MINNEAPOLIS — In emotional testimony Thursday during the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, Courteney Ross recalled her three-year relationship with George Floyd and acknowledged that the couple struggled with opioid addiction.
“Floyd and I, our story, it’s a classic story of how many people get addicted to opioids,” Ross said. “We both suffered from chronic pain. Mine was in my neck, and his was in his back. We both (had) prescriptions, but after … we got addicted and tried really hard to break that addiction many times.”
Ross met Floyd in August 2017, while he was working as a security guard at a Minneapolis Salvation Army shelter. She said he comforted her while she waited to meet with her son’s father, and that they later shared their first kiss in the lobby at the Salvation Army.
In the subsequent years, “just about every day we saw each other,” Ross said. “As much as we possibly could.”
Eventually, Ross and Floyd revealed their addictions to one another and together they worked to overcome them -- though they weren’t always successful. Ross said Floyd usually used OxyContin or oxycodone and that they sometimes bought opioids from people with prescriptions to ensure the pills were safe.
Both Ross and Floyd began using opioids again for a time in March 2020. Ross said she first suspected Floyd had fallen off the wagon because of “slight behavioral changes.”
That month, Ross said she took pills with Floyd which didn’t appear to be normal.
“Usually (an) opioid to me is like a pain reliever,” Ross said. “It’s something that is, you know, kind of relaxing -- takes your pain away. The pill that time, it seemed like it was a really strong stimulant. I couldn’t sleep all night. I felt jittery.”
On March 6, 2020, Ross took Floyd to the hospital after he complained about not feeling well. He was hospitalized for five days for what she later learned was an overdose, Ross said. Afterward, the couple kicked their habits for months.
However, Ross said that she began to notice behavioral changes in Floyd again two weeks before his death.
“Addiction in my opinion is a life long struggle so it’s something that we dealt with every day,” Ross said. “It’s not something that just comes and goes. It’s something I’ll deal with forever.”
Her testimony came on the fourth day of the trial against Chauvin, who was arrested on murder and manslaughter charges in May 2020 after video surfaced on social media showing him pressing his knee to Floyd’s neck for minutes.
The Hennepin County medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, determining that Floyd’s heart stopped as he was being restrained. A separate autopsy commissioned for Floyd’s family also called his death a homicide but concluded that he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression.
Floyd’s death prompted global outrage and sparked a national reckoning over racism and police brutality.
Three other officers also face charges in Floyd’s death. Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. They are expected to face juries in August.