A firefighter testified in court Tuesday that she had been "desperate" to help George Floyd and begged police officers to check his pulse while he struggled to breathe under the weight of Derek Chauvin's knee, but they didn't allow her.
Genevieve Hansen, a 27-year-old Minneapolis firefighter, broke down while testifying as a witness for the prosecution on the second day of Chauvin's murder trial.
Hansen was called as a witness after three teenagers and a 9-year-old girl, who were among the other onlookers that day, recalled traumatic details about witnessing Floyd's arrest and the helplessness they felt in being unable to help him as he died.
Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
Hansen, who was off duty at the time of Floyd's arrest, was among the group of bystanders who documented the officers' actions on their cellphones.
In the videos, she can be heard repeatedly yelling at the officers and pleading with them to let her check Floyd's pulse.
She also called 911, telling the dispatcher, "I literally watched police officers not take a pulse and not do anything to save a man."
Hansen, who was dressed in her uniform in court, began crying as she recalled feeling "distressed" that she was prevented from helping Floyd despite her medical experience.
"I could have given medical assistance, and that's exactly what I should have done," she said, adding that she couldn't "because the officers didn't let [her] on the scene."
Hansen said that she also offered to walk the officers through the steps they could have taken to help Floyd, including starting chest compressions if he didn't have a pulse. "That wasn't done either," she said.
Hansen said she was going for a walk on May 25, 2020, when she heard a woman "screaming that they were killing him."
She said she walked closer to the scene because she was concerned by the sight of "a handcuffed man who was not moving with officers with their whole body weight on their back and a crowd that was stressed out."
Hansen testified that she'd tried different tactics to persuade the officers to let her intervene and help Floyd, ranging from being "calm and reasoning" and "assertive" to being pleading and "desperate."
She recalled identifying herself as a firefighter right away because she noticed that Floyd needed medical attention.
She said his face was "smooshed into the ground" and that it looked "puffy and swollen, which would happen if you were putting a grown man’s weight on someone’s neck."
She testified that one of the officers responded "something along the lines of ‘If you really are a Minneapolis firefighter, you would know better than to get involved.’"
Had she been given access by the officers, Hansen said, she would have looked at Floyd's airway for obstructions, checked for a pulse, and called for additional help.
"Were you frustrated?" prosecutor Matthew Frank asked Hansen in court.
"Yes," she replied, tearing up and taking a sip of water. "I was desperate to help."
She told the court that it was important for her to record what happened because "memories of witnesses are never going to be as good as a video." She recalled that after the ambulance left with Floyd, she remained standing there at the scene in "disbelief" and feeling helpless.
When asked why she felt that way, she replied, "Because there’s a man being killed and ... had I had access to a call similar to that, I would have been able to provide medical attention to the best of my abilities, and this human was denied that right."
She said she called 911 after "things had calmed down" but wished she had done so sooner.
Hansen said she continued to remain at the scene because she was worried about the safety of other witnesses, particularly "people of color and a Black man" because there were police officers present at the time.
Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, who has characterized the bystanders as "angry" and a "growing threat" to the officers by interfering with their jobs, asked Hansen if she was angry and upset at the scene.
"I don’t know if you've seen anybody been killed, but it's upsetting," she replied, promoting Judge Peter Cahill to instruct her to answer the specific question.
Nelson and Hansen appeared to have several testy exchanges as he cross-examined her. After the jury left, Cahill appeared to reprimand Hansen.
"I'm advising you do not argue with the counsel and the court," Cahill told her. "You will not argue with the court."