Maurice Lester Hall, 42, was with Floyd in the car during the arrest that led to his death, The New York Times reported. It tracked him down in Houston, where he said he fled two days after witnessing the death of his mentor.
In an interview with the paper, Hall described Floyd as a fellow Houston native whom he’d known for years, saying they spent most of Memorial Day together before the fatal police encounter.
“He was, from the beginning, trying in his humblest form to show he was not resisting in no form or way,” Hall told the paper Wednesday night. “I could hear him pleading, ‘Please, officer, what’s all this for?’ “
Throngs of protesters have taken to the streets since Floyd died on May 25 to demand the arrest of all four officers involved. Authorities initially arrested Derek Chauvin, the officer who pinned Floyd to the ground by his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds before he died. On Wednesday, they upgraded the murder charges against him and charged three other former officers who were at the scene with aiding and abetting.
Hall said he’ll never forget what he saw that day.
“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.”
A memorial and a court appearance
After days of protests, Thursday will be a bittersweet day.
Floyd’s family will hold a memorial for him and three of the four officers arrested will make their first court appearance.
Even with the new charges, mostly peaceful protesters gathered across the United States for a ninth night despite curfews in several cities. They chanted Floyd’s name, marched and called for an end to police brutality.
In Minneapolis, at the spot where Floyd spent his last moments begging for his life, a sense of calm prevailed Wednesday night. A man rolled up a piano at the scene and played John Legend’s “All of Me.” Another man stepped up to the piano afterward and played “Imagine” by John Lennon. People cried, clapped and sang along. Others brought free food, water and diapers for protesters, CNN’s Sara Sidner reported.
Protests go on hours after arrests
The protests against Floyd’s death have touched a nerve all over the world and sparked solidarity demonstrations in cities such as Paris, highlighting the issue of racism in different countries.
In the United States, protests showed no signs of abating hours after the officers’ arrests and charges. Most protests remained peaceful Wednesday, unlike previous nights, when violence and looting broke out.
Nearly 100 people were arrested when scuffles broke out between police and crowds in downtown New York, where crowds remained early Thursday, long past the 8 p.m. curfew. Protesters mostly knelt and sat on the ground with their hands up.
In the nation’s capital, protesters marched through the early morning and quietly faced off with National Guard troops. They gathered a few blocks from the White House, and the city’s mayor said the curfew would not be enforced as long as the protesters stayed peaceful.
And in New Orleans, police fired tear gas to disperse protesters who police say defied orders to not walk across the Crescent City Connection, a bridge that stretches across the Mississippi River.
“We were compelled to deploy gas … in response to escalating, physical confrontation with our officers,” the New Orleans Police Department tweeted.
Final county autopsy contradicts family’s
Floyd will be eulogized at a small and intimate memorial service at Minneapolis’ North Central University on Thursday afternoon. Reverend Al Sharpton will deliver the eulogy.
Around the same time, the three officers will make a court appearance in Minneapolis. With the coronavirus pandemic, it’s unclear whether they will be in court in person or via video link.
Meanwhile, officials released more details on Floyd’s autopsy.
His death was due to cardiopulmonary arrest — or the stopping of his heart — according to the final autopsy results released Wednesday by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner.
His neck was compressed when the officer’s knee was on it for more than eight minutes, the report says, but does not conclude that it directly caused his death.
The final report from the medical examiner says Floyd had bruises and cuts on his head, face, mouth, shoulders, arms and legs. But it finds no evidence that any of those injuries directly would have killed him.
The autopsy says Floyd had heart disease and a history of high blood pressure. A preliminary toxicology report found moderate levels of fentanyl and methamphetamine.
The county autopsy also indicates that Floyd had tested positive for coronavirus in April.
But an independent autopsy commissioned by the Floyd family disagreed with the county’s conclusion, saying he died of “asphyxiation from sustained pressure.”
Attorney general confident of new charges
While officers are rarely convicted of on-duty killings, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said he’s confident the evidence supports the new and more serious charges.
“George Floyd mattered. He was loved. His family was important. His life had value,” Ellison said. “We will seek justice for him and for you, and we will find it.”
Chauvin was initially charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. A charge of second-degree murder was added Wednesday, which carries 40 years in prison if convicted.
The other former officers — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — were arrested Wednesday, and face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. If convicted, they face up to 40 years in prison.