In this image from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, and former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, right, listen as Judge Peter Cahill discusses motions before the court Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in the trial of Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. (Court TV via AP, Pool)

In this image from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, and former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, right, listen as Judge Peter Cahill discusses motions before the court Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in the trial of Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. (Court TV via AP, Pool)

VIDEO: Witness describes seeing George Floyd ‘slowly fade away’

Derek Chauvin, 45, who is charged with murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death

A man who was among onlookers shouting at a Minneapolis police officer to get off George Floyd last May was to continue testifying Tuesday, a day after he described seeing Floyd struggle for air and his eyes rolling back into his head, saying he saw Floyd “slowly fade away … like a fish in a bag.”

Donald Williams, a former wrestler who said he was trained in mixed martial arts including chokeholds, testified Monday that he thought Derek Chauvin used a shimmying motion several times to increase the pressure on Floyd. He said he yelled to the officer that he was cutting off Floyd’s blood supply.

Williams recalled that Floyd’s voice grew thicker as his breathing became more laboured, and he eventually stopped moving.

“From there on he was lifeless,” Williams said. “He didn’t move, he didn’t speak, he didn’t have no life in him no more on his body movements.”

Williams was among the first prosecution witnesses as trial opened for Chauvin, 45, who is charged with murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death.

Prosecutors led off their case by playing part of the bystander video that captured Floyd’s arrest on May 25. Chauvin and three other officers were fired soon after the video touched off outrage and protest, sometimes violent, that spread from Minneapolis around the world.

Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell showed the jurors the footage at the earliest opportunity, during opening statements, after telling them that the number to remember was 9 minutes, 29 seconds — the amount of time Chauvin had Floyd pinned to the pavement last May.

The white officer “didn’t let up” even after a handcuffed Floyd said 27 times that he couldn’t breathe and went limp, Blackwell said.

“He put his knees upon his neck and his back, grinding and crushing him, until the very breath — no, ladies and gentlemen — until the very life was squeezed out of him,” the prosecutor said.

Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson countered by arguing: “Derek Chauvin did exactly what he had been trained to do over his 19-year career.”

Floyd was fighting efforts to put him in a squad car as the crowd of onlookers around Chauvin and his fellow officers grew and became increasingly hostile, Nelson said.

The defence attorney also disputed that Chauvin was to blame for Floyd’s death.

Floyd, 46, had none of the telltale signs of asphyxiation and he had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system, Nelson said. He said Floyd’s drug use, combined with his heart disease, high blood pressure and the adrenaline flowing through his body, caused a heart rhythm disturbance that killed him.

“There is no political or social cause in this courtroom,” Nelson said. “But the evidence is far greater than 9 minutes and 29 seconds.”

Blackwell, however, rejected the argument that Floyd’s drug use or any underlying health conditions were to blame, saying it was the officer’s knee that killed him.

Minneapolis police dispatcher Jena Scurry testified that she saw part of Floyd’s arrest unfolding via a city surveillance camera and was so disturbed that she called a duty sergeant. Scurry said she grew concerned because the officers hadn’t moved after several minutes.

“You can call me a snitch if you want to,” Scurry said in her call to the sergeant, which was played in court. She said she wouldn’t normally call the sergeant about the use of force because it was beyond the scope of her duties, but “my instincts were telling me that something is wrong.”

READ MORE: Trial of former police officer accused in George Floyd’s death gets underway

The video played during opening statements was posted to Facebook by a bystander who witnessed Floyd being arrested after he was accused of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store. Jurors watched intently as the video played on multiple screens, with one drawing a sharp breath as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin sat quietly and took notes, looking up at the video periodically.

“My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Everything hurts,” Floyd says in the video, and: “I can’t breathe, officer.” Onlookers repeatedly shout at the officer to get off Floyd, saying he is not moving, breathing or resisting. One woman, identifying herself as a city Fire Department employee, shouts at Chauvin to check Floyd’s pulse.

The prosecutor said the case was “not about split-second decision-making” by a police officer but excessive force against someone who was handcuffed and not resisting.

Blackwell said the Fire Department employee wanted to help but was warned off by Chauvin, who pointed Mace at her.

“She wanted to check on his pulse, check on Mr. Floyd’s well-being,” the prosecutor said. “She did her best to intervene. … She couldn’t help.”

The timeline differs from the initial account submitted last May by prosecutors, who said Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes, 46 seconds. The time 8:46 soon became a rallying cry in the case. But it was revised during the investigation.

Fourteen jurors or alternates are hearing the case — eight of them white, six of them Black or multiracial, according to the court. Only 12 will deliberate; the judge has not said which two will be alternates.

Before the trial began, Floyd family attorney Ben Crump blasted the idea that the trial would be a tough test for jurors.

“We know that if George Floyd was a white American citizen, and he suffered this painful, tortuous death with a police officer’s knee on his neck, nobody, nobody, would be saying this is a hard case,” he said.

After the day’s proceedings, a few hundred protesters gathered outside the courthouse. Speakers called for justice for Floyd and others whose lives were lost in encounters with police. One speaker, Jaylani Hussein, shouted: “Police officers are not above the law!”

The downtown Minneapolis courthouse has been fortified with concrete barriers, fences and barbed and razor wire. City and state leaders are determined to prevent a repeat of the riots that followed Floyd’s death, with National Guard troops already mobilized.

Chauvin’s trial is being livestreamed over the objections of the prosecution. Judge Peter Cahill ordered that cameras be allowed largely because of the pandemic and the required social distancing, which left almost no room for spectators in the courtroom.

Three other former officers go on trial in August because Cahill ruled there wasn’t enough space to try all four at once.

___

Steve Karnowski And Amy Forliti, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Racial injusticeUSA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An Interior Health nurse administers Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. Photo: Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News
Interior Health opens up vaccine eligibility in Columbia Valley to 18 years or older

Only local residents can register and book appointments as COVID-19 case counts spike in the region

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

BGC Cranbrook will renovate a facility to relocate 24 existing spaces and add 24 new spaces with support from the Trust. Photo courtesy Columbia Basin Trust.
Grant funding to help create new childcare spaces in Cranbrook

Columbia Basin Trust providing $10,000 to BGC Cranbrook to help renovate new facility

Earlier this spring, the City of Cranbrook started positioning components of the Stormceptor system to carry storm runoff to Elizabeth Lake from the Innes Avenue neighbourhood. Photo submitted
Stormceptor will bring clean run-off to Elizabeth Lake

The City of Cranbrook is installing new infrastructure to handle the Innes Avenue neighbourhood, but go easy on Elizabeth lake

Interior Health nurses administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
69 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The total number of cases in the region is now at 9,840 since the pandemic began

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read