Minneapolis Firefighter Genevieve Hansen’s Testimony All But Convicted Derek Chauvin
Tuesday, Minneapolis firefighter and licensed EMT Genevieve Hansen testified at former police officer Derek Chauvin's murder trial. Hansen is a human being who watched as Chauvin killed another human being, George Floyd, right in front of her. This still torments her, because she's not a uniformed sociopath.
From the New York Times:
"There was a man being killed," Ms. Hansen testified. "I would have been able to provide medical attention to the best of my abilities, and this human was denied that right."
Whenever cops kill an unarmed civilian, they rationalize their actions as a “split-second decision" made under stressful circumstances. Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. This was an artisanal homicide. Floyd's death was no accident. The defense claims Floyd died with Chauvin's torture, not from his torture, but Hansen's testimony reinforces that the officers on the scene wanted Floyd dead.
Hansen said she identified herself to the officers on the scene, but former officer Tou Thao told her not to get involved. This is straight-up gangster shit. He might as well have told her to “run along, you ain't seen nothin'."
"He said something along the lines of if you really are a Minneapolis firefighter, you would know better than to get involved," she said.
Chauvin's lawyer, Eric Nelson, asked Hansen if it would distract her if civilians showed up and heckled her while she was trying to fight a fire. I'd hope that civilians would intervene if they spotted a firefighter who's actually setting someone on fire. Nelson pointed out that emergency medical workers don't normally approach a scene where the police are working unless the cops say it's safe. The problem here is that Chauvin was killing Floyd, and his fellow officers were standing back and standing by.
Nelson's legal strategy is to pick a fight with the witnesses who are traumatized after watching his client kill someone in cold blood. I'm not a lawyer, so I can't speak to the efficacy of that strategy, but it's real gross. He asked Hansen if the crowd was upset at the scene of Floyd's torture session and she shot back, "I don't know if you've seen anybody be killed, but it's upsetting." This got her a warning from the judge. Nelson also implied that Hansen is a big liar or maybe not sufficiently terrified of Black men because she'd previously described Floyd, whose death she'd witnessed, as a “small, slim man." Floyd was actually fully Negro-sized at 6 foot 4 and 223 pounds — a looming threat to police, even while handcuffed and subdued, even though he couldn't survive being choked for almost 10 minutes like any reasonably healthy person.
Hansen explained that Floyd seemed small to her while he was helpless with a grown man kneeling on his neck. This testy exchange earned another warning from the judge. It seems like Nelson is trying to win an acquittal on etiquette points.
Derek Chauvin's lawyer: You called officers a bitch, right? Genevieve Hansen, off-duty firefighter on scene: "Mmhm… https://t.co/gph3uJCNjl— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche Alcindor) 1617140232.0
The prosecution didn't behave like assholes, because they are on the human side of this case. Hansen described how she repeatedly tried to offer medical assistance and the police rebuffed her. Their utter indifference to Floyd's suffering was depraved.
There was no medical assistance on scene. And I got there and I could have given medical assistance. That's exactly what I should have done. … I would have requested additional help. I would have wanted someone to call 911 for the paramedics and fire to come. … I would have checked his airway. I would have been worried about a spinal cord injury because he had so much weight on his neck. I would have opened his airway to check if there are any obstructions, and I would have checked for a pulse. And when I didn't find a pulse, if that was the case, I would have started compressions.
It's obvious that Hansen is still haunted by what she feels she could've have done to save Floyd. It's a stark contrast from how cops respond to similar incidents. They always insist they did everything according to their training and there was nothing they could've done to prevent the lethal outcome. All blame is usually transferred to the victim. This is how psychopaths speak. Hansen broke down repeatedly during her testimony because her own training hadn't burned away her empathy. When an officer is on trial, it's rare that there's a victim who can make the jury feel for the victim. The jury only hears about the officer's individual fears. The victim exists only as a threat. Hansen saw a human being killed in front of her, and the jury felt her grief.
I should have called 911 immediately, but I didn't. And when things calmed down, I realized that I, I wanted them to know what was going on. I wanted to basically report it.
When Floyd's dead body was loaded onto an ambulance, after the police did everything possible to deny him medical assistance, Hansen called the officers “a bitch." Chauvin's defense acted as if this was some sort of slam dunk, but Hansen owned her anger: “There was no point in trying to reason with them anymore because they had just killed somebody."
She also said under oath and in front of Chauvin's face that she stayed at the scene afterward because she worried about what the remaining police might do to the Black people who were still there. Genevieve Hansen's testimony was damning because what she witnessed was damnable.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."