Charles McMillian: Witness who knew Derek Chauvin breaks down as he watches video of George Floyd arrest

Charles McMillian arrived on the scene early and advised George Floyd “you can’t win” as he saw struggle unfolding

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
,Graeme Massie
Wednesday 31 March 2021 23:07 BST
Witness breaks down as he watches video of George Floyd arrest
Leer en Español

Charles McMillian, the first bystander to witness the fatal arrest of George Floyd, began to weep as he re-watched video of the incident unfold in a Minnesota court on Wednesday.

“I can’t, I feel helpless,” Mr McMillian, 61, said, dabbing his eyes with a tissue. “I don’t have a mother either, I understand him.”

In the video, Mr Floyd can be heard calling for his deceased mother and telling officers over and over again “I’m claustrophobic” and “I can’t breathe,” as they strain to get him into a squad car then eventually drag him onto the ground.

Mr McMillian struggled to regain his composure on the witness stand, prompting the court to take a 10-minute break.

He had been telling jurors how he pulled over when he saw police arresting Mr Floyd last May. He tried to de-escalate the situation and urged Mr Floyd to go along with officers’ commands.

Read more:

“I’ve had interactions with officers myself,” he said. “I understand once you get in the cuffs you can’t win. You’re done. That’s just the way I look at it.”

He also described how a few days earlier he’d met former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with murdering Mr Floyd.

As the arrest continued, Mr McMillian kept trying to intercede, he said once his testimony resumed.

“Just let him get in the car, man,” he can be heard saying on the video. He told the jury that Mr Floyd responded directly to him: “I can’t.”

An ambulance eventually arrived on the scene and Mr Floyd, by then motionless, was loaded onto a gurney.

Mr McMillian went on to describe how he kept engaging with officer Chauvin, walking over to his squad car and telling him something to the effect of, “I look at you as a maggot,” though he couldn’t remember his exact words.

Body camera video of the interaction seems to capture previously unpublished moments of Mr Chauvin’s reaction as well. A voice that Mr McMillian identified as the officer’s can be heard, sounding somewhat shaken, talking about how Mr Floyd was a “sizeable guy” who was “probably on something.”

Mr McMillian’s testimony was the latest in a string of different eye-witness accounts of the fatal arrest of George Floyd, adding onto the numerous different videos of what took place.

Many of the witnesses recounted the personal trauma of watching Mr Floyd die.

Earlier in the day on Wednesday, 19-year-old Christopher Martin, a cashier at Cup Foods, a nearby grocery store, described standing there in “disbelief and guilt” as the arrest unfolded on the street outside. The manager of the store, his supervisor, told another employee to call the police after Mr Floyd used a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes.

“If I would’ve just not taken the bill, this could’ve been avoided,” Mr Martin said.

Darnella Frazier, a teenager who captured the most widely seen bystander video of the arrest, told the court on Tuesday how the incident has stuck with her.

“It’s been nights I stayed up apologising and apologising to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” Ms. Frazier said. “But it’s like, it’s not what I should have done, it’s what he should have done,” a seeming reference to Mr Chauvin.

She added that watching the event unfold, she couldn’t help but think about the Black men in her own family.

“When I look at George Floyd, I look at my dad, I look at my brothers, I look at my cousins, my uncles, because they’re all Black,” Ms. Frazier said. “I have a Black father. I have a Black brother. I have Black friends.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in