seemed like he knew it was over for him.

FLORIDO: And when it was the defense attorney's turn to question this witness, he also pressed her the way that he had pressed Donald Williams earlier to acknowledge that the group of bystanders grew loud and started calling Chauvin names. She said that was true. But she also said later that no one ever threatened or attacked Chauvin and that he hadn't seemed scared by any of them.

CHANG: And did Frazier, this witness who was talking about filming the death of George Floyd - does she talk about what it meant to be the person who filmed this viral video?

FLORIDO: She did. She said it changed her life. One of the most poignant moments of the day came when she told the prosecutor that in George Floyd, she saw her Black dad, her Black brother, her Black cousins. And she said she was wracked by guilt that all she did was record.


FRAZIER: It's been nights I stayed up apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life. But it's like - it's not what I should have done. It's what he should have done.

FLORIDO: And by he, she meant officer Chauvin, who was sitting just a few feet away from her in court.

CHANG: Wow. It sounds like the memory of what happened that night is still really weighing on her.

FLORIDO: It is, and that's a theme that emerged in the testimony of most of today's witnesses; this feeling that they should have done more as they watched Floyd's life slip away under Chauvin's knee. Today's last witness was an off-duty paramedic named Genevieve Hansen. She said if the officers on the scene and hadn't told her to stay away, she would have checked Floyd's pulse and started chest compressions on him.


GENEVIEVE HANSEN: It's what I would have done for anybody.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: When you couldn't do that, how did that make you feel?

HANSEN: Totally distressed.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Were you frustrated?


FLORIDO: This witness will be back tomorrow for more testimony.

CHANG: That is NPR's Adrian Florido in Minneapolis.

Thank you, Adrian.

FLORIDO: Thanks, Ailsa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Adrian Florido
Adrian Florido is a national correspondent for NPR covering race and identity in America.