The Wrong People Feel Guilty About George Floyd's Death

The Wrong People Feel Guilty About George Floyd's Death
Image:Court TV Pool (AP)

A teenage store clerk who confronted George Floyd about his alleged use of a counterfeit $20 bill told a Minneapolis courtroom Wednesday that he was riddled with “disbelief and guilt” when he saw Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck minutes later. Floyd died as a result.

Christopher Martin was an employee at the Cup Foods where Floyd purchased a pack of cigarettes on May 25, 2020 with what appeared to be a fake $20 bill. According to Cup Foods policy, any employee who accepts counterfeit money has to deduct the loss from their paycheck. Martin was convinced that Floyd didn’t know the bill was fake and initially decided he would take the loss before second-guessing himself and informing his manager about the bill. Martin said the manager insisted he confront Floyd, who was sitting outside in his car, and ask him to come back into the store. Floyd and the other passengers in the car refused. Martin insisted that he’ll pay for the $20 bill himself, but his manager demanded he go outside and try again.

When that didn’t work, the manager ordered Martin’s co-worker to call the police. Soon, Floyd was on the ground and handcuffed, with Chauvin’s knee digging into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Shocked bystanders caught the incident on camera, and Floyd was pronounced dead at the hospital just 30 minutes after the initial 911 call.

Floyd’s death sparked worldwide protests last summer against police brutality, anti-blackness, and state violence. Chauvin was fired from the police department and was arrested and charged with third-degree murder. Meanwhile, Martin was left traumatized.

“If I would have just not taken the bill this could have been avoided,” Martin testified, visibly upset. He quit his full-time job at Cup Foods after Floyd’s death, testifying that he “didn’t feel safe.”

“[Floyd] seemed very friendly, approachable, talkative, just seemed to be having an average Memorial Day,” Martin told the court, describing Floyd’s demeanor that day. “Just living his life. But he did seem high.”

The New York Times reports that Floyd’s autopsy will be a primary focus of the trial against Chauvin in the coming weeks of the trial. Floyd died with fentanyl in his system, and the autopsy also confirms that Floyd had recently used methamphetamines. Chauvin’s defense is eager to blame Floyd’s death on his drug use, while prosecutors insist that the amount of drugs Floyd consumed wouldn’t have been fatal given Floyd’s tolerance after years of addiction.

It’s only day three of what is expected to be a month-long trial, and the fact remains that Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the MPD who accumulated more than a dozen conduct complaints during his tenure, violently restrained Floyd and was caught on camera. Floyd’s history of drug use doesn’t change that.

None of this was worth $20.

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