Donald Williams, a student of martial arts, said he was scared for his own safety as he pleaded with Chauvin, the now-former Minneapolis officer to take his knee off of George Floyd’s neck — and that he called 911 after Chauvin did not respond to him.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s May 25, 2020, death.
Williams teared up as an audiotape of his 911 call was played in court. He can be heard on the call telling a dispatcher that an officer “pretty much just killed this guy that wasn’t resisting arrest. He had his knee on the dude’s neck this whole time.”
Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, had a tense exchange with Williams, during which Nelson asked him about his insults toward the officers during the incident. Williams seemed to reject Nelson’s attempts to portray him as an antagonistic bystander.
“You called [Chauvin] a tough guy, right?” Nelson asked. “You called him a bum at least 13 times.” Williams agreed to make those remarks, but said he remained controlled during the encounter.
The trial opened Monday with prosecutors playing a nine-minute, 29-second video taken by a bystander of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck. Floyd can be heard saying “I can’t breathe” 27 times as onlookers, including Williams, begged Chauvin to stop.
“Nine-two-nine,” prosecutor Jerry Blackwell told jurors during his opening statement. “The three most important numbers in the case.”
Chauvin’s defense team argued that Floyd, who was suspected of using a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes, was under the influence of narcotics and would not comply with Chauvin and other officers at the scene, who struggled to restrain him.
“Common sense tells you that there are always two sides to a story,” defense attorney Nelson said. “The evidence is far greater than nine minutes and 29 seconds.”
Monday also featured testimony from Jena Scurry, a 911 dispatcher who became concerned as she watched live security camera footage of the scene and called a police sergeant to report a possible misuse of force.
On the call, Scurry told the sergeant that she didn’t “want to be a snitch” before proceeding to describe the officers who had Floyd pinned to the ground.
Scurry also testified that as she watched Floyd lying motionless, she thought the video footage had frozen.
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