The store clerk who accepted a $20 bill from George Floyd shortly before Floyd died in a confrontation with police says he immediately suspected the bill was counterfeit — and he says he offered to pay for Floyd’s cigarettes himself.
“I thought that George didn’t really know that it was a fake bill,” Christopher Martin testified Wednesday about taking the $20 bill. “So I thought I’d be doing him a favor.”
But he later had second thoughts, Martin told the jury in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is facing murder charges over Floyd’s killing.
Martin eventually told his manager about the situation, and after Floyd refused to return to the Cup Foods store to talk to the manager, the police were called. The encounter that then transpired ended when Floyd died in police custody, on the street outside the store.
In court, Martin said he felt disbelief and guilt as he watched Floyd being placed on a gurney.
Surveillance video shows Martin clasping his hands on top of his head as he looked on from the sidewalk. When asked what he was thinking at the time, he replied, “If I would have just not took the bill, this could have been avoided.”
Before the police were called, Martin and his co-workers made two trips to the SUV that Floyd was sitting in outside Cup Foods, trying to get him to come back to the store, Martin said. He recalled telling Floyd and his friends that the bill Floyd had just used was fake, and that his boss wanted to talk to him.
But Floyd and the other occupants, a man and a woman, refused to return to the store, he added. After the first attempt, Martin went back to his manager.
“I’d offered to pay, but he said no, just tell them to come back inside,” Martin told the jury.
After Floyd and his friends again refused to return to the store, Martin testified, his manager told another co-worker to call the police.
At the time of the tragic events of last Memorial Day, Martin, 19, was both working at Cup Foods and living above the store, sharing an apartment with his mother and sister. He usually worked in the afternoons and evenings, he told Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank.
Martin was working at the store counter when he noticed Floyd walk in May 25. He didn’t know the man, but he remarked on Floyd’s physique – Martin asked him if he played baseball, and Floyd replied that he played football, he recalled.
Describing their conversation, Martin said that when Floyd spoke, he rambled a bit – making it “appear that he was high,” he said. But Martin also said he was able to understand Floyd.
In Martin’s telling, Floyd spent some time near the store’s phone sales and service area; it seemed that he wanted some work done on his cellphone, Martin said.
Floyd spent just over 10 minutes inside Cup Foods, according to surveillance footage played in court Wednesday. The recording depicts Floyd walking around and talking with people, moving through the aisles; at times, he bounces up on his toes – showing jurors a previously unseen view of the man whose death soon afterward would spark widespread protests against police brutality and racial inequality.
At the end of the visit, Martin sold Floyd a pack of cigarettes.
The video shows Martin hold the $20 bill he had just received up to the light, as Floyd stood in front of him.
“When I saw the bill, I noticed that it had a blue pigment to it, kind of how a $100 bill will have,” Martin said. “And I found that odd. So, I assumed that it was fake.”
Earlier that day, Martin had refused to accept a similar bill from a man who was with Floyd. Later, that man would show the bill to Martin and his co-workers outside, and tear the bill in half as he tossed it to the ground.
The transaction with Floyd went ahead, and Floyd left the store. But Martin kept looking at the bill, he said. In court, he explained that at the time, store policy mandated that if a cashier accepts any bogus money, “you have to pay for it out of your money, or your paycheck.”
Martin said that he initially thought he would put the transaction on his own tab. But he then had second thoughts and decided to tell his manager. The manager told him to walk outside to Floyd’s vehicle and tell him to come inside. The SUV Floyd had arrived in was clearly visible across the street, he said.
Martin went outside twice, he said – initially with one other person, and then with two older co-workers. But they couldn’t convince Floyd to come back inside to talk to the manager. Martin recalls that Floyd, who was in the driver’s seat, didn’t say much and kept shaking his head.
The initial conversation with Floyd and others in the car “wasn’t in any way, shape or form aggressive,” Martin told Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson.
Nelson then asked Martin to confirm he had testified Floyd “was not really speaking to you” as he sat in the SUV – a point on which Martin agreed. Earlier, he had described Floyd as having an attitude of, in Martin’s words, “Why is this happening?”
Martin agreed with Nelson’s assertion that the second conversation was “more heated.” But in the prosecution’s follow-up questions, Martin later clarified that the description applied more to his co-worker than to the vehicle’s occupants.
Frank, the assistant attorney general, asked Martin to describe Floyd’s demeanor when they spoke inside the store.
“He seemed very friendly, approachable,” Martin said. “He was talkative.”
“He seemed to just be having an average Memorial Day, just living his life,” he said, adding, “But he did seem high.”
At one point, Martin noted that Floyd seemed to be struggling to form words.
But Frank noted, and Martin agreed, that despite Floyd’s movements in the store, including several stretches, he never lost his balance or fell.
During Nelson’s follow-up questioning, he reminded Martin that he had earlier told investigators that the location of the Cup Foods was a “hot block.” When asked what that means, he replied, “Situations happen.”
After police arrived, they did not enter the store. But the commotion in the street drew Martin and some of his co-workers outside of Cup Foods, he said. One co-worker grew upset as he watched, and his friends restrained him and took him back inside, Martin recalled.
After seeing Chauvin holding Floyd on the ground with his knee, Martin said, he immediately used his phone to call his mother, who was upstairs, and told her not to come downstairs.
Martin then began recording the scene on his cellphone’s camera as police pinned Floyd facedown on the asphalt. But he said he deleted the video that night, after the ambulance that picked up Floyd had headed away from the hospital. At that point, he said, he realized that Floyd was dead.
Martin quit his job at Cup Foods after Floyd’s death.
“I didn’t feel safe,” he said in court.