Darnella Frazier was just a 17-year-old girl taking her nine-year-old cousin out for snacks when she stopped and filmed police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck. On Tuesday, Frazier testified at Chauvin’s trial. He is charged with murder in Floyd’s death. Her cellphone video is one of the prosecution’s central pieces of evidence.
Frazier cried throughout her time on the stand. “It’s been nights I stayed up apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” she said, according to The New York Times, explaining that she feels guilt for not physically intervening, despite the multiple armed officers at the scene. In harrowing testimony, the now-18-year-old described how she was with her cousin when she came across Floyd, who was on the ground, with Chauvin kneeling on him.
Frazier’s footage shows Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes and captures Floyd saying “I can’t breathe” before falling out of consciousness. You know what happened next—Floyd died and Frazier uploaded the footage to social media where it sparked an international movement demanding justice for Black people who’ve been the victims of racial violence and a major reckoning around structural racism here and all over the world. Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
On the witness stand, Frazier described Floyd as “terrified, scared, begging for his life.” She detailed how when bystanders shouted at Chauvin, he motioned to grab his mace. “I felt in danger when he did that,” she said.
Frazier, who celebrated her 18th birthday only last week, said that witnessing the horrific incident has been deeply impactful. “When I look at George Floyd, I look at my dad, I look at my brothers, I look at my cousins, my uncles, because they’re all Black,” she said. “I have a Black father. I have a Black brother. I have Black friends. That could have been one of them.”
Frazier has rarely spoken about bearing witness to Floyd’s death. But when she has, she’s been clear about her intentions. “The world needed to see what I was seeing,” she told the Star Tribune last year. “Stuff like this happens in silence too many times.” On Facebook, she wrote with horror about Floyd’s death in March 2020, when activists had finally succeeded in bringing it to public attention. “I still can’t get over how quick the news tried to cover up George Floyd’s death,” she wrote. “Just makes me think what else got covered up if it was no evidence to see what really happened.”
Darnella Frazier was clearly distraught over Floyd’s death and she spoke about being haunted by the idea that she could have or should have done more to save him. But she added, apparently indicating Chauvin, “It’s like, it’s not what I should have done. It’s what he should have done.”
Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour. You can follow her on Twitter.