Darnella Frazier, an 18-year-old Minneapolis resident who recorded the viral video of Derek Chauvin using a knee chokehold on George Floyd's neck, gave emotional testimony Tuesday, saying that as bystanders pleaded with Chauvin to stop, she saw him pushing his knee harder into Floyd's neck.
It was the second day of Chauvin's murder trial, which is expected to last several weeks. Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
Her voice wavering and her breathing heavy at times, Frazier recounted her experience on May 25, 2020, while walking to Cup Foods with her younger cousin.
"I heard George Floyd saying 'I can't breathe,' 'Get off me,' 'I can't breathe,'" Frazier said. "It seemed like he knew it was over for him. He was terrified. He was suffering."
Surveillance footage from the street shows Frazier and her younger cousin walking by the police car to the store entrance, past Floyd and the officers on the ground. Frazier then turns back after her cousin goes into the store and begins recording.
Floyd is already begging for air and gasping "I can't breathe" at the beginning of Frazier's video.
Frazier testified that she told her cousin — a 9-year-old who took the stand after Frazier — to go into Cup Foods because she didn't want her cousin to see "a man terrified, scared, begging for his life."
Eric Nelson, Chauvin's defense attorney, had previously attempted to establish that bystanders at the scene were angry and unruly, and posed a distraction to the officers as they tried to restrain Floyd.
Frazier, who was 17 at the time, testified that the crowd was telling the officers to stop, saying "get off of him," "you're hurting him," and "he can't breathe," but she did not regard them as unruly.
She said she felt threatened by the officers, specifically Chauvin and Tou Thao, because she saw them put their hand on their mace when people tried to get close.
"I didn't understand why they would do that," she said. "I don't understand why the mace was even needed at all."
As bystanders shouted at them to stop, Chauvin, she said, "had, like this cold look" and "seemed as if he didn't care what we were saying."
Frazier said she saw Chauvin pressing his knee harder on Floyd's neck in response to the crowd getting louder.
"He actually was kneeling harder," Frazier said. "It looked like he was shoving his knee in his neck."
She also testified that Chauvin still had Floyd pinned in a knee chokehold when the ambulance arrived. A paramedic checked Floyd’s pulse while Chauvin’s knee was still on his neck, she said, and Chauvin only got up when the paramedic gestured for him to do so.
Earlier on Tuesday, the state had requested that video broadcast of four witnesses' testimonies — including Frazier's and her 9-year-old cousin's — be turned off to the public, citing their statuses as minors at the time of the incident.
Two more witnesses who were minors at the time are also expected to testify Tuesday.
The emotional toll of the incident and having to recount her experience on the stand was clear when Frazier spoke.
At the end of her testimony, when prosecution lawyer Jerry Blackwell asked Frazier how watching Floyd die changed her life, she spoke slowly, her voice breaking as she cried.
"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 are all Black ... I look at that and I look at how that could have been one of them," she said.
"It's been nights I stay up apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life. But it's not what I should have done," she said, before referencing Chauvin. "It's what he should have done."