Just moments after MMA fighter Donald Williams watched paramedics drive George Floyd’s lifeless body away on May 25, he called the police.
Former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin “pretty much just killed a guy that wasn’t resisting arrest. The man stopped breathing. He wasn’t resisting arrest—he was not responsive,” Williams told a 911 dispatcher in a call played Tuesday in Hennepin County court. “They wouldn’t even take his pulse.”
The 33-year-old broke down in tears as he listened to his angry conversation with police in which he repeatedly called the cops involved “murderers.” Chauvin, wearing a blue suit, sat emotionlessly as he heard the 911 call.
Williams, who is on his second day of testimony at Chauvin’s murder trial, said he called after begging officers to check Floyd’s pulse and to stop using a dangerous chokehold during the arrest outside a Cup Foods.
“I did call the police on the police. I believe I witnessed a murder. I felt the need to call the police on the police,” Williams testified.
Williams, who has worked security with off-duty MPD officers, was the third witness to testify against the former law enforcement officer. Prosecutors seek to prove Chauvin used excessive force when he kneeled on the 46-year-old’s neck for over 9 minutes while arresting him for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill.
Chauvin, 45, has pleaded not guilty to second and third-degree murder as well as second-degree manslaughter and faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted. The former cop’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, argues that his client was simply doing what “he was trained to do throughout his 19-year career” and that Floyd’s death was the result of drugs and health issues.
Three other officers who were involved in the arrest—Tou Thao, Thomas K. Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng—have pleaded not guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree murder while committing a felony, as well as aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter with culpable negligence. They are expected to face a trial together in August.
The May arrest was captured in a gut-wrenching viral video in which Chauvin can be seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck as witnesses beg the officer to stop and check his pulse.
Williams is among the witnesses that can be heard pleading for Chauvin to stop choking Floyd.
“I just was really trying to keep my professionalism and make sure I speak out for Floyd’s life because I felt like he was in very much danger. I seen another man like me, being controlled... I was totally scared for my safety and people around me,” Williams said, adding that Thao was “intimidating” him throughout the arrest.
On Monday, Williams told jurors he yelled at Chauvin about the “blood choke,” a maneuver that could “cut off the circulation of our arteries” that he has experienced first-hand. He said that while he was unable to get to Floyd because Thao was controlling the growing crowd on the curb, Chauvin heard his pleas.
“You could see his eyes slowly, you know, rolling back up and in his head, and him having his mouth open, wide open,” Williams said. “You can see that he’s trying to, you know, gasp for air, you know, and trying to be able to breathe as he’s down there and trying to move his face, you know, side to side so he can you know, I’m believing, I’m assuming gasp for more air there.”
Eventually, Williams said, Floyd began to “fade away, like a fish in a bag” before he lost consciousness. Prosecutors state that by the time Floyd was loaded into an ambulance, he had no pulse.
The teenager who shot the viral Facebook video of Floyd’s arrest also testified on Tuesday that paramedics had to motion for Chauvin to get off Floyd.
“He had this cold look—heartless. He didn’t care; it seemed as if he didn’t care what we were saying. It didn’t change anything he was doing,” the 18-year-old witness—identified only by her first name, Darnella, by the judge’s order because she was a minor at the time she filmed the arrest—testified.
During cross-examination on Tuesday, Nelson questioned Williams about his expertise on chokeholds through MMA fighting. Williams said that while he has never gone to a law enforcement training program on chokeholds, he has seen someone come back to consciousness after getting “choked out.”
“You can go unconscious in a blood choke within seconds,” he said.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner concluded Floyd died of cardiac arrest from the restraint and neck compression, also noting that Floyd had heart disease and there was fentanyl in his system. An independent report commissioned by Floyd’s family, which will not be shown at trial, concluded that the 46-year-old died of strangulation from the pressure to his back and neck. Both reports determined Floyd’s death was a homicide.
Nelson also questioned Williams on Tuesday as to why he called Chauvin “some mean names” during the arrest—including a “fucking bum” and a “pussy ass bitch.”
“I was watching a man get murdered, I said what I said with no regret,” Williams said.
Darnella also described witnessing the 46-year-old victim “begging for his life.” While the jury heard only audio of the now-18-year-old, she could be heard sniffling and taking deep breaths as she described ushering her 9-year-old cousin into CupFoods before she walked back towards Floyd and the officers, and started filming.
“It wasn’t right. He was suffering, he was in pain,” Darnella said, adding that Floyd was repeatedly saying he could not breathe and asking for his mom. “It seemed like he knew it was over for him.”
Initially, Darnella was the first person watching the arrest. A crowd gradually joined her on the sidewalk but she said they were not unruly. She said she saw violence “from the cops, from Chauvin, from Officer Thao.” Darnella said she felt even more threatened by the police after at least one of the officers reached for their mace as the crowd gathered.
“I felt like I was in danger when he did that. I didn’t understand why they would do that. What we did to make them do that. I felt threatened. I didn’t understand why the mace was even needed at all,” she said.
Darnella’s 9-year-old cousin, who witnessed part of Floyd’s arrest, also testified on Tuesday about seeing paramedics “push” Chauvin off Floyd when they arrived. But he “stayed on,” she said.
She said paramedics eventually “pulled” the officer off, a move that made the third-grader “sad and mad.”
Another witness, who was only identified in court as Alyssa, an 18-year-old high school senior, told jurors on Tuesday that she watched Chauvin add more pressure and weight onto Floyd’s neck by lifting his foot and putting his hand in his pocket.
She said Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck even when paramedics checked his pulse.