Charles McMillian on Wednesday gave one of the most emotional testimonies during the third day of the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, breaking down in sobs after re-watching video footage of George Floyd’s fatal arrest.
On May 25 last year, McMillian, 61, a resident of Minneapolis, was driving through the area of Chicago Street and 38th Street when he saw a Black man being detained by the police and decided to pull over to figure out what was happening.
“Being nosy” is what made him stop, he admitted in court.
Moments later, he would witness an altercation between George Floyd and police officers that led to Floyd’s death and eventually ignited a nationwide movement against systemic racism and police brutality.
McMillian’s emotional statement was the latest in a string of testimonies that conveyed the trauma suffered by those who witnessed firsthand what occurred to Floyd, and who confessed to struggling with feelings of guilt and helplessness for failing to prevent his death.
In officers’ body camera footage, McMillian is seen pleading with Floyd not to resist the arrest and cooperate with police.
“You can’t win!” McMillian is heard yelling at him in the video. He explained to prosecutors that he was trying to help Floyd based on his own experiences with law enforcement, arguing he knew that once you are placed in a police car and handcuffed, as Floyd was at the moment, “You’re done.”
“I am not trying to win!” responded an increasingly distressed Floyd, who struggled with the police as they tried to get him into a police car, saying repeatedly that he is claustrophobic and has anxiety.
The chilling images also showed Floyd saying over and over again, that he could not breathe and calling for his deceased mother.
“Mama! Mama! Mama,” Floyd cried out several times on the video.
Sitting on the stand, McMillian broke out in tears and hit the desk before him, grabbing tissues to dab away the tears behind his white-framed lenses. “Oh, my God,” he said shaking his head.
“I feel helpless,” McMillian said, explaining his reaction to reliving Floyd’s final moments. “I don’t have a mama either; I understand him.”
As McMillian struggled to hold his emotions and regain his composure, the judge ordered court to take a break.
Later in his testimony, the witness also described how a few days earlier, he had encountered Chauvin and decided to go up and talk to him.
‘Officer, at the end of the day, you go home to your family safe, so let the next person go home to their family safe,’” McMillian recalled telling him.
On Wednesday, prosecutors played never-before-seen body-camera footage from Chauvin’s body camera in which McMillian tells Chauvin he “does not respect” what the officer just did and calls him a “maggot.”
“All right, that’s one person’s opinion,” Chauvin responds in the video.
“But we’ve got to control this guy because he is a sizable guy,” he told McMillian. “Looks like he’s probably on something,” Chauvin said, suggesting Floyd had taken drugs.
Prosecutors asked McMillian why he felt the need to speak to Chauvin.
“Because what I was watching was wrong,” he said.
A few days after Floyd’s death last year, McMillian told a journalist he was also suffering the consequences of seeing a man die.
“Waking up, the first thing I hear is Mr. Floyd saying, ‘Mom, they are killing me in the street,” he said.“