Darnella Frazier, the teenager who filmed George Floyd’s arrest, testifies at the trial.

March 30, 2021, 11:43 a.m. ET
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‘He Was Suffering’: Teenager Who Filmed Floyd’s Arrest Testifies at Trial

Darnella Frazier, who was 17 years old when she filmed video of George Floyd’s arrest, testified during the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in Mr. Floyd’s death.

“And is this as you are approaching Cup Foods on May 25?” “Yes.” “Now see, there, your cousin goes into the store. Why did she go into the store, and then you turned around and then came back toward the squad cars?” “I wanted to make sure she got in.” [inaudible] “When you walk past the squad car there, did you see anything happening there on the ground as you were walking towards Cup Foods with your cousin?” “Yes, I see a man on the ground and I see a cop kneeling down on him.” “Was there anything about the scene that you didn’t want your cousin to see?” “Yes” “And what was that?” “A man terrified, scared, begging for his life.” “Is that why you directed your cousin to going into Cup Foods?” “Yes.” “And, and then when you saw what was happening there, at the scene, what was it about the scene that caused you to come back?” “He wasn’t right. He was he was suffering. He was in pain.” “So tell the jury what you observed, what you heard when you stopped to look at what was happening there at the scene.” “I heard George Floyd saying, ‘I can’t breathe. Please get off of me. I can’t breathe.’ He he cried for his mom. He was in pain. It seemed like he knew. It seemed like he knew it was over for him. He was terrified.”

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Darnella Frazier, who was 17 years old when she filmed video of George Floyd’s arrest, testified during the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in Mr. Floyd’s death.CreditCredit...Still image via Court TV

The woman who recorded Derek Chauvin as he knelt on George Floyd’s neck in a video that challenged the initial police narrative and brought a wave of attention to the death of Mr. Floyd gave emotional testimony in court on Tuesday morning.

Darnella Frazier was 17 when she recorded the cellphone video and uploaded it to Facebook in May, igniting international protests over racism and police abuse. Ms. Frazier, now 18, said in court that she feels regret for not physically engaging the officers, but that they were the ones ultimately at fault.

“It’s been nights I stayed up apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” Ms. Frazier said. She added, seemingly referring to Mr. Chauvin, who sat with his lawyer nearby: “But it’s like, it’s not what I should have done, it’s what he should have done.”

Ms. Frazier has largely stayed out of the spotlight since Mr. Floyd’s death, but she said his death has haunted her and that she has anxiety.

“When I look at George Floyd, I look at my dad, I look at my brothers, I look at my cousins, my uncles, because they’re all Black,” Ms. Frazier said. “I have a Black father. I have a Black brother. I have Black friends.

She added: “I look at how that could have been one of them.”

On the day of Mr. Floyd’s death, Ms. Frazier said, she had been walking to the Cup Foods convenience store with her 9-year-old cousin to get some snacks when they came upon the arrest.

“I see a man on the ground, and I see a cop kneeling down on him,” Ms. Frazier said. She described seeing Mr. Floyd “terrified, scared, begging for his life.”

Ms. Frazier said that as a crowd of bystanders yelled more loudly at the officers, Mr. Chauvin reached for his mace. “I felt in danger when he did that,” she said.

Ms. Frazier’s voice was emotional on the stand and she cried several times during her testimony. Judge Peter A. Cahill ruled on Tuesday that Ms. Frazier and three other witnesses, two of whom are minors and one of whom is also 18, could testify off-camera. Audio of their testimony is being broadcast live.

Ms. Frazier made one of her first public comments earlier this month, as the jury was being selected, when she wrote on Facebook and Instagram that Mr. Chauvin “deserves to go down” and wondered aloud “what else got covered up if it was no evidence.”

Ms. Frazier has been praised by Chief Medaria Arradondo of the Minneapolis Police Department and, in December, received an award for courage from PEN America, a group that promotes free expression. Spike Lee, the film director, presented her with the award during a virtual event.