A key witness for the prosecution in the trial of former US police officer Derek Chauvin has told court he called 911 the day George Floyd died because he believed he had “witnessed a murder”.
Chauvin is accused of killing Mr Floyd, whose death sparked nationwide protests against racism and police brutality last year, by kneeling on his neck for almost 10 minutes despite Mr Floyd’s protestations that he couldn’t breathe.
He has been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter, and could face up to 15 years in jail.
On day two of the trial, the jury heard from Donald Williams, a mixed martial arts fighter and one of the bystanders who witnessed the incident.
“You could see that he was going through tremendous pain,” Mr Williams said.
“You could see he was trying to gasp for air.”
He said he tried to intervene to help Mr Floyd, but was prevented from doing so by a police officer named Tou Thao. Mr Thao also would not allow a woman, who identified herself as a firefighter, to check Mr Floyd’s pulse.
When Mr Floyd was removed from the scene by an ambulance, Mr Williams called the police “on the police”.
“Why did you do that?” the prosecution asked him.
“Because I believed I witnessed a murder,” he replied.
Prosecutors then presented audio of the 911 call. Mr Williams grew visibly emotional and wiped away a tear as the recording played.
“The officers are trying to definitely kill a citizen in front of a store,” Mr Williams told the 911 dispatcher.
“He just pretty much just killed this guy that wasn’t resisting arrest. He had his knee on the dude’s neck the whole time.
“He wasn’t resisting arrest or nothing. He was already in handcuffs. They pretty much – it’s stupid, dude. I don’t even know if he’s dead for sure, but he was not responsive when the ambulance came and got him.
“The officer that was just out here left, the one that actually just murdered him in front of everybody.
“That was bogus, what they just did to this man. He was unresponsive. He wasn’t resisting arrest or any of it.”
The dispatcher then sought to put Mr Williams through to a sergeant.
Towards the end of the call, Mr Williams could be heard speaking to an officer at the scene.
“Murderers, bro. Y’all are murderers, pal,” he said.
When the recording ended, the prosecution again asked him why he made the 911 call. He said he “didn’t know what else to do”, and felt like it was the right course of action.
During cross examination, the defence suggested Mr Williams had behaved in a threatening and disruptive way towards police, feeding into its opening argument that bystanders contributed to the incident by distracting the officers.
In footage of Chauvin pinning Mr Floyd to the ground, Mr Williams could be heard calling Chauvin a “bum” and telling the officer he would shoot himself “within the next two years”.
“You can’t paint me out to be angry,” Mr Williams told defence lawyer Eric Nelson.
Mr Nelson also stressed that Mr Williams had no medical experience with which to judge the officers’ treatment of Mr Floyd.
Today the jury also heard from Darnella Frazier, the teenager whose video footage of Chauvin kneeling on Mr Floyd went around the world.
Ms Frazier, who was 17 at the time of the incident, came across the scene while walking past the Cup Foods store with her nine-year-old cousin. She directed her cousin to enter the store instead of staying outside with her.
Prosecutors asked Ms Frazier whether she did so because there was something she didn’t want her cousin to see.
“Yes. A man terrified, scared, begging for his life,” she replied.
“It wasn’t right. He was suffering. He was in pain.”
She proceeded to pull out her phone and record the officers’ actions.
The prosecution told Ms Frazier to tell the jury what she observed from that point onwards.
“I heard George Floyd saying, ‘I can’t breathe, please, get off of me. I can’t breathe.’ He cried for his mum. He was in pain,” she said.
“It seemed like he knew it was over for him. He was terrified. He was suffering. This was a cry for help, definitely.”
Ms Frazier grew particularly emotional when she was asked to explain how the event she witnessed had changed her life. Speaking through tears, she said she had stayed up at night apologising to Mr Floyd for not doing more to intervene.
“When I look at George Floyd I look at my dad. I look at my brother, I look at my cousins, my uncles. Because they are all black.
“I look at how that could have been one of them.
“It’s the nights I’ve stayed up apologising to George Floyd for not doing more, and not physically interacting, not saving his life.”
This morning, Judge Peter Cahill ruled that four witnesses – including Ms Frazier – could testify off camera because of their age.
Another of them, identified only as Alissa, also cried.
“I felt like there wasn’t anything I could do as a bystander. I felt like I was failing him,” she said.