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State focuses on videos showing the moments before George Floyd's death

'If I would not have taken the bill, this could have been avoided," Cup Foods cashier testified.

christopher martin.JPG
In this image from video, Cup Foods employee Christopher Martin watches surveillance footage as he testifies March 31, 2021, in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis. (Forum News Service)
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George Floyd became known to the world as a man who died with a police officer's knee on his neck, captured in viral video that went around the world.

On Wednesday, March 31, another side of Floyd was presented in a different video.

On the third day of testimony in the trial of ex-police officer Derek Chauvin , who faces murder charges in the death of Floyd, the prosecution focused on the chain of events and motives that led a store employee to call police due to Floyd's use of a counterfeit $20 bill.

Christopher Martin, a 19-year-old Cup Foods cashier, recalled being struck by Floyd's size when he saw him in the store and asked him if he played baseball. Floyd said he played football. Martin testified that he could tell by Floyd's delayed answer that Floyd was under the influence.

"He seemed very friendly, approachable, talkative, just living his life, but he did seem high," Martin said.


Security video shown to a 12-member jury showed Floyd inside Cup Foods in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, in the moments before his death. He is seen hugging a woman. He flips through a money roll. He appears sociable and friendly. He does stretching exercises.

Surveillance footage captures witness filming
A Cup Foods employee, 19-year-old Christopher Martin, is seen on surveillance footage filming the incident. Martin testified on Wednesday, March 31, 2021, that he deleted the video he took that night.

Floyd bought a pack of cigarettes and passed Martin a $20 bill. Martin said he saw that the bill contained a blue pigment he saw more commonly in $100 bills. He suspected it was phony.

"I thought it wasn't legitimate," Martin said. "I took it anyway. I was going to put it on my tab. I kept examining it, and then I told my manager."

Cup Foods' policy was that an employee who accepts a counterfeit bill had the amount deducted from his or her paycheck. A male companion with Floyd had tried to pass off a counterfeit bill earlier in the day, but Martin had rejected it because it was clear he was "scheming." But he accepted Floyd's.

"I thought George didn't know it was a fake. I was trying to do him a favor," Martin said.

But Martin changed his mind and told the store manager about the counterfeit bill. The manager told Martin to tell Floyd to come back inside and "discuss what had happened."


Martin went out twice in an attempt to persuade Floyd, who was sitting in the driver's seat of a Mercedes-Benz vehicle parked across the street, to return to the store.

Once, Martin went out with one co-worker, then another time with two co-workers. Floyd's companion, who sat in the vehicle's passenger seat and whose counterfeit bill Martin had rejected earlier in the day, did most of the talking. A woman was in the back seat.

At one time, the exchange between the companion and one of Martin's co-workers became heated, with the companion ripping up a bill and throwing the pieces to the curb.

Martin testified that Floyd was shaking his head and raising his hands in an attitude of "Why is this happening to me?" But he refused to return to the store. The store manager then told one of Martin's co-workers to call the police.

Martin returned to work and "went about my business" until he later became aware of a commotion outside the store. A crowd was gathering, "yelling and screaming with Derek on Floyd's neck."

"George was motionless, limp, and Chauvin was just resting his knee on his neck," Martin told the jury about what he saw after stepping outside the store.

Martin and his mom shared an apartment above Cup Foods. Martin recalled phoning his mom and telling her not to come down.


Later, an ambulance arrived and Floyd was loaded inside. Martin said he concluded from the route the ambulance took that Floyd had died.

"If I would have not taken the bill, this could have been avoided," Martin said.

"If I would have not taken the bill, this could have been avoided."

— Christopher Martin, 19, a Cup Foods employee who reported to his manager that George Floyd may have paid with a counterfeit $20 bill

Witness overcome with emotion

The testimony of 61-year-old Charles McMillian was paused Wednesday afternoon, March 31, 2021, as McMillian became overwhelmed with emotion while video of George Floyd repeatedly yelling "mama" as Minneapolis police officers have him on the ground played in the courtroom. (Forum News Service)

It was an emotional day in court.

Charles McMillian, a 61-year-old witness, broke down in tears when he was shown police body cam footage of officers struggling to get a handcuffed Floyd into the back of a squad car. The shaky video showed Floyd resisting, complaining about his inability to breathe, and calling for his "mama."

McMillian's sobbing prompted the judge to call for a recess.

"I feel helpless," McMillian said, explaining that his own mother had died last year.

Earlier, McMillian testified that he had parked nearby, prompted by the sight of an officer standing outside Floyd's vehicle with the door open.

"I was being nosy," he said.

McMillian followed as two officers escorted Floyd in handcuffs across 38th Street to the squad car. When Floyd resisted being put in the squad car, McMillian tried to engage Floyd, urging him to stop resisting the police officers.

"I'm trying to get him to understand: Once they get you in cuffs, you are going to go with them. You can't win," McMillian said.

"I'm not trying to win," Floyd said.

Floyd continued to struggle, was pulled out of the other side of the squad by officers, and found himself face-down on the street. In the video, Floyd is heard repeatedly and desperately pleading, "I'm claustrophobic," "I can't breathe," and "Please, officer, please." At times, a police officer is heard saying, "Get in the car" and "Take a seat."

When the ambulance arrived and transported Floyd's lifeless body later, McMillian said, "I knew in my mind ... it's over for Mr. Floyd."

McMillian told the jury that he had talked to Chauvin days earlier, telling him that at the end of the day, both went home "safe" to their families. But he recalled calling Chauvin a "maggot" after Floyd was taken away.

Several videos shown, juror describes 'stress-related reaction'

Wednesday morning, Judge Peter Cahill suspended proceedings after a juror waved and had to leave the courtroom. According to a Star Tribune tweet, the juror told the judge she was having a "stress-related reaction to the trial" and was having trouble sleeping. The juror, a white woman in her 50s, told the judge she had been awake since 2 a.m.

"I think I'll be OK going forward," she said.

During the late-afternoon testimony of prosecution witness Lt. Jeff Rugel, the manager of the Minneapolis Police Department's Police Business Technology Unit, jurors were shown stark footage from the body cameras of the Minneapolis Police officers who attempted to arrest Floyd. It gave the jury four visual vantage points, from the moment officers arrived at the scene through the pinning of Floyd to the ground, to moments before the arrival of the ambulance.

Jurors saw the videos back to back, one after the other at the end of the day.

A video showed a police officer's hand reach out and take Floyd's pulse.

"He's unconscious," the officer said. Yet, three officers remained on top of him.

Three of the jurors did not look at some of the videos, including a Black woman in her 60s "who stared straight ahead," according to a pool reporter present.

Court is scheduled to resume at 9:15 a.m. Thursday, April 1, in Minneapolis.

Matthew Stolle has been a Post Bulletin reporter since 2000 and covered many of the beats that make up a newsroom. In his first several years, he covered K-12 education and higher education in Rochester before shifting to politics. He has also been a features writer. Today, Matt jumps from beat to beat, depending on what his editor and the Rochester area are producing in terms of news. Readers can reach Matthew at 507-281-7415 or mstolle@postbulletin.com.
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