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A Child And Three Teens Testified About The Traumatic Details Of Seeing George Floyd Struggling To Breathe

The teens, all of whom were minors at the time of Floyd's arrest, were among a group of bystanders who documented the officers' actions on their cellphones.

Posted on March 30, 2021, at 5:32 p.m. ET

People standing on the sidewalk hold up cellphones in this still from a police body camera
Minneapolis Police Department via AP

Three teens and a child who testified in Derek Chauvin's murder trial on Tuesday are seen here among a group of bystanders who witnessed Floyd's arrest.

Three teenagers and a 9-year-old girl who witnessed Derek Chauvin put George Floyd in a knee chokehold last May as the unarmed Black man cried out that he could not breathe were forced to relive the traumatic details of that day as they testified in the former Minneapolis police officer's murder trial on Tuesday.

On the second day of Chauvin's trial, two 18-year-old women and a 17-year-old girl delivered emotional testimony about what they saw happen on May 25, 2020.

"I could see [Floyd] was going unconscious and his eyes were starting to roll to the back of his head and saliva was coming out of his mouth," an 18-year-old who was only identified by her first name, Alyssa, told the court.

Two of the teens cried in court while testifying that they felt helpless for not being able to intervene and help Floyd as he took his last breaths while pinned on the ground.

"It was difficult because there wasn't anything I could do as a bystander," said Alyssa, who was 17 at the time of Floyd's arrest. "I was failing to do anything."

Darnella Frazier, the 18-year-old who recorded the viral video of Floyd's death, also cried as she described the sleepless nights she spent apologizing to him for "not saving his life."

"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."

The teens, all of whom were minors at the time of Floyd's arrest, were among a group of bystanders who documented the officers' actions on their cellphones.

Alyssa and the 17-year-old witness were friends who were on their way to Cup Foods to buy an aux cord for their radio.

When they heard Floyd's screams of "I can't breathe," Alyssa said, she took her friend's phone to begin documenting the scene.

"I knew initially there was something wrong, so I started recording," she told the court.

In the video she recorded, she could be heard asking for the officers' badge numbers. She testified on Tuesday that all she could do was document everything and everyone.

"I almost walked away at first because it was too much to take in," she said. "But I knew it was wrong and I couldn't walk away, even though I couldn't do anything about it."

The three teens testified how they became increasingly concerned seeing Floyd's physical condition deteriorate as Chauvin continued to press his knee into his neck.

"I knew that if he were to be held down much longer, he would not be alive," Alyssa said. "I knew time was running out, or it had already. He was going to die."

Frazier recounted hearing Floyd repeatedly saying "I can't breathe" and "get off me."

"It seemed like he knew it was over for him. He was terrified. He was suffering," she said.

Alyssa's 17-year-old friend told the court that Floyd "looked kinda like purple and like he wasn't getting enough circulation."

"He was really limp," she said, her voice breaking. "I didn't know for sure if George Floyd was dead until after the fact, but I had a gut feeling," she testified.

All three teens testified that at some point during the incident, they saw Chauvin digging his knee harder into Floyd's neck, even as bystanders begged him to stop.

They also said that Chauvin did not lift his knee off Floyd's neck, even after the ambulance had arrived and while paramedics were checking for his pulse.

Chauvin's defense attorney, Eric Nelson, has attempted to characterize the crowd of onlookers as "angry" and a "growing threat" to the officers involved in the arrest.

When asked why she was upset at the time, Alyssa said, "Because as bystanders there was nothing we could do except watch them take this man’s life in front of our eyes."

Frazier's 9-year-old cousin who was with her at the time told the court that she felt "sad and kind of mad because it felt like [Chauvin] was stopping his breathing and he was kind of hurting him."

The teens described the emotional toll of witnessing the incident on their lives.

"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," Frazier said in tears.

Alyssa said that she felt "emotionally numb" in the days after Floyd's death.

She said that she hasn't returned to Cup Foods since that day.

"I don't want to be reminded," she said.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.

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