City of Minneapolis reaches tentative settlement with witness to George Floyd’s murder

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The city of Minneapolis has reached a tentative settlement with one of the most vocal witnesses to George Floyd’s murder, court documents show.

Donald Williams II, who watched helplessly as Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 ½ minutes on May 25, 2020, had sued in Hennepin County District Court, naming as defendants Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, the city of Minneapolis and another now-former officer, Tou Thao, who kept Williams and other bystanders at bay as they expressed concern for Floyd.

A spokesperson for the city said Monday it is not commenting. Attorneys for Williams did not immediately reply to requests for comment. 

According to the court documents filed last week, the City Attorney’s Office intends to present the proposed settlement to the City Council on April 25. If the council approves, Mayor Jacob Frey has seven days to approve or veto it.

Williams was a key witness at Chauvin’s state trial and sparred with Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, who attempted to portray bystanders, including an off-duty firefighter, as an angry mob that diverted the officers’ attention.

Williams was recorded on Thao’s body camera shouting at the officers to intervene. 

Williams testified that he remained at the scene even after paramedics took Floyd away and that he called 911 because he believed he had witnessed a murder. 

Williams, a former wrestler who said he was trained in mixed martial arts, alleged in the lawsuit that Chauvin threatened him and other bystanders with a can of Mace, shaking it at them after Williams expressed concern for Floyd. The suit also alleged that Chauvin and Thao taunted Floyd, Williams and other onlookers and that Thao placed his hand on Williams’ chest — actions Williams took as threats, according to the suit. Williams was fearful for his safety and that of the other witnesses, the lawsuit said.

As a result of Chauvin and Thao’s conduct, the lawsuit alleged, Williams has endured emotional distress, pain, suffering, humiliation and embarrassment. 

He alleged one count each of assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and he sought more than $50,000 in damages for each count, a standard dollar amount that must be listed in Minnesota if a plaintiff intends to seek an amount above that figure. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

Floyd, a Black man, was handcuffed prone on the street May 25, 2020, as Chauvin, who is white, knelt on his neck for 9½ minutes. Floyd repeatedly said he could not breathe while Chauvin and two other officers restrained him before he went limp. (Those officers, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, were also fired and are serving jail time for their role in Floyd’s death.)

Floyd’s death was captured on cellphone video by a 17-year-old who also testified at Chauvin’s trial. The video brought international attention to his death after it was posted to Facebook and widely viewed. The case sparked global outrage and protests and called into question how Black people are treated in interactions with police.

Chauvin was sentenced to 22½ years after he was found guilty of second- and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter, in April 2021. He also pleaded guilty to a separate federal charge of violating Floyd’s civil rights and was sentenced to 21 years on that count, with credit for the time he had already served, which brought his sentence to 20 years and five months.

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