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Chauvin Trial: Special Agent Testifies Floyd Said, 'I Ain't Do No Drugs'

Senior Special Agent James Reyerson of Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is testifying in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, in last May's death of George Floyd.

The BCA routinely investigates police use-of-force incidents in Minnesota. Chauvin is facing charges of second- and third-degree murder as well as manslaughter. Video footage from the scene showed Chauvin pressed his knee on Floyd's neck area for more than nine minutes.

Under questioning from Chauvin's defense attorney, Eric Nelson, Reyerson initially testified an officer's body-cam video seemed to capture Floyd saying, "I ate too many drugs," although the statement is hard to make out in the chaos of the moment, reporter Jon Collins of Minnesota Public Radio reports.

After playing the clip the first time, Nelson asked, "Did you ever hear Mr. Floyd say, 'I ate too many drugs?' "

"No," Reyerson replied.

Nelson played the clip a second time, asking, "Did it appear that Mr. Floyd said, 'I ate too many drugs?'"

This time, Reyerson said, "Yes, it did."

But later, under additional questioning by the prosecution, the agent backtracked, saying he now heard something different.

After listening to a longer recording than what had been played by the defense, the Reyerson said what Floyd was saying was actually, "I ain't do no drugs."

The reversal was a blow to the defense which has been building the argument that Floyd, who had a history of drug abuse, died not because of Chauvin's knee on his neck, but from complications of drugs in his system or underlying medical conditions.

Prosecutors also played side-by-side videos from another officer's body camera and the bystander video shot by Darnella Frazer, noting that Floyd appears to stop moving at 20:24:58. When shown a still image taken minutes later — at 20:26:40 — Reyerson confirmed that Chauvin can be seen with his weight on Floyd. He then added that the defendant's equipment, including his vest and belt, added an additional 30-40 pounds.

Prosecutors also presented images of the allegedly counterfeit $20 bill George Floyd used in Cup Foods. Reyerson said he recovered it in a manila envelope from the responding police officers' vehicle.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.