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Firefighter who watched George Floyd die returns to stand in Derek Chauvin trial

An off-duty Minneapolis firefighter who was rebuffed from rendering aid to George Floyd last May returned to the stand in Derek Chauvin’s trial on Wednesday, a day after her cross-examination grew contentious.

Genevieve Hansen testified on Tuesday she was out for a walk on her day off and came upon Floyd in clear medical distress under Chauvin’s knee. She tried to help Floyd and repeatedly asked police to check for a pulse, but they refused.

“I tried calm reasoning, I tried to be assertive, I pled and was desperate,” she testified. “I was desperate to give help.”

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On cross-examination, Hansen became combative with defense attorney Eric Nelson, repeatedly taking issue with his questioning and responding with snark. “I don’t know if you’ve ever seen someone die in front of you, but it’s very upsetting,” she said at one point.

After dismissing the jury for the day, Judge Peter Cahill admonished Hansen, telling her to answer questions and stop arguing when she returned Wednesday. However, defense attorney Eric Nelson asked just one question of her on Wednesday morning, confirming she did not show the officers on the scene her ID.

Hansen was one of six bystanders who testified on Tuesday, the second day of Chauvin’s criminal trial, along with a 9-year-old girl, three high school students and a mixed martial arts fighter. All arrived at the corner of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis looking to buy snacks from a corner store or to simply get fresh air — only to witness Floyd’s last breaths.

“I was sad and kind of mad,” the 9-year-old testified. “Because it felt like he was stopping his breathing, and it was kind of like hurting him.”

One teenage high schooler who recorded and shared video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd said she had lost sleep over the incident thinking of what else she could have done.

“It’s been nights I’ve stayed up apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” she said. “But it’s not what I should have done, it’s what he should have done.”

Defense tries to show crowd was ‘threat’

Their harrowing testimony furthered the prosecution’s opening statement that asked jurors to focus on video of the 9 minutes and 29 seconds that Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck.

“You can believe your eyes that it’s a homicide,” prosecuting attorney Jerry Blackwell said Monday. “You can believe your eyes.”

Nelson, Chauvin’s defense attorney, has argued that the case is more complicated than just the video. He said Chauvin was following his police use of force training and argued Floyd’s cause of death was a combination of drug use and preexisting health issues.

He also said that the bystanders morphed into a threatening crowd, which distracted the officers. In contentious cross-examinations of Hansen and MMA fighter Donald Williams II on Tuesday, Nelson tried to get them to admit that they and the crowd were angry as Floyd slowly died. They insisted they were increasingly desperate, helpless and concerned.

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

Chauvin, 45, has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

His trial comes 10 months after Floyd’s death sparked a summer of protest, unrest and a societal reckoning with America’s past and present of anti-Black racism and aggressive policing.

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, attendance is strictly limited inside the courtroom. The trial is being broadcast live in its entirety, giving the public a rare peek into the most important case of the Black Lives Matter era.

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