The woman who recorded Derek Chauvin as he knelt on George Floyd’s neck in a video that challenged the initial police narrative and brought a wave of attention to the death of Mr. Floyd began to testify on Tuesday morning.
Darnella Frazier was 17 when she recorded the cellphone video and uploaded it to Facebook in May, igniting international protests over racism and police abuse. She recently turned 18 and has largely stayed out of the spotlight since Mr. Floyd’s death, but on Tuesday she began to give the fullest account yet of what she had witnessed.
Ms. Frazier said she had been walking to the Cup Foods convenience store with her younger cousin to get some snacks when they came upon the arrest of Mr. Floyd.
“I see a man on the ground and I see a cop kneeling down on him,” she said. She described seeing Mr. Floyd “terrified, scared, begging for his life.”
Ms. Frazier said that as a crowd of bystanders yelled more loudly at the officers, Mr. Chauvin reached for his mace. “I felt in danger when he did that,” she said.
Ms. Frazier’s voice was emotional on the stand and she cried as she described the scene. Judge Peter A. Cahill ruled on Tuesday that Ms. Frazier and three other witnesses, two of whom are minors and one of whom is also 18, could testify off-camera. Audio of their testimony is being broadcast live.
Ms. Frazier made one of her first public comments earlier this month, as the jury was being selected, when she wrote on Facebook and Instagram that Mr. Chauvin “deserves to go down” and wondered aloud “what else got covered up if it was no evidence.”
Ms. Frazier has been praised by Chief Medaria Arradondo of the Minneapolis Police Department and, in December, received an award for courage from PEN America, a group that promotes free expression. Spike Lee, the film director, gave her the award during a virtual event, saying, “I’m so proud of my sister.”