April 11, 2021

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Darnella Frazier, the teenager who recorded George Floyd’s death on video, says it changed her life

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MINNEAPOLIS —The teenager who recorded the infamous video showing the arrest and death of George Floyd gave an emotional testimony Tuesday in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, telling attorneys that the incident has changed her life.

“When I look at George Floyd, I look at my dad, I look at my brothers, I look at my cousins, my uncles,” Darnella Frazier told prosecutor Jerry Blackwell. She said there were nights she “stayed up apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more.”

Frazier, then 17 years old, said she was taking her 9-year-old cousin, who also testified briefly Tuesday, to nearby Cup Foods when she saw “a man terrified, scared, begging for his life.” Frazier started to cry as she described making sure her young cousin was inside the store so that she couldn’t see what was happening. 

“It wasn’t right,” she said. “He was suffering, he was in pain.”

Responding to a question from Blackwell, Frazier said she would not characterize the group on the sidewalk watching Floyd’s arrest as an unruly crowd. She said no one threatened the police or got physically violent toward the officers. The only violence she witnessed was “from the cops, from Chauvin and Officer (Tou) Thao.” Thao was the officer who stood between Chauvin and the crowd.

Derek Chauvin trial live: MMA fighter who witnessed George Floyd’s death says he called ‘the police on the police’

Frazier said she felt threatened when officers placed their hands on their chemical spray as those in the group tried to move closer to Chauvin and Floyd.

“I didn’t understand why the Mace was even needed at all,” she said.

She said as bystanders urged Chauvin to check Floyd’s pulse, he continued to kneel on Floyd’s neck.

“He actually was kneeling harder,” Frazier said Tuesday. “He was shoving his knee in his neck.”

On cross examination, defense attorney Eric Nelson questioned Frazier about the crowd, asking if they became louder as the incident went on. Frazier agreed voices became louder as Floyd became unresponsive.

“What we seen is how we reacted,” she told Nelson. “Like you said, the video speaks for itself.”

On redirect, Frazier told Blackwell she has “social anxiety” and that speaking up in the crowd was “out of my comfort zone.”

“I bottle things up,” she said.

More: George Floyd’s death was traumatizing for Black teens in Minneapolis, who fear the trial will be just as painful

Before Frazier took the stand Tuesday, Hennepin County Circuit Judge Peter Cahill ruled that livestream video of the courtroom would be cut off during the testimony of anyone who was a minor, in order to “to give them comfort” during the high profile trial.

Frazier’s video sparked nationwide protests against racism and police brutality. Frazier was taking her cousin to nearby Cup Foods when she saw four officers taking Floyd from his vehicle and pulled out her phone to record, her attorney Seth Cobin told the Star Tribune in June.

In December, Darnella Frazier accepted the 2020 PEN/Benenson Courage Award from Oscar-winning director Spike Lee for capturing Floyd's death.

Cobin acknowledged that as Frazier’s video went viral, she became the target of social media backlash. He told the Star Tribune that Frazier wasn’t looking to be a hero and is “just a 17-year-old high school student, with a boyfriend and a job at the mall, who did the right thing. She’s the Rosa Parks of her generation.”

In December, Frazier virtually accepted the 2020 PEN/Benenson Courage Award from Oscar-winning director Spike Lee for capturing Floyd’s death.

During the first week of jury selection, Frazier shared her thoughts on the case on Facebook, saying Chauvin “deserves to go down.”

“George Floyd was already cuffed on the ground, a knee to the neck when you’re already restrained is absolutely unnecessary,” she wrote. “That man was begging for his life and Chauvin did not care.”

Follow N’dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg


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