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An off-duty Minneapolis firefighter and trained EMT testified Tuesday that she begged officers to let her help George Floyd as he died—but one of the law enforcers “didn’t let her into the scene” and told her off.
“If you really are a Minneapolis firefighter then you know better than to get involved,” Minneapolis police officer Tou Thao told Genevieve Hansen, according to her testimony in Hennepin County Court on Tuesday.
Dressed in her official uniform, the 27-year-old began to cry as she explained to jurors all the different “tactics” she tried to use to convince the four cops arresting Floyd to let her into the scene. She said she pled, begged, and even cursed at the officers because she was so “desperate to help.”
“I was really concerned. I thought his face looked puffy and swollen which would happen if you are putting a grown man's weight on someone's neck,” she said, adding that she was “totally distressed” when her offers to help were ignored. “I identified myself right away because I noticed he needed medical help right away.”
“I was desperate to help and wasn’t getting to do what I needed to do,” she said.
Hansen said she pulled out her phone to record the arrest. After Floyd’s lifeless body was loaded into an ambulance, she said she called 911 “after it all settled in and I wished that I had done that immediately.”
“I literally watched police officers not take a pulse and not do anything to save a man,” Hansen told 911 dispatchers on May 25, according to a recording played in court. As her call was played to the court, Chauvin stared across the courtroom.
Hansen is one of seven witnesses to testify against Chauvin so far as prosecutors seek to prove he used excessive force when he kneeled on Floyd’s neck for over 9 minutes during an arrest over an alleged counterfeit $20 bill.
Chauvin, 45, has pleaded not guilty to second and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter and faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted. His lawyer, Eric Nelson, has argued that Floyd’s death was the result of health issues and drugs—and that his client was simply doing what “he was trained to do throughout his 19-year career.”
Three other officers—Thao, Thomas K. Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng—have pleaded not guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree murder while committing a felony, as well as aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter with culpable negligence. They are expected to face a trial together in August.
Hansen said she was “going for a walk” on May 25 after working a 48-hour shift at the firehouse. After seeing police lights from a distance, she thought there may be a fire close-by and walked in that direction.
“As I got closer there was a woman across the street screaming that they were killing him,” she said, adding that she circled the scene then moved closer because she “was concerned to see a handcuffed man who was not moving with officers with their whole body weight on his back and a crowd that was stressed out.”
Hansen said that, in addition to being certified in rendering aid, she works at a busy fire station “with a lot of overdoses” and regularly sees unconscious and “pulse-less” people in her job.
Her experience allowed her to realize Floyd was in immediate danger, prompting her to approach Chauvin and Thao to try to insist they check a pulse, she said. In a video played in court Tuesday, Hansen can be heard saying multiple times she is a trained medical professional. Instead, Thao directed her onto the sidewalk with the growing crowd and seemed to scold her for offering her assistance.
“That’s not right, that’s exactly what I should have done. There was no medical assistance on the scene,” she said Tuesday, adding she would have provided “medical attention to the best of my abilities.”
Feeling “helpless,” Hansen said that she began to get angry at the officers and recorded the scene.
Another bystander, 33-year-old MMA fighter Donald Williams, testified Tuesday that he repeatedly told Chauvin he was using a dangerous chokehold. In a video of the incident, Williams can be heard begging Chauvin to remove his knee from Floyd’s neck—calling him several names that he said he didn’t regret.
Darnella, a teenager who shot the viral video of Floyd’s death, testified Tuesday that Floyd “was suffering” and repeatedly saying he could not breathe. As the crowd grew, Chauvin and Thao even reached for their mace, she said.
“You guys are on another level!” Hansen yells a video as Chauvin continues to kneel on Floyd’s neck. Prosecutors said Floyd did not have a pulse when he was loaded into the emergency vehicle.
Darnella told jurors that paramedics had to motion for Chauvin to get off Floyd when they arrived. The teenager’s 9-year-old-cousin, who also testified on Tuesday, described how Chauvin had to be “pulled” off Floyd.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner concluded Floyd died of cardiac arrest from the restraint and neck compression, also noting that Floyd had heart disease and fentanyl in his system. An independent report commissioned by Floyd’s family, which will not be shown at trial, concluded that he died of strangulation from the pressure to his back and neck. Both reports determined Floyd’s death was a homicide.
Getting angry on the stand, Hansen said that, had she been working the day Floyd was arrested, she “would have been able to provide medical attention to the best of my abilities...and this human was denied that right."
“I should have called 911 immediately,” Hansen said.