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'I believe I witnessed a murder,' eyewitness said of 911 call in George Floyd's death

An emotional day of testimony ended Tuesday with Judge Peter Cahill scolding a witness for arguing with counsel and the court.

Donald Williams
Donald Williams testifies Tuesday, March 30, 2021.
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After George Floyd' s lifeless body was loaded on a gurney and taken away by ambulance, Donald Williams II called 911.

"I believe I witnessed a murder," Williams said about the Minneapolis police's actions on May 25, 2020.

Williams, a mixed martial artist and former Rochester Community and Technical College student and wrestler, was one of several bystanders who witnessed ex-Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin kneel on Floyd's neck for more than 9 minutes.

"I just felt that it was the right thing to do. I didn't know what else to do," Williams said about this decision to call the police on the police, occasionally dabbing his eyes.

Williams was among several witnesses who testified Tuesday, March 30, that what they saw that day "wasn't right," that Chauvin was causing needless pain and anguish to Floyd, who was handcuffed and in a prone position, while kneeling on his neck.


"He was suffering. He was in pain," said Darnella Frazier , an 18-year-old Minneapolis resident and the second witness.

Frazier was walking with her 9-year-old cousin to Cup Foods to get snacks that evening when she saw Floyd pinned to the ground by Chauvin. Frazier took her cousin inside the store, then walked back to the scene and began recording it. That video went viral, and Frazier has been celebrated for bringing worldwide attention to Floyd's death.

READ MORE: Minneapolis teen opens up about her viral George Floyd video As jury selection moved along last week in the fired police officer's murder trial, Darnella Frazier turned to the same outlet she used in posting the cellphone video in late May and wrote: "If you think Derek Chauvin was 'just doing his job' YOU'RE A PART OF THE PROBLEM."
Because Frazier was 17 when the incident happened, Judge Peter Cahill ruled that her testimony would not be carried visually on video feed, but only heard by viewers.

Frazier was the first to begin recording, but eventually a crowd of 12 to 14 people gathered at the curb.

Frazier and other witnesses testified that Chauvin dug his knee and put more weight onto Floyd's neck even as the crowd pleaded, argued and berated the officers to release Floyd. Even after the ambulance arrived and a medical technician took his pulse, Chauvin's knee remained in place. Only after Chauvin was told by EMT personnel to remove his knee did he do so.

"The ambulance had to push him off," said the 9-year-old girl on the witness stand. "They asked him nicely to get off of him."

Frazier said she lives with guilt that she should have done more.

"When I look at George Floyd, I look at my dad. I look at my brothers. I look at my cousins, my uncles, because they are all Black. I look at how that could have been one of them," Frazier told the jury, crying occasionally. "It has been nights I have stayed up nights apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and for not physically interacting and not saving his life."


In cross-examination, Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, sought to highlight how the state's witnesses only saw a slice of the interaction between Floyd and Minneapolis police, that they didn't witness the struggle before Floyd was taken to the ground.

"You had not seen any prior contact between police and Floyd," Nelson said to Williams Tuesday morning. "You had no idea they were dealing with him for 15 minutes before your arrival."

The defense attorney also tried to elicit testimony from the state's witnesses that as the crowd grew larger and angrier, it became a threat and distraction for police.

Nelson reminded Williams that he had called Chauvin a "bum" 13 times and told agents later that "he wanted to beat the s--- out of the police officers."

"You grew angry," Nelson said during cross-examination.

"No, I grew professional," Williams disagreed.


Nelson also focused on the fact that Williams has never attended or been trained at a police academy on choke holds, even though the judge allowed the mixed martial arts athlete to testify that Chauvin had a "blood choke" on Floyd. Williams said Chauvin was trying to "shimmy" his knee to tighten his hold on Floyd's neck.

Prosecution witnesses say that what was evident from their vantage point should have been obvious to police.

"Time was running out, or it had already; he was going to die," said one minor witness who was not televised.

The day's final witness called by the prosecution was Genevieve Hansen, an off-duty Minneapolis firefighter who was alerted to the May 25 incident when she heard a voice scream, "They're killing him!"

Genevieve Hansen
Genevieve Hansen, a Minneapolis firefighter, testifies Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in the trial of Derek Chauvin.

When she came upon the scene, it was clear from his "altered level of consciousness," that Floyd needed immediate medical attention. She said Chauvin looked "comfortable" balancing his weight on his neck.

"He was being restrained, but he wasn't moving," said Hansen, who described her desperation to help Floyd but was denied by officer Tou Thao from doing so.

Before Hansen took the stand, jurors watched a video that Hansen took the of the scene. She would later testify that "because memories of witnesses are never going to be as a good as a video." Jurors also listened to the 911 phone call she made that day.

"I’m on block of 38th and Chicago and I literally watched police officers not take a pulse and not do anything to save a man and I am a first responder myself and I literally have it on video camera," Hansen is heard saying the call.


  • Chauvin trial updates: Testimony ends abruptly as firefighter witness scolded by court After an emotional day of testimony, court will resume at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday with defense attorney Eric Nelson continuing to cross-examine witness and Minneapolis firefighter Genevieve Hansen.
  • Witness describes how George Floyd's consciousness 'floated away' as testimony begins in Derek Chauvin trial Three witnesses were called Monday on the first day of testimony in the trial of Chauvin, who faces murder charges stemming from the death of Floyd. Video of Floyd's death in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, prompted demonstrations and violence to erupt across the country through the spring and summer of last year.

During her testimony, Hansen said that had she been allowed to provide medical assistance she would have asked someone to run to a nearby gas station to look for an AED — an automated external defibrillator — and checked Floyd's airway and pulse.
Upon cross-examination, Nelson asked Hansen how she would respond if she was fighting a fire and had citizens yelling at her.

"I’m confident in my job and what I do and what needs to be done and my training so I would continue to do that," she said.

After a tense exchange late in the day between Nelson and Hansen, Judge Cahill dismissed the jury and scolded Hansen not to argue with the court or counsel.

Minutes later, he called into court a woman who had taken a cellphone photo elsewhere in the Hennepin County Courthouse building where photos were forbidden. The woman, who said she was a representative for an earlier witness, was made to delete the photos from her phone by Cahill.

Testimony will resume at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 31, with Hansen on the stand.

Forum News Service reporter Emily Cutts contributed to this report.

Matthew Stolle has been a Post Bulletin reporter since 2000 and covered many of the beats that make up a newsroom. In his first several years, he covered K-12 education and higher education in Rochester before shifting to politics. He has also been a features writer. Today, Matt jumps from beat to beat, depending on what his editor and the Rochester area are producing in terms of news. Readers can reach Matthew at 507-281-7415 or mstolle@postbulletin.com.
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