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MMA fighter who watched George Floyd's death says he called police on the police

CNN's Sara Sidner reports on opening statements and witness testimony jurors heard during the first day of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin's murder trial in the death of George Floyd.

Posted: Mar 30, 2021 8:51 AM
Updated: Mar 30, 2021 12:45 PM

A professional mixed martial arts fighter who stumbled onto the scene of George Floyd's death testified Tuesday that he called 911 after watching former officer Derek Chauvin's actions on May 25, 2020.

'I called the police on the police,' Donald Wynn Williams II testified Tuesday. 'I believed I witnessed a murder.'

Williams, whose testimony began Monday afternoon and continued Tuesday, was one of the most vocal among those in the widely seen bystander video of Floyd's final moments, repeatedly pleading for Chauvin to get off Floyd and calling him a 'bum' and a 'tough guy.'

He was the second witness to report police's behavior to the police. On Monday, a Minneapolis 911 dispatcher testified that she was able to watch live video of Floyd's arrest -- and called a police sergeant afterward to voice her concerns.

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The teenager who took that infamous bystander video, Darnella Frazier, testified Tuesday that she came upon the scene while going to Cup Foods with her young cousin. She is being identified only by her first name in court, but she has been internationally recognized for her decision to record and share the video.

'I pulled out my phone, recording, capturing what I was seeing,' she testified. 'I heard George Floyd saying, 'I can't breathe,' please, get off of me. 'I can't breathe' and crying for his mom. He was in pain. It seemed like he knew it was over for him.'

The testimony in Chauvin's trial comes 10 months after Floyd's death launched a summer of protest, unrest and a societal reckoning with America's past and present of anti-Black racism and aggressive policing.

Chauvin, 45, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges.

In opening statements Monday, prosecuting attorney Jerry Blackwell said Chauvin used excessive and unreasonable force when he knelt on Floyd for 9 minutes and 29 seconds -- a number that differs from the 8:46 timing that has become a symbol of police brutality. Chauvin's defense accepted the new timing as accurate.

Blackwell played the harrowing bystander video of Floyd's death and offered jurors a clear and simple case against Chauvin.

'You can believe your eyes that it's a homicide,' he said. 'You can believe your eyes.'

In response, Nelson argued that the case was more complicated than just that video. He said Chauvin was following his police use of force training and argued Floyd's cause of death was a combination of drug use and preexisting health issues.

'The use of force is not attractive, but it is a necessary component of policing,' he said.

Witness says Chauvin used 'blood choke'

Williams, the MMA fighter, testified on Monday and Tuesday that he had gone fishing with his son earlier in the day on May 25, 2020.

He decided to go to the Cup Foods store in Minneapolis to 'get some air' after watching several caught fish suffocate and die. When he came upon Floyd's arrest nearby, he watched Floyd gasp for air and saw his eyes roll back in his head -- 'like a fish in a bag,' he explained.

Relying on his own MMA experience, Williams said that Chauvin performed a 'blood choke' on Floyd and adjusted his positioning several times to maintain pressure on Floyd's neck. He said he wanted to get Chauvin off Floyd but didn't physically intervene because former Minneapolis Police officer Tou Thao was directing him to stay away.

In a contentious cross-examination, Williams rejected defense attorney Eric Nelson's description that he had grown 'angry' on the scene.

'I grew professional. I stayed in my body. You can't paint me out to be angry,' he said.

What it's like in the courtroom

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, attendance is strictly limited inside the courtroom. The trial is being broadcast live in its entirety, giving the public a rare peek into the most important case of the Black Lives Matter era.

Only one member of Floyd's family is allowed to attend the trial each day, and on Monday Floyd's brother Philonise Floyd took that spot in court.

Philonise Floyd told CNN on Tuesday that being in the courtroom was an 'emotional roller-coaster.'

'To everybody else, it was a case and a cause. To me, it was my brother, somebody that I grew up with, eating with, sleeping in the same bed with, going fishing with, just watching him dance with my mother,' he said. 'Those are the things that I think about when I think about my brother. He was a protector, he was someone who we can go to when we were in trouble and in need of anything.'

His place in the courtroom was just feet from Chauvin, who has been taking notes on a large notepad during jury selection and the trial.

'I've seen him. I watched him. I watched the reaction when the witnesses were responding to questions they were asked,' Philonise Floyd said. 'He's in there, he's fighting for his life, just like I'm fighting for my brother's life. We've seen the video. We have facts. They're in there trying to assassinate his character. When you don't have facts, that's what you have to do.'

Witness testimony in the trial is expected to last about four weeks, followed by jury deliberations.

The second-degree murder charge says Chauvin intentionally assaulted Floyd with his knee, which unintentionally caused Floyd's death. The third-degree murder charge says Chauvin acted with a 'depraved mind, without regard for human life.' And the second-degree manslaughter charge says Chauvin's 'culpable negligence' caused Floyd's death.

Chauvin could be convicted of all, some, or none of the charges. Minnesota's sentencing guidelines recommend about 12.5 years in prison for each murder charge and about four years for the manslaughter charge.

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