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

Fishers prefer landscapes with large areas of connected forest, said the Forest Practices Board. (Loney Dickson photo)
Logging continuing to impact fisher habitat in B.C.

Forest Practices Board concludes investigation near Bobtail Mountain Provincial Park

Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes shared this photo of the binders and binders of letters and paperwork she’s received on area roads in the past few years. (Submitted photo)
Cariboo MLAs call on province to fix region’s roads

Minister Rob Fleming said more resources were on the way to the region

Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty advises Conservative leader Erin O’Toole on mental health and wellness. (House of Commons Photography)
Cariboo-Prince George MP calling for 1-year deadline to establish 3-digit suicide hotline

Todd Doherty’s motion calling for 9-8-8 as a national hotline passed unanimously in December

A fundraiser has been launched for local senior Mary Klassen after a fire destroyed her mobile home Friday, May 7. (Aman Parhar photo)
Fire destroys home at C.J.’s Trailer Park

Two other structures damaged by heat exposure

Vanderhoof Chamber of Commerce moved to its new location on Stewart Street West earlier this month. (Michelle Roberge photo)
New space for Vanderhoof Chamber of Commerce

Chamber moves to West Stewart Street

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

The dash cam footage, taken May 7 at 8:18 a.m. belonged to the driver of a southbound vehicle that recently travelled out of the tunnel. (Reddit/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Dash cam captures dramatic rollover crash on Highway 99

Only one person sustained injuries from the collision, says B.C. Ambulance Services

Chevy stranded on a ledge above a rocky canyon at Mimi Falls near Logan Lake, April 28, 2021. (Photo credit: Margot Wikjord)
Police officer and fire chief team up in risky rescue of stranded dog near Logan Lake

Chevy, a rescue dog, needed rescuing again after getting stuck on a ledge above rocky canyon

Police were on the scene of a fatal shooting in Abbotsford. (Black Press Media files)
B.C. government to give more than $8 million for programs to curb gang violence

221 not-for-profit projects led by local governments and school districts among others will receive a one-time grant

Gord Judson steers his log truck down a forest service road, using two-way radio and call signals to mark his position for oncoming traffic. (B.C. Forest Safety Council)
Planning some B.C. wilderness fishing? Don’t catch a log truck

Remote recreation areas bracing for heavy pandemic pressure

Most Read