A man who was among the onlookers shouting at a Minneapolis police officer to get off George Floyd last May testified Tuesday that he called 911 after paramedics took Floyd away, “because I believed I witnessed a murder.”
Donald Williams, a former wrestler who said he was trained in mixed martial arts, including chokeholds, returned to the witness stand a day after describing seeing Floyd struggle for air and his eyes roll back into his head. He said he watched Floyd “slowly fade away … like a fish in a bag.”
Prosecutor Matthew Frank played back Williams’ 911 call, on which he is heard identifying officer Derek Chauvin by his badge number and telling the dispatcher that Chauvin had been keeping his knee on Floyd’s neck despite warnings that Floyd’s life was in danger. She offers to switch him to a sergeant.
As he is being switched, Williams can he heard yelling at the officers, “Y’all is murderers, bro!”
On Monday, Williams said he thought Chauvin used a shimmying motion several times to increase the pressure on Floyd. He said he yelled to the officer that he was cutting off Floyd’s blood supply. Williams recalled that Floyd’s voice grew thicker as his breathing became more labored, and he eventually stopped moving.
Williams was among the first prosecution witnesses as Chauvin, 45, went on trial on charges of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. The death of the Black man after he was held down by the white officer touched off sometimes-violent protests around the world and a reckoning over racism and police brutality.
Prosecutors led off their case by playing part of the harrowing bystander video of Floyd’s arrest. Chauvin and three other officers were fired soon after the footage became public.
Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell showed the jurors the video after telling them that the number to remember was 9 minutes, 29 seconds — the amount of time Chauvin had Floyd pinned to the pavement “until the very life was squeezed out of him.”
Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson countered by arguing: “Derek Chauvin did exactly what he had been trained to do over his 19-year career.”
Floyd was fighting efforts to put him in a squad car as the crowd of onlookers around Chauvin and his fellow officers grew and became increasingly hostile, Nelson said.
The defense attorney also disputed that Chauvin was to blame for Floyd’s death.
Floyd, 46, had none of the telltale signs of asphyxiation and had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system, Nelson said. He said Floyd’s drug use, combined with his heart disease, high blood pressure and the adrenaline flowing through his body, caused a heart rhythm disturbance that killed him.
“The evidence is far greater than 9 minutes and 29 seconds,” Nelson said.
Blackwell, however, rejected the argument that Floyd’s drug use or any underlying health conditions were to blame, saying it was the officer’s knee that killed him.