‘Y’all Are Murderers’: Bystander Who Watched George Floyd Die Called 911 on Derek Chauvin

“I just felt like it was the right thing to do,” witness Donald Williams said through tears when asked why he called the cops.
March 30, 2021, 4:33pm
Witness Donald Williams answers questions as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides Monday, March 29, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, in the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd at the Hennepin County Courthouse
Witness Donald Williams answers questions as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides Monday, March 29, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, in the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Court TV via AP, Pool)

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A mixed martial artist who watched as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes referred to the officers as “murderers” when he called 911 on them.

On Day Two of Chauvin’s murder trial at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, jurors heard the phone call that Donald Williams, a Black mixed martial artist and occasional security guard, made in the moments before Floyd died in police custody. They also heard him explain why he made that call.

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“He just pretty much killed this guy that wasn’t resisting arrest,” Williams said during the emergency call while Floyd was being arrested for attempting to use a counterfeit $20 bill at a store in South Minneapolis. “He had his knee on this dude’s neck the whole time, officer 987. The man went limp, stopped breathing. He wasn’t resisting arrest or nothing; he was already in handcuffs.”

Officer 987 was the number on Chauvin’s badge at the time of the arrest.

“Y’all murderers, dawg, y’all are murderers, dawg,” Williams went on as Chauvin continued to hold Floyd down. “Y’all are going to kill yourself. You’re going to shoot yourself. Murderers, dawg.”

Williams later explained during defense questioning that he meant officers would kill themselves over the guilt of what had happened to Floyd, whose death would set off a national reckoning over the police’s treatment of Black Americans.

Tuesday was the first time the public heard the frantic phone call between Williams and the 911 operator that day in late May last year. The trial is being livestreamed on multiple services. But it was the second time the jury heard about someone calling the cops on the cops present as Floyd died. 

On Monday, a 911 dispatcher who watched Floyd’s arrest play out through a nearby police camera said she called Chauvin’s sergeant after she said her “instincts” told her something was wrong. 

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Williams echoed that sentiment. 

“I just felt like it was the right thing to do,” he said through tears when asked why he called the cops on officers Chauvin and Tou Thao, the latter of whom kept outraged onlookers at bay during the arrest. “I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t know what to do.”

“As I was sitting there, I just was really trying to keep my professionalism and make sure that I speak out for Floyd’s life,” Williams continued. “I felt like he was in very much danger. I see another man like me being controlled in a way.” 

The defense then objected to the witness alluding to race, although it’s unclear what he said.

When questioned by the defense, Williams used his expertise in boxing, muy thai, and jiu-jitsu to better explain why he was so concerned about the hold Chauvin applied to Floyd. When the defense asked whether he became progressively angry about the arrest as it played out, Williams pushed back.

"I stayed in my body,” he told defense attorney Eric Nelson. “You can't paint me out to be angry."

Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis PD at the time of Floyd’s death, is facing second- and third-degree murder charges, as well as second-degree manslaughter charges. He faces up to 65 years in prison. 

The trial is expected to last two to four weeks. The other former officers involved in the case, including Tou Thou, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng, are facing aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges. They will be tried separately from Chauvin in August.