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"We Did It": The Bystanders Who Testified Against Derek Chauvin Reacted To His Guilty Verdict

"My heart goes out to George Floyd's family! ❤️🙏🏽Although no amount of charges will bring back a loved one, justice was served and his murderer will pay the price. We did it ❤️❤️✊🏽#justicewasserved"

Posted on April 21, 2021, at 2:29 p.m. ET

Minneapolis Police Department via AP, File

The bystanders who recorded George Floyd's final moments before he was killed by Derek Chauvin are seen in an image from a police body camera.

After Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd on Tuesday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison thanked the bystanders whose powerful cellphone videos and emotional testimony documenting Floyd's final moments were key to Chauvin's conviction.

"The people who stopped and raised their voices on May 25, 2020, were a bouquet of humanity: young and old, men and women, black and white. A man from the neighborhood walking to get a drink. A child going to buy a snack. An off-duty firefighter on her way to a community garden. Brave young women who pressed 'record' on their phones. Why did they stop?" Ellison said at a press conference.

"They stopped and raised their voices because they knew what they were seeing was wrong. And they were right."

Several of these onlookers, who the defense failed to paint as an angry and unruly crowd during the trial, broke down crying on the stand when they recalled feeling guilty and helpless at being unable to help Floyd as he took his last breath under the weight of Chauvin's knee.

On Wednesday, they cried again, this time with relief, vindication, and joy when a jury found Chauvin guilty on all charges of murder and manslaughter.

Darnella Frazier, now 18, whose viral video of Floyd's arrest sparked worldwide protests against police brutality, shared her reaction to the verdict in a Facebook post.

"I just cried so hard," the teen wrote. "George Floyd we did it!!"

Facebook

On Instagram, Frazier wrote, "My heart goes out to George Floyd's family! ❤️🙏🏽Although no amount of charges will bring back a loved one, justice was served and his murderer will pay the price. We did it ❤️❤️✊🏽#justicewasserved"

Instagram

Darnella Frazier's Instagram story after the verdict

Frazier and her 9-year-old cousin, Judeah Reynolds, were among the first to arrive at the scene of Floyd's arrest outside the Cup Foods store. She said she was the first bystander to start recording the deadly encounter.

"I heard George Floyd saying, ‘I can’t breathe, get off of me, I can’t breathe.’ He cried for his mom. He was in pain,” Frazier testified during the trial. “It seemed like he knew it was over for him.”

She told the court in tears that she spent sleepless nights repeatedly apologizing to 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."

Court TV, Pool

Darnell Fraizer and her cousin Judeah Reynolds arriving at the scene of Floyd's arrest on May 25, 2020

Hundreds replied to Frazier's social media posts on Tuesday, praising her courage and her presence of mind.

"You are a hero. Thank you. I hope you are able to rest a little easier. I know the fight is a long way from over but your bravery, and this conviction, is hopefully a start," one person wrote in a comment.

"Thank you so much for being so brave," another person wrote. "I'm so sorry you had to bear witness to George Floyd's murder, and I hope there is some amount of healing from this verdict."

The teen thanked everyone for their comments, saying, "The support I had since day one carried me a long way."

Two other witnesses, Charles McMillian, who pleaded with Floyd to comply with police, and Genevieve Hansen, an off-duty firefighter who begged the officers to check Floyd's pulse, were reunited at George Floyd Square where a large crowd erupted in cheers and tears after the verdict.

BBC journalist Lebo Diseko captured the emotional moment when the two hugged each other, as McMillian said, "We did it — we put him in jail."

Tears as 2 key witnesses are reunited. 61 year old Charles Macmillan and firefighter Genevieve Hansen both testified against #DerekChauvin . “We did it - we put him in jail” Charles says #ChauvinTrial #GeorgeFloyd

Twitter: @lebo_diseko

BBC's Tara Neill also shared photos of Hansen and McMillian on Twitter.

Quite a moment. “We did it!” - two of the most powerful witnesses from the #derekchauvintrial Charles McMillian and Genevieve Hansen meet in George Floyd Square.

Twitter: @TARANEILL

In a heartbreaking moment of the trial, McMillian, 61, broke down in court as he watched the video of himself witnessing Floyd yelling "I can't breathe" and calling for his mother during the arrest. McMillian repeatedly told Floyd at the time, "You can't win."

McMillian told CBS This Morning's Gayle King that he heard about the verdict when someone at the car wash where he works told him, "Man, you really did it."

"I said, 'I did what?' And he said [Chauvin] was guilty of all charges," McMillian said.

He said he became emotional in the courtroom because, like Floyd, he too had lost his mother.

"To hear George cry out for his mom, and 'mama' couldn't help him. It made me just helpless because I don't have a mom either and that's what broke me, was ‘mama,'" McMillian told King.

Charles McMillian on why he got so emotional at #DerekChauvinTrial: "It's come from me losing my mom prior to this... to hear George cry out for his mom, and mama couldn't help him. It made me just helpless because I don't have a mom either and that's what broke me, was ‘mama.’"

Twitter: @CBSThisMorning

Donald Williams, an MMA fighter, who was one of the most vocal bystanders pleading with Chauvin to get off Floyd's neck and a key witness during the trial, was seen smiling and fist-bumping Floyd family attorney Tony Romanucci during a post-verdict press conference.

Julio Cortez / AP, John Minchillo / AP

Attorney Tony Romanucci (center left) hugs Donald Williams, during a news conference after the guilty verdict was read on Tuesday, April 20.

Williams, who testified that Chauvin used a “blood choke” on Floyd that cut off his oxygen, was often singled out by Chauvin's defense attorney Eric Nelson to support his argument that an "angry" crowd became a "threat" to the officers.

"It's fair to say that you grew angrier and angrier,” Nelson asked Williams during a tense exchange at the trial.

“I grew professional and professional. I stayed in my body,” Williams responded. “You can’t paint me out to be angry.”

Williams told CNN on Tuesday that Chauvin's guilty verdict took "a lot of weight off my shoulders."

"It's been some really long nights, really long days, and a really long year," he said. "Today was a lot of weight off my shoulders, not only for me and my family but for George Floyd's family and the world."

"This is a big accomplishment and a big step to getting justice for Black Americans," Williams said.

Donald Williams, who witnessed George Floyd's death and testified for the prosecution, reflects on the guilty verdict, saying it's "a big step for Black Americans."

Twitter: @CuomoPrimeTime

He also acknowledged the testimony of the others who bore witness to Floyd's last moments.

"We all went out there and we told the truth, we told what we'd seen, and if the world didn't see what we'd seen, then it was blinders still on," Williams said. "I believe the blinders are off now because of the verdict that was made today."

Williams addressed Nelson's attempt to characterize him as "angry" during the trial, saying he had experienced that throughout his life.

"What [Nelson] did for me was just give me more fuel to be comfortable on the stand," he said. "Because I knew his tactics was to see me as a Black man and to see that I was angry. ... He was not able to break me, because we're unbreakable. We've been through this fight for 400-plus years."

In his post-verdict remarks, Ellison recognized the bystanders' bravery in coming forward to testify in what was one of the most closely watched and consequential police prosecutions in the country.

"These community members — this bouquet of humanity — did it again at this trial," Ellison said. "They performed simple, yet profound, acts of courage. They told the world the truth of what they saw."


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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