'We gotta control this guy': Derek Chauvin heard defending police's restraint of George Floyd

The former Minneapolis police officer on trial for the murder of George Floyd was heard for the first time defending the actions of the police, telling a bystander they had to control Floyd because he's "a sizeable guy" who was "probably on something" in footage from his body camera shown in court Wednesday.

Store clerk says Floyd appeared high, paid with seemingly counterfeit money

In this image from police body cam video, Minneapolis police officers attempt to remove George Floyd from a vehicle, on May 25, 2020, outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis. (Court TV/The Associated Press)

The former Minneapolis police officer on trial for the murder of George Floyd was heard for the first time defending the actions of the police, telling a bystander they had to control Floyd because he's "a sizeable guy" who was "probably on something" in footage from his body camera shown in court Wednesday.

That video clip from Derek Chauvin's body camera, played for the jury in Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis, marked the first time the public heard comments from the former officer about the events of May 25, 2020.

Those comments were coupled with the emotional testimony of 61-year-old bystander Charles McMillian who broke down on the stand upon watching footage of Floyd's pleas while police struggled with him, trying to get him into their squad car, and eventually, pinning him to the ground.

The video, which had been previously released, was part of dramatic and graphic police bodycam footage of the entire ordeal. It included the police arrival at the convenience store where Floyd had been accused of passing off a counterfeit $20 bill and ended with him unresponsive and being loaded on to a gurney and taken away by ambulance.

The jury heard Chauvin speaking with McMillian after the ambulance had taken Floyd away.

McMillian told Chauvin, who had been pressing his knee into Floyd's neck as Floyd lay on the ground, handcuffed, that he didn't respect what Chauvin had done.

WATCH | Derek Chauvin defends police actions

Chauvin defends restraint of Floyd to bystander

2 years ago
Duration 0:10
Footage from the body camera of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin captures him telling bystander Charles McMillian that officers have to restrain George Floyd because he's a 'sizeable guy.' Chauvin is on trial for murder and manslaughter in connection with Floyd's death on May 25, 2020.

"That's one person's opinion," Chauvin is heard saying. "We gotta control this guy because he's a sizeable guy. Looks like he's probably on something."

The jury also saw never-before released video of Floyd in the store shortly before his arrest.

Chauvin, 45, who is white, faces two murder charges — second-degree unintentional murder and third-degree murder — in the death of Floyd. Floyd died after Chauvin pressed a knee on the back of Floyd's neck for around nine minutes as two other officers held him down. Video captured by a bystander showed the handcuffed Floyd repeatedly say he couldn't breathe. 

In this image from video, witness Charles McMillian becomes emotional as he answers questions in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. (Court TV/Associated Press)

Chauvin, who was fired from the police force after Floyd's death, is also charged with the lesser offence of second-degree manslaughter.

The prosecution claims Chauvin crushed his knee into Floyd's neck, an application of unreasonable force that it says led to his death later in hospital. But Chauvin's defence argues the 19-year veteran police officer did exactly as he had been trained to do and that Floyd's death was the result of a combination of underlying medical conditions and drugs in his system.

Three other officers at the scene were also fired. Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter, and will go on trial in August.

In this image from store video, George Floyd, right, is seen inside Cup Foods on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis. (Court TV/The Associated Press)

The police bodycam footage shown in court on Wednesday revealed a fearful Floyd, handcuffed and pleading with the officers that "I'm not a bad guy!" as they tried to wrestle him into a squad car.

"I'm going to die, man," Floyd says. "I just had COVID. I don't want to go back to that."

Once in the backseat, he twisted and writhed, and officers eventually pulled him out and brought him to the ground. Once Floyd was on the ground, Chauvin's knee was on his neck, another officer's knee was on his back and a third held his legs.

At one point, McMillian can be heard saying to Floyd: "You can't win," and "Get up and get in the car."

Floyd replied: "I can't."

McMillian broke down after being shown the footage of Floyd pleading that he can't breathe and crying for his mother.

"Oh my God," he said, weeping. 

"I feel helpless," he said. "I don't have a mama either. I understand him." 

Court then adjourned for a brief period to allow McMillian to regain his composure.

Earlier in the day, court heard from the former convenience store cashier who claimed Floyd gave him a counterfeit $20 bill. Christopher Martin testified he felt "disbelief and guilt" as he later watched Floyd being pinned to the ground by police.

"If I would've just not [taken] the bill, this could've been avoided," said Martin, 19, who had been an employee at the Cup Foods store.

WATCH | Floyd in Minneapolis convenience store:

George Floyd in Minneapolis convenience store

3 years ago
Duration 3:20
Video of George Floyd in the Cup Foods convenience store shortly before his confrontation with police outside.

Along with Martin's testimony, the jury also saw about 10 minutes of video footage of Floyd inside the Cup Foods convenience store, where he had gone to buy some cigarettes.

In the video, Floyd can be seen walking through the store, waiting in line, laughing and doing what appears to be a brief dance.

Martin testified that Floyd was very friendly, approachable and talkative and that he had asked Floyd if he played baseball.

Floyd responded that he played football but it took him a little long to "get to what he wanted to say" and that it "appeared he was high," Martin told the court.

Martin said he sold Floyd a pack of cigarettes, at which time Floyd handed him a $20 bill. When Floyd left the store, Martin said he examined the bill and determined, because it had a "blue pigment" to it, that it was counterfeit.

Former convenience store cashier Christopher Martin testified that Floyd gave him a counterfeit $20 bill. (Court TV/The Associated Press)

Martin also noted that the store's policy is that counterfeit bills that are accepted by the cashiers will come out of their salary.

He said he initially planned to just put the bill on his "tab" and that he thought Floyd "didn't really know that it was a fake bill."

However, Martin notified the store manager, who told Martin to go outside and ask Floyd to come back into the store.

Martin said he attempted that twice, once with one co-worker, and a second time with two different co-workers. Both times, Martin said, Floyd refused to come back into the store.

It was after the second refusal that the manager told another co-worker to call the police.

Under cross examination by Chauvin's defence counsel Eric Nelson, Martin told court that Floyd had been in the store earlier with another man. That man, said Martin, had been caught trying to pass off a counterfeit $20 bill, one that looked similar to the bill Floyd had paid with, Martin said. 


Mark Gollom

Senior Reporter

Mark Gollom is a Toronto-based reporter with CBC News. He covers Canadian and U.S. politics and current affairs.

With files from The Associated Press