A Minnesota man has testified in court that he immediately called 911 after witnessing George Floyd’s arrest in May 2020 because he believed that he had “witnessed a murder” by police.
Donald Williams, 33, said on Tuesday during the second day of witness testimony in the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering Floyd, that he felt “very lost” and unsure what to do after Floyd’s arrest.
“I did call the police on the police,” Williams testified. “Because I believed I witnessed a murder.”
The prosecution, led by Minnesota assistant attorney general Matthew Frank, then played a recording of the Williams’ 911 call that night. Williams can be heard on the call telling the dispatcher that Chauvin “just killed this guy that wasn’t resisting arrest”.
“The man stopped breathing,” Williams said during the 911 call, referring to Floyd. “He was already in handcuffs.”
In the courtroom, Chauvin could be seen taking notes on a legal pad as he listened to a recording of the call, while Williams dabbed tears with a tissue.
“I just felt like that was the right thing to do,” Williams testified of his 911 call that night. “I didn’t know what else to do.”
In widely circulated bystander video of Floyd’s arrest, Williams can be heard repeatedly calling Chauvin “a bum” and warning that Floyd was in distress.
Tuesday was Williams’ second day of testimony in the high-profile trial. Williams, who said he was trained as a mixed martial artist and has worked as a bouncer in clubs, testified on Monday that he saw Chauvin placing Floyd in a “blood choke” during the arrest. A “blood choke” hinders a person’s blood flow to the brain and can be deadly, Williams said.
Williams said he called out to Chauvin as he was kneeling on Floyd and accused him of using the move.
“He looked at me,” Williams testified, adding that Chauvin stared at him “dead in the eyes” at that point. “That’s the only time he looked up.”
Chauvin has been charged with second- and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. He has pleaded not guilty.
After Williams was dismissed on Tuesday, the prosecution called on 18-year-old Darnella Frazier to testify. Frazier said she had been taking her young cousin Judeah Reynolds to buy some snacks at a convenience store in May 2020 when she noticed police arresting Floyd.
Frazier said she pulled out her cellphone and began recording the incident. That video, which showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck as Floyd repeatedly stated he couldn’t breathe, would later be viewed millions of times around the world.
Floyd was “terrified, scared, begging for his life”, Frazier recalled, becoming audibly emotional. “It wasn’t right. He was suffering. He was in pain. ... He cried for his mom.”
“I have a Black father,” she said at one point. “I have a Black brother. I have Black friends. I look at that how that could have been one of them.”
In describing the impact that witnessing Floyd’s death has had on her, Frazier said there have been nights she has “stayed up apologising” to Floyd for “not doing more” and “not saving his life.” But she suggested it was Chauvin who bore responsibility for Floyd’s death.
“It’s not what I should have done,” Frazier said. “It’s what he should have done.”
Reynolds, Frazier’s 9-year-old cousin who also witnessed Floyd’s arrest, was called to testify next.
“I saw the officer put his knee on George Floyd,” Reynolds said, adding that the incident made her “sad and kind of mad”.
“It felt like he was stopping his breathing and it was kind of like hurting him,” the third grader said of Chauvin’s actions toward Floyd.