To the prosecution, the witnesses who watchedbody go still were regular people – a firefighter, a mixed martial arts fighter, a high school student, and her 9-year-old cousin in a T-shirt emblazoned with the word “Love” – going about their daily lives when they happened upon the dreadful scene of an officer kneeling on a man’s neck. “Normal folks, the bystanders,” prosecutor Jerry Blackwell called them in his opening statement. “You’ll see these bystanders, a veritable bouquet of humanity.
In his closing argument on Monday, prosecutor Steve Schleicher described how, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death, stayed on top of Floyd and “continued to push him down, to grind his knees, to twist his hand, to twist his fingers into the handcuffs that bound him looking at him, staring, staring down at times the horrified
bystanders who had gathered and watched this unfold. But some of the same people were portrayed as unruly, angry, and even threatening by Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney. Nelson told the jury about the officers’ hostility and how they were distracted and perhaps frightened by people at the scene. He repeatedly described the bystanders as a “crowd” and called the neighborhood a “high crime area.
“As the crowd grew in size, seemingly so too did their anger,” Nelson said in his opening statement on March 29. “And remember, there’s more to the scene than just what the officers see in front of them. There is a growing crowd and what officers perceive to be a threat. There are people behind them, teople across the street, stopping people and yelling.
The carefully calibrated language by each side was no accident. As Nelson cross-examined Donald Williams, a former wrestler and a mixed martial arts fighter who also worked security, he peppered his questions with the word “crowd”: “Have you ever had to deal with a crowd of people?” “Have you ever had to deal with a crowd of upset people?” and “Is it easier or harder to deal with an upset crowd?”
The video of the scene suggests something less than a crowd. Around 15 people can be seen onon the sidewalk in front of Cub Foods, where Chauvin pinned Floyd to the street. That camera shows , who made the most widely seen bystander video, walking past with her 9-year-old cousin, then returning to begin filming, one of the first people to stop and watch. Others gather one by one.
A still image of body-camera footage from Officer Tou Thao, facing the bystanders and admonishing them to stay on the sidewalk, shows 14 people. At least five are female, including Frazier, her cousin, and two teenagers. One bystander is a small child. At least three people have their phones out to capture the scene. Of the 14, only one – a teenage girl two steps into the street with her phone out – is off the sidewalk at that point, although theshows others stepping into the road at times. Nelson suggested others were off-camera – across the street and on the other side of the intersection – through the broadest camera view doesn’t show a crowd at the meeting. He highlighted passing cars that may have heightened officers’ stress.