Darnella Frazier never expected that her footage of a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on a man’s neck outside Cup Foods last May would go viral — or that it would change her life.
Frazier took the stand as a witness for the prosecution Tuesday in the trial of former officer Derek Chauvin and gave at times tearful testimony heard only through courtroom audio. Frazier, who just turned 18, is among four witnesses Judge Peter A. Cahill allowed to testify off-camera since they were minors at the time of the incident or still are. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (D) has argued that Chauvin should face a harsher sentence if convicted because Floyd was killed in front of children.
On a cross-examination, Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson asked Frazier if the video had changed her life.
In a follow up, prosecutor Jerry W. Blackwell wanted to know how: “Would you tell the ladies and gentlemen how your viewing experience, and what happened to George Floyd, has affected your life?”
Frazier drew in a deep breath.
“When I look at George Floyd, I look at look at my dad. I look at my brother. I look at my cousins, my uncles, because they are all Black,” Frazier said. “I have a Black father. I have a Black brother. I have Black friends. And I look at that and I look at how that could have been one of them.”
“It’s been nights I stayed up apologizing and apologized to George Floyd for not doing more,” she added. “And not physically interacting.”
Shortly before she was dismissed from the stand, Frazier added that she tries not to blame herself or the other bystanders for what happened to Floyd.
“It’s not what I should have done,” she said, before referencing Chauvin, seated several feet away in the courtroom. “It’s what he should have done.”
Frazier was the fourth witness for the prosecution since testimony in the high-stakes trial began Monday. Less than two full days into it, prosecutors have already hinted through their witnesses and line of questioning how they are trying to build a case against Chauvin that will paint his actions as intentional and abnormal even for police use-of-force situations.
Witnesses on Monday gave bland testimony establishing how the scene appeared from their vantage points — an effort to undercut claims by Chauvin’s defense that he and the other Minneapolis police officers faced a large and angry crowd as they tried to subdue Floyd.
Frazier offered observations Tuesday that tried to prick other claims by the defense, including its narrative of the neighborhood around Cup Foods as one of “high crime.” She testified to feeling safe as she walked to the store on May 30 with her 9-year-old cousin to buy snacks. It was only after seeing police on the scene that she felt unsafe, she said.
She testified to seeing officers, including Chauvin, reach for their mace as the crowd pleaded for him to release Floyd.
“I felt like I was in danger when he did that,” she said. “I didn’t understand why they would do that; what we did to make them do that. That’s why I felt threatened.”
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Video timeline: How George Floyd’s death unfolded in Minneapolis
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Full coverage: Race & Reckoning