Donald Williams, a wrestler and mixed martial arts athlete, saw Floyd being held to the ground by police officers on May 25, 2020. He was vocalizing his pain and distress, Williams said. But as Chauvin continued his pressure on Floyd's neck, his consciousness "floated away, and his eyes rolled back into his head.
"He was lifeless, and he didn't speak," Williams said of Floyd.
Williams was one of the first witnesses called 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.
The trial in Hennepin County is expected to last two to four weeks.
Williams, who testified for the prosecution, said he has trained police officers, including those in the Minneapolis department. He testified about the "blood choke'' that Chauvin used on Floyd. The choke, a form of strangulation, compresses one or both carotid arteries. Williams said that Chauvin adjusted or "shimmied" his knee to locate and put more pressure on Floyd's neck.
"I watched the position of the knee on the neck, what body movement was going on, the shimmy to get the final choke in," Williams said.
Williams will continue to testify when court is back in session at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 30.
Monday morning, 911 dispatcher Jena Scurry testified that she thought her screen had frozen May 25 while watching a video feed from a street camera of Floyd being taken into custody and later pinned to the ground by Chauvin. But the screen had not frozen, and Scurry thought something was wrong.
During that time, Chauvin kneeled on the handcuffed Floyd for more than 9 minutes, a confrontation sparked by Floyd's use of a counterfeit $20 bill at a Cup Foods.
Scurry said she called a supervising sergeant to let him know what she was seeing, even referring to herself as a "snitch," as if reluctant to make the call.
"It was the extended period of time," Scurry said during questioning by Minnesota Assistant Attorney Matthew Frank. "I can't tell you the exact amount of time. Instinct told me something was wrong."
Scurry's testimony came following opening statements by Special Assistant Attorney General Jerry Blackwell, who described Chauvin's actions as a betrayal of his badge. Even as bystanders pleaded and berated Chauvin to relent, Chauvin continued "grinding and crushing until the very breath, until the very life, was squeezed out of him."
"Evidence is going to show you that there was no cause in the first place to use lethal force against the man who was defenseless, who was handcuffed, who was not resistant," Blackwell said.
Floyd "verbalized" 27 times during the first 4 minutes and 45 seconds that Chauvin was kneeling on Floyd's neck and back that he couldn't breathe, Blackwell said. For the remaining time, Floyd was unconscious. And during the final 53 seconds of Floyd's ordeal, his body gave out "agonal breathing," an involuntary reflex to the distress his body was going through.
Yet, Chauvin's defense attorney, Eric Nelson, argued that Floyd's underlying health problems were the cause of his death. He attributed Floyd's death to cardiac arrhythmia resulting from hypertension, coronary disease, and the taking of methamphetamine and fentanyl. Chauvin did what he was trained to do, Nelson argued.
"There is no evidence that Mr. Floyd's airflow was restricted, and (the medical examiner) did not determine it to be a positional or mechanical asphyxia death," Nelson said.
Nelson said the officers found themselves in a situation in which the crowd grew larger and angrier as the scene unfolded on 38th Street and Chicago in Minneapolis. And the commotion around them prompted the officers to divert their attention from Floyd to the "threat that was growing in front of them," Nelson said.
"There are people behind them. There are people across the street," Nelson said. "There is a growing crowd and what officers perceive to be a threat."
The day's second witness, Alisha Oyler, a Speedway cashier, recorded seven videos of the incident standing across the street from Cup Foods.
"Because the police were messing with people, and it's wrong," Oyler testified when asked why she kept video recording.
A 12-member jury made up two white men, four white women, three Black men, one Black woman and two women who identify as mixed race will decide Chauvin's fate and whether he will face years in prison.
Chauvin is white and Floyd was Black. During the first day, the camera occasionally flashed to a masked Chauvin, who was busily writing notes on a yellow legal pad.
Chauvin faces charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
The three other former officers involved — Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng — face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Thao, Lane and Kueng will be tried at a later date.