PM session: Witness testimony in Chauvin trial continues Wednesday afternoon

Updated: March 31, 2021 05:20 PM
Created: March 31, 2021 08:32 AM

4:34 p.m.

The jury is dismissed for the day. They will return for court on Thursday starting anywhere between 9:15-9:30 a.m., according to the judge.

Nelson cross-examines Rugel. He also proposed an offer of proof, noting that he believes the state shortened the length of the body cameras.

Rugel makes the court aware that the Minneapolis Park Police maintains their own body camera videos, separate from MPD.

2:54 p.m.

The court has reconvened. A new witness takes the stand, Lt. James Rugel. He works at the Minneapolis Police Department. He notes he has worked there for "just over 32 years." He adds he manages the tech equipment for the department.

State prosecutor Steve Schleicher considers this witness "more of a foundational" witness. 

He was promoted in 2000. Rugel states he previously worked as a patrol officer and also worked as an investigator on gang and drug trafficking cases. 

When asked about surveillance footage available, Rugel tells the court that there are roughly 250 public safety cameras in high traffic areas, or areas they expect to see a lot of "activity." He adds the cameras are on 24/7 and can be monitored from police precincts and at a strategic information center. He went into more detail of the process in how videos can be requested and downloaded from their database.

A sergeant requested to see the video from the incident that happened last Memorial Day. Rugel says the timestamp in the videos cannot be edited by anyone.

One of those cameras, positioned on top of Speedway, across the street from Cup Foods in Minneapolis, recorded the incident. The court shows that video to jurors.

Rugel identified on a map where cameras can be seen in the area. Schleicher also asked about body-worn cameras.

"As of now every sworn employee has a body-worn camera," he said, adding his department is the primary point of contact for their body-worn camera vendor. 

"It requires officers working in uniform, always wear their body-worn camera. That they have it on standby mode whenever they're working and that they activate and record video when they're responding to a call," Rugel said.

Rugel compared the functionality of the cameras to DVR. He said when you press a button on the camera to activate it, it turns on the sound and saves the previous 30 seconds without sound. He also says depending on the type of video, the minimum retention is a year. For any other evidence, it is held for seven years, and some specific cases could be an "infinite" amount of time they are able to retain the footage. 

Body camera footage was played from Lane on May 25, 2020.

The video shows Lane approaching Floyd's vehicle, detaining Floyd, and then he starts to question the two other passengers in the car. Then, Floyd is moved to the squad car, where police wanted him in the backseat. 

At the 8:27 mark of the video, Schleicher points out an object on the ground as officers put their weight on Floyd. Rugel confirmed it was a body camera. 

An officer is heard asking if they should move Floyd on his side. The officers remain on top of Floyd. The bystanders are heard repeatedly requesting the officers to check his pulse.

After showing Lane's body camera footage, Schleicher presented Kueng's body camera footage of the incident. It shows Kueng approaching the passenger side of the vehicle, then switches to the driver's side to assist Lane. He then questions Floyd about the 911 call.

As Floyd pleads that he is claustrophobic, an officer says "I hear you," and continues to shove Floyd into the squad car. Floyd suggested the officers have him "lay on the ground," again stating he was claustrophobic. Kueng appears to strike Floyd with his hands on the chest and torso several times to try to force him into the back seat of the squad car as Floyd continues visibly and audibly panicking in the video.

An officer is heard telling Floyd "it takes a lot of oxygen to keep talking," in response to Floyd pleading that he couldn't breathe. Floyd eventually fell silent with officers remaining on top of him. One officer is heard saying "he's passed out."

Thao's body camera footage is also presented to the court. 

Chauvin is seen holding Floyd in a position while he was in the back of the squad car. The three officers on top of Floyd — Lane, Kueng and Chauvin — are seen without any emotion as Floyd pleads "I can't breathe."

"This is why you don't do drugs, kids," Thao tells the bystanders.

Based on Rugel's review, he confirmed the body camera seen on the ground was Chauvin's. His body camera is next to play in court. The footage was paused before Chauvin steps outside of the vehicle.

Chauvin's body camera resumes, and shortly after Chauvin has Floyd in the back of the squad car in a position, the body camera falls off his uniform onto the ground.

2:18 p.m.

Judge Cahill has put the court into a 20-minute break. He says counsel is going to discuss how to streamline upcoming testimonies. 

1:55 p.m.

The court is back in session. 

McMillian has conducted himself as he retakes the witness stand. State prosecutor Erin Eldridge resumes questioning.

He said he kept trying to communicate with Floyd during the developing situation. He was asked what stood out to him from watching that.

"When he kept saying 'I can't breathe,' 'Mama, they're killing me,' 'my body is shutting down,'" McMillian said. He heard the officers saying "if you keep talking you can breathe," in response to McMillian telling them to let off of Floyd.

McMillian is heard in the video saying, "get up! get in the car!" McMillian tells the court he was trying to help Floyd. He confirmed he told Chauvin that having his knee on Floyd's neck "was wrong." He was concerned for Floyd, stating he believed he could die.

Another video captured an interaction between McMillian and Chauvin. He said he told Chauvin, "Five days ago I told you the other day to go home to your family safe ... now I gotta look at you as a maggot." 

When asked why McMillian chose to speak to Chauvin, he informed the court "because what he did was wrong."

The defense chooses to not cross-examine this witness, ending his time spent on the stand. 

1:45 p.m.

The court has gone into a 10-minute break as McMillian was crying from watching the video. 

"I can't, I feel helpless. I don't have a mother either. I understand him," McMillian said, as he watched Floyd cry out "I can't breathe" and "Mama."

1:20 p.m.

Next on the witness stand is Charles McMillian. He stated he was "being nosy" to see what was going on in front of Cup Foods. 

Video surveillance shows McMillian walking closer to the scene on the sidewalk. He saw Floyd handcuffed with officers bringing him over to the squad located outside of Cup Foods.

The man says he was attempting to tell Floyd as he was sitting inside the squad car that he "can't win," and to let the officers take him into custody. The video's audio portion captures Floyd telling officers he is claustrophobic. 

McMillian says five days prior to the incident, he saw Chauvin in the community in uniform. He states he has seen him in the community before that as well. He was able to identify him at the scene right away, due to seeing him previously.

The man showed heavy emotion while on the stand when the video from Cup Foods was shown side by side with the body cam footage of Floyd. 

Three more witnesses took the stand Wednesday morning to testify in the Derek Chauvin trial.

Minneapolis firefighter Genevieve Hansen, former Cup Foods employee Christopher Martin and a man who initially parked his vehicle behind George Floyd's SUV, Christopher Belfrey, testified before the court went into recess Wednesday afternoon.

Click here for a recap of what happened Wednesday morning

The court is expected to resume for the afternoon session starting at 1:15 p.m.

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