Former Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin is currently on trial on charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter over the death of George Floyd.
Floyd, who was Black, died after Chauvin, who is white, knelt on the back of his neck for over nine minutes. Chauvin did this as part of an arrest that was prompted by allegations that Floyd used a counterfeit $20 bill.
Video footage of Floyd’s death went viral leading to mass and prolonged demonstrations across the United States and beyond. Demonstrators pointed to the incident as one of many examples of police violence against the Black community and as a symbol of anti-Black racism that exists throughout all levels of American society.
Yesterday Chauvin’s trial heard from a number of witnesses who were on the scene when Floyd was killed. One of those witnesses was Donald Williams, a former college wrestler and pro MMA fighter.
Williams testified that Chauvin used a blood choke on Floyd. Earlier Chauvin’s defence had tried to prevent Williams using his martial arts experience during the trial, but the court ruled in favour of the prosecution, thus allowing Williams to relate to the jury specific details regarding the choke.
Williams told the court that he turned a corner and came across the scene where Chauvin was pinning Floyd to the ground. Williams said he heard Floyd “speaking in a distressed way” (per ABC News).
Williams further said that Floyd was saying he was in pain and crying out for his mother. “His breathing was getting tremendously heavy,” he said. Williams can be heard in the video footage of this incident yelling at Chauvin to let Floyd go and warning that he was killing him.
Despite William’s pleas Chauvin continued to hold Floyd down. According to Williams Chauvin also performed a ‘shimmy’ maneuver to tighten the choke. After this Williams said he saw that Floyd’s eyes had “slowly rolled to the back of his head” and that his nose started bleeding. Williams said, seconds later, Floyd was “lifeless”.
Williams’ testimony, in addition to a paramedic who was on the scene and told officers to check Floyd’s pulse, is being used by the prosecution to prove that Chauvin was aware that the situation he created posed a risk of death to Floyd, thus satisfying the conditions of second-degree manslaughter.
Chauvin has plead not guilty to all charges. Each of his murder charges carry a possible sentence of 12.5 years in prison. His manslaughter charge carries a possible sentence of four years in prison.