Donald Williams, 33, said he happened upon the disturbing scene during an outing to Cub Foods in Minneapolis and could sense “the energy was off” even before he noticed Floyd pinned to the pavement under Chauvin’s knee.
Chauvin, a now-fired Minneapolis police officer, knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 26 seconds as the unarmed Black man repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe and called out for his dead mother, prosecutors said during their opening statement Monday.
Called to the stand by prosecutors as their third witness, Williams recalled “hearing George on the ground pretty much pleading for his life” as Chauvin used a “blood choke” on him.
A former college wrestler who studies mixed martial arts and works in private security, Williams said he watched in horror as Chauvin allegedly “shimmied” his body back and forth to increase the pressure on Floyd’s neck and cut off his circulation.
He said the more Chauvin shimmied, “the more you see Floyd fade away, slowly fade away, like a fish in a bag.”
“You see his eyes slowly, you know, pale out,” he said. “His eyes slowly rolled to the back of his head. You see blood coming out of his nose.”
He described Chauvin’s position on Floyd’s neck as “torture.”
“I felt the officer on top was shimmying to get the final choke in,” he said, “to get the kill choke.”
Chauvin’s defense objected to the characterization, and Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill instructed jurors to “disregard” the statement.
Williams recalled locking eyes with Chauvin at one point as he and other bystanders pleaded with police to relent.
As the graphic video of Floyd’s May 25 arrest played again in the courtroom, Williams described what he saw from the vantage point of a wrestling and MMA expert.
“George wants to turn his face the other way to release the pressure, but he can’t,” Williams testified before the defense objected and the judge asked jurors to step into an adjoining room.
Cahill told Williams there was a limit to “how far your expertise can go” and then excused the jury for the day after learning the internet feed to a room where Floyd’s relatives were watching the proceedings was disrupted.
Williams is due back on the stand Tuesday.
Chauvin, 45, is facing charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter. If convicted of the top charge, he faces up to 40 years in prison.
The former cop who spent 19 years on the force has pleaded not guilty, with his defense making the argument Monday that Floyd died from an accidental drug overdose linked to heart problems.
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