911 responder called police on Chauvin for kneeling on Floyd’s neck, prosecutors say
An emergency responder was so disturbed by the sight of former police officer Derek Chauvin pinning George Floyd to the ground that she “called the police” on him, prosecutors told the court as Mr Chauvin’s murder trial began in Minneapolis on Monday.
Opening arguments in the highly-charged trial began with prosecutor Jerry Blackwell detailing how Mr Chauvin knelt on Mr Floyd’s neck for a total of nine minutes and 29 seconds last May as the unarmed black man said “I can’t breathe” 27 times before growing silent and unresponsive.
As he outlined the sequence of events, Mr Blackwell told the court that several witnesses to the incident, including the 911 dispatcher who sent the officers to the scene, were so disturbed by Mr Chauvin’s actions that they “called the police on the police”.
Bystander footage of the arrest of Mr Floyd, an unarmed black man, sparked a global movement against police brutality and racial injustice and will play a central role in the prosecution’s case during the four-week trial.
Mr Chauvin, who is white, is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter and third-degree murder and faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge.
Joe Biden was watching the proceedings “closely” along with the rest of America, the White House said on Monday.
The US president’s spokeswoman said the events surrounding Mr Floyd’s death were a reminder of the need to make “addressing racial injustice a priority to the things we do.”
The distressing footage of Mr Floyd’s last moments was played to jurors on Monday, with the prosecution telling them Mr Chauvin, 45, squeezed “the very life” out of the 46-year-old, refusing to remove his weight even as paramedics attempted to find Mr Floyd’s pulse.
“Mr Derek Chauvin betrayed this badge when he used excessive and unreasonable force upon the body of George Floyd,” Mr Blackwell told the jurors.
The panel consists of eight white people and six black or mixed raced people. Two of the 14 are alternates and will not take part in the deliberations.
The prosecution called Jena Scurry, the 911 dispatcher who sent police to the scene on May 25, as their first witness.
Ms Scurry said she grew distressed as she watched a live video feed showing Mr Chauvin continuing to pin Mr Floyd to the ground, saying “my instincts were telling me that’s something’s wrong”.
The emergency responder said she was so shocked that she decided to call a police sergeant to voice her concerns – the first time she had done so in her seven years in the role.
“You can call me a snitch if you want to but… all of them sat on this man. I don’t know if they needed to or not,” she said in audio of the call played to the court.
Meanwhile the defence urged the jury to separate the social justice movement triggered by Mr Floyd’s death from the proceedings taking place in the courtroom as they presented their opening arguments yesterday.
“There is no political or social cause in this courtroom,” lawyer Eric Nelson told the court.
Mr Nelson said there was “more to the scene” than the bystander footage showed after he was apprehended outside a shop in Minneapolis’ southside neighbourhood for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 note.
“The evidence is far greater than nine minutes and 29 seconds,” he said.
Mr Nelson cited the fact that Mr Floyd would not co-operate during his arrest and the heckling Mr Chauvin and the other officers had to contend with from a large and hostile group of onlookers.
“Derek Chauvin did exactly what he had been trained to do over his 19-year career,” he said. “The use of force is not attractive but it is a necessary component of policing”.
Mr Nelson also focused his opening arguments on Mr Floyd’s alleged drug use, arguing traces of fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system combined with his existing heart disease and high blood pressure had caused his death.
Outside the courthouse in downtown Minneapolis, Mr Floyd’s family said they were prepared for the defence to attempt to “assassinate” his character, but signalled the trial would have broader implications for America.
The Floyd family and supporters knelt in protest outside the Hennepin County courthouse for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time Mr Chauvin was initially reported to have knelt on Mr Floyd’s neck during his arrest.
Ben Crump, a lawyer representing the Floyd family, said: “Today starts a landmark trial that will be a referendum on how far America has come in its quest for equality and justice for all”.
Some held signs saying “abolish the police”. Others sold tshirts and caps saying “I can’t breathe”, a reference to Mr Floyd’s last words.
At one point tensions grew between the protesters and locals going about their day.
Some of the crowd filled the road waving their “Black Lives Matter” flags in a stand off with cars attempting to pass through.
“You ain’t doing nothing for me,” one black motorist yelled out of the window. “Go to hell,” came the response from the crowd.
In a separate incident, a plastic water bottle was thrown at a passing car prompting the driver to get out and throw the protester to the ground.
But a largely peaceful crowd quickly calmed the situation. “We don’t want violence here,” they shouted.
Other drivers honked their horns in support of the protesters as they drove by.
Neil Hannan, a 30-year-old who works in construction said he was outside the courthouse because he was “sick of seeing (this) stuff in the news.”
Mr Hannan, who is white, said: “I understand that the things that are happening are not going to happen to me and somebody needs to stand up and say that’s not ok.”
With him was 30-year-old student Hannah, who said: “This case is important. This is the one (where) we need somebody to be locked up when they do this. They’re constantly doing this to black people. It’s insane.”
Abdirashiid Jibriil “Jawjawla”, a longtime Minneapolis resident who is originally from Somalia, said he had been showing his support since 8am.
“We’re not talking about skin colour, we are talking about justice,” he said.
Protesters plan to hold a rally outside the courthouse from 4pm.
Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.