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George Floyd’s girlfriend opens up about couple’s opioid addiction during Derek Chauvin trial New York Daily News April 1, 2021

George Floyd’s girlfriend opens up about couple’s opioid addiction during Derek Chauvin trial

In this image from video, witness Courtney Ross answers questions as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides Thursday, April 1, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn.
In this image from video, witness Courtney Ross answers questions as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides Thursday, April 1, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. (AP)

In a tearful testimony Thursday, George Floyd’s girlfriend described her three-year relationship with him and opened up about the couple’s struggle with opioid addiction.

Courteney Ross, 45, began sobbing almost immediately as she took the stand during the murder trial of ex-Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin, who knelt on her boyfriend’s neck for more than nine minutes last spring. The woman said she met Floyd in August 2017 while he was working as a security guard at a Salvation Army shelter in downtown Minneapolis.

Ross, who had gone to the shelter to meet her son’s father, was visibly upset while waiting in a lobby when Floyd approached her, she told the jury.

“He’s like, ‘Sis, you’re OK, sis?’ And I wasn’t OK,” she recalled before wiping away her tears. “He said, ‘Can I pray with you?’”

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The two exchanged phone numbers and shared their first kiss moments later, Ross said. During the relationship that ensued, she told the court, both struggled with opioid addiction, which stemmed from chronic pain.

“Our story is a classic story of how people get addicted to opioids,” she said. “We got addicted and tried really hard to break that addiction many times.”

Witness testimony in the high-profile case began Monday and is expected to continue for two to four weeks. Chauvin, the first of four ex-cops to face trial in the shocking Memorial Day incident, could face up to four decades in prison in convicted. He is charged with second-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder.

Besides Ross, two paramedics who responded to the scene that day took the witness stand Thursday and described their efforts to save Floyd’s life. Both of them told the court they saw no signs that the patient was moving or breathing. One of them, Derek Smith, said he arrived on the scene and noticed Floyd wasn’t moving and that three cops were on top of him.

“In lay terms, I thought he was dead,” Smith told the jury.

Ross also revealed Thursday that Floyd’s nickname for her was “Mama,” the word he repeatedly used as he pleaded for his life during the fatal police encounter. It’s unclear, however, who he was calling for as that was also how he referred to his late mother, Ross said.

Under cross examination by defense attorney Eric Nelson, Ross talked about a time in March 2020 when Floyd was hospitalized with an overdose. She said the substance that led to that overdose was likely not an opioid since it had a “different effect” on them. But when asked whether the drug was heroin, Ross said she had previously “speculated” it might have been but did not know that for a fact.

In this image from police body cam video, Minneapolis police officers attempt to remove George Floyd from a vehicle, on May 25, 2020, outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis, as it is shown Wednesday, March 31, 2021, during the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin in the case of Floyd's death, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. (Court TV via AP, Pool)
In this image from police body cam video, Minneapolis police officers attempt to remove George Floyd from a vehicle, on May 25, 2020, outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis, as it is shown Wednesday, March 31, 2021, during the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin in the case of Floyd’s death, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. (Court TV via AP, Pool) (AP)

Prosecutors have acknowledged that Floyd was under the influence at the time of his death, and an autopsy last year did find fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system. But the state argues that his struggle with addiction did not cause his death or justify Chauvin’s actions.

Nelson, meanwhile, told the jury during his opening statement earlier this week that Floyd’s death was partly caused by illegal drug use and heart disease and that his client did exactly what he was trained to do.

Nelson has also sought to portray some of the onlookers at the scene as angry and aggressive, which caused the officers to divert their attention from Floyd — who was unarmed, handcuffed and pinned face-down on the pavement when most bystanders gathered around.

About a dozen bystanders have taken the stand since witness testimony began Monday, with many of them expressing guilt for not being able to save Floyd’s life as they watched Chauvin kneel on his neck for more than nine minutes on May 25. At least three of them became emotional during their testimony this week, including a 61-year-old man who was among the first bystanders on the scene and an off-duty firefighter who repeatedly begged Chauvin to check Floyd’s pulse.

Prosecutors have also brought a mountain of previously unseen surveillance and police body-cam footage showing the moments leading up to Floyd’s arrest as well as new angles of the deadly incident. One of the new clips shared in the Hennepin County courthouse Wednesday showed the 46-year-old Floyd joking around inside the Cup Foods store where he bought cigarettes minutes before his death.

Store clerk Christopher Martin, who sold him the cigarettes, told the jury he watched Floyd’s arrest right outside the business with “disbelief” and “guilt,” saying “this could’ve been avoided” if he had not told his manager about the apparent counterfeit $20 bill Floyd had handed him.

Another video played in the courtroom Wednesday came from Chauvin’s own body-worn camera after Floyd was taken away in an ambulance. When confronted by eyewitness Charles McMillian, who told Chauvin he didn’t respect what police had just done, the officer said that was “one person’s opinion.”

“We gotta control this guy ‘cause he’s a sizable guy,” Chauvin could be heard in the video. “And it looks like he’s probably on something.”

The witnesses who have testified so far have rejected Nelson’s argument about the crowd being hostile to the cops. One of them, former college wrestler Donald Williams, told the jury this week that he was not “angry” but just “pleading” for Floyd’s life when he repeatedly yelled at the police that day.

“He was suffering. He was in pain,” Williams said of Floyd during his testimony this week. “I heard George Floyd saying, ‘I can’t breathe. Please. Get off me. I can’t breathe.’”

In this image from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson (left), and defendant former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin listen as Assistant Minnesota Attorney General Matthew Frank, questions witness Christopher Martin as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides Wednesday, March 31, 2021, in the trial of Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd.
In this image from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson (left), and defendant former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin listen as Assistant Minnesota Attorney General Matthew Frank, questions witness Christopher Martin as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides Wednesday, March 31, 2021, in the trial of Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. (AP)

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