MINNEAPOLIS - In the wake of the guilty verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, gratitude flowed on social media for Darnella Frazier, the then 17-year-old who filmed George Floyd’s death on her cellphone and refuted the original statement from Minneapolis police on what occurred.
Chauvin was convicted Tuesday of killing Floyd, 46, on May 25, 2020, at the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue after he was seen on video kneeling on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's report ruled the death of Floyd a homicide.
A jury found former officer Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
The centerpiece of the case was the excruciating bystander video of Floyd gasping repeatedly, "I can’t breathe" and onlookers yelling at Chauvin to stop. That video came from Frazier, now 18 years old, who shared it on social media.
The original police statement and comments regarding Floyd’s death described it as a "medical incident."
"He was ordered to step from his car. After he got out, he physically resisted officers," the original press release read. "Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later."
That narrative was quickly refuted as Frazier’s cellphone video surfaced and went viral. She testified in Chauvin’s trial about what she saw on May 25 that prompted her to take out her phone and start filming. She said she was alone on sidewalk when she began recording the video of Floyd’s arrest on her phone.
Frazier described to the jury seeing Floyd on the ground with Chauvin kneeling on top of him. She said Floyd was "terrified, scared, begging for his life."
"It wasn’t right," Frazier said. "He was suffering. He was in pain."
Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell asked Frazier how Chauvin responded to her and the other bystanders on the scene who were telling him to get off of Floyd.
"He just stared at us, looked at us," she said. "He had like this cold look, heartless. He didn’t care. It seemed as if he didn’t care what we were saying."
Many people, including Vice President Kamala Harris, believe Frazier’s video sealed Chauvin’s fate.
"Because of smartphones, so many Americans have now seen the racial injustice that Black Americans have known for generations," she said from the White House hours after the Chauvin verdict.
"History should remember the incredibly 17 year old Darnella Frazier who had the strength and composure to capture the murder of #georgefloyd (https://twitter.com/hashtag/georgefloyd?src=hashtag_click) on video," tweeted Valerie Jarrett, former senior advisor to former President Barack Obama.
Frazier also tearfully told the jury she stays up at night "apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting, not saving his life."
In December, Frazier was recognized with a prestigious national courage award for filming the arrest and death of Floyd.
Barack Obama, Madeleine Albright and Spike Lee were among the famous names who took part in a virtual PEN America gala on Dec. 8 to honor those protecting freedom of speech and the power of words. Frazier was among just six recipients of the award.
"A young woman whose cell phone and fearlessness may have changed the world, Darnella Frazier, remember that name," said Franklin Leonard, the host of the gala.
The teen virtually accepted her PEN Benenson Courage Award, which was presented by film director Spike Lee, for her actions on May 25.
"My sister, I commend you and you deserve this award," said Lee.
"It’s just a lot to take in, but I couldn’t say thank you enough for everything that’s been coming towards me," said Frazier.
FOX 9 Minneapolis-St. Paul, the Associated Press and FOX News contributed to this story. This story was reported from Los Angeles.