A passenger in George Floyd’s car when he was approached by a group of Minneapolis police officers, who have since been charged with killing the 46-year-old, recalled how his friend tried to defuse the situation in his final moments of consciousness, never at any moment-resisting arrest.
“He was, from the beginning, trying in his humblest form to show he was not resisting in no form or way,” Maurice Hall told the New York Times Wednesday night. “I could hear him pleading, ‘Please, officer, what’s all this for?’”
Floyd was confronted by four police officers in Minneapolis on Memorial Day for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill. Video of the deadly incident, leaked online the following day, shows ex-officer Derek Chauvin kneeling down on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as he begged for his life and called out for his mother.
He eventually became unresponsive and was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later. An independent autopsy earlier this week revealed that Floyd died from “asphyxiation from sustained pressure” from when his neck and back were compressed by officers.
“He was just crying out at that time for anyone to help because he was dying,” Hall told the paper.
“I’m going to always remember seeing the fear in Floyd’s face because he’s such a king. That’s what sticks with me, seeing a grown man cry, before seeing a grown man die.”
Hall, a key witness in the case who was only recently tracked down by law enforcement, gave authorities a fake name on the scene. He had outstanding warrants for his arrest on felony possession of a firearm, felony domestic assault and felony drug possession at the time, a Minnesota official told the newspaper.
From there, he hitchhiked back to his native Houston — but not before saying a final good bye to his friend.
"When the whole world was finding out that they murdered George Floyd,” he said, “I went and said a prayer where I witnessed him take his last breath, and I left.”
Hall was taken into custody on Monday while eating dinner with his family.
Minnesota state investigators questioned him for hours about Floyd’s death rather than his outstanding warrants and then transferred him to the Harris County Jail in Houston.
He was not freed until Tuesday, after his lawyers fought for his release.
‘When Mr. Hall’s family found us, he had been isolated in jail for 10 hours after being interrogated until 3 a.m.," his lawyer Ashlee C. McFarlane, a partner at Gerger Khalil Hennessy & McFarlane, said.
“This is not how you treat a key witness, especially one that had just seen his friend murdered by police. Even with outstanding warrants, this should have been done another way.”
All four officers involved in Floyd’s death were immediately fired, but it took nearly a week for Chauvin to be charged in connection with the case. He was initially hit with a count of third-degree murder, which was upgraded to a second-degree count on Wednesday.
Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, who helped restrain Floyd, and Tou Thao, who stood near the others, were not initially charged. Lane, 37, Kueng, 26, and Thao, 34, are now charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.