Jena Scurry, a 911 dispatcher in Minneapolis, was the first witness to take the stand on Monday in the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd, an unarmed Black man.
The state called her to testify, and she told the jury how she watched Mr Floyd’s arrest unfold on a video feed from city security cameras.
A group of three officers struggle to put Mr Floyd into a squad car, and Ms Scurry described how she saw the vehicle rolling back and forth amid all the effort, before the tussle moves to the ground behind the car.
At first, Ms Scurry said she believed the video had frozen because officers remained on top of Mr Floyd for minutes as she checked in and out of the video while handling other calls.
“They were still on the ground. That whole situation was still the same,” she said. “I first asked if the screens had frozen because it hadn’t changed,” she added.
As she continued watching the video, she began to worry something was wrong.
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“My instincts were telling me something is wrong, something is not right. I don’t know what, but something was not right,” she said. “It was an extended period of time.”
This led her to take the uncommon step of calling a police sergeant and informing them about what was happening.
“Call me a snitch if you want to,” she can be heard saying on a recording of the call, before describing to the supervising officer how “all of them sat on this man.”
She told the court she’d never made a call like that, a fact that state prosecutors touched upon during their opening arguments.
“She called the police on the police,” Jerry W Blackwell said.
In its early stages, the trial has coalesced around two key themes: whether the force used during Mr Floyd’s 25 May arrest last year was reasonable, and whether that was what caused his death.
The state argued in its opening statement that it recognized that policing was difficult, and officers were often tasked with making split-second, life-or-death decisions, but Mr Chauvin went overboard by kneeling on the neck of an unarmed man for more than nine minutes. Mr Chauvin, they said, had “betrayed this badge” by doing so.
“You’re going to learn in this case a lot about what it means to be a public servant and to have the honour of wearing this badge,” prosecutor Jerry W Blackwell told the court. “It’s a small badge that carries with it a large responsibility and a large accountably to the public.”
Mr Chauvin’s defence, meanwhile, argued that the arrest was much more complicated—and confrontational—than the nine minutes of video that became widely shared after the incident.
“There is no political or social cause in this court room,” attorney Eric Nelson told the court. “But the evidence is far greater than 9 minutes and 29 seconds.”
Instead, he suggested that Mr Floyd refused repeated commands from officers, who physically struggled to arrest him, and that drugs in his system and underlying health conditions ultimately caused his death.
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