Witness in George Floyd Trial Wins $150k Settlement for PTSD

Source: X/ABC7NY

The Minneapolis City Council on Thursday approved a settlement worth a total of $150,000 with Donald Williams, an individual who witnessed the tragic murder of George Floyd. 

Williams who is aged 35, filed a lawsuit against the city during the spring, with claims that he experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because of the events surrounding Floyd’s arrest. 

Donald Williams: Witness To George Floyd’s Tragic Murder

According to Williams’ claims, he was allegedly assaulted by law enforcement officers at the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue when he tried to step in during Floyd’s arrest. 

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He was right outside the Cup Foods corner store on the evening of May 25, 2020, when he witnessed then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost 9 ½ minutes while Floyd pleaded for his life. 

Williams’ Attempts To Save George Floyd

The video taken by bystander Darnella Frazier shows Williams as one of the loudest people in the crowd, urging Chauvin to stop pressing on Floyd—who by that time was already unconscious—and to check his pulse.

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In a later testimony before a jury, he revealed that he called Chauvin “a bum” again and again in a last-ditch attempt to make the veteran officer relent.

Standing Up For Justice: Donald Williams’ Courage

When Chauvin noticed Williams’ unending vocalization for Floyd’s well-being, he grabbed a canister of chemical spray from his belt and shook it toward Williams and other onlookers, as described in the lawsuit. 

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Williams was so outspoken that Officer Tou Thao approached him and placed a hand on his chest. 

Impact Of Injustice: Donald Williams’ Story

Because of the officer’s actions, which have since led to his conviction, Williams claims he’s experienced fear for his safety and endured pain, suffering, humiliation, embarrassment, and incurred medical expenses.

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The Council unanimously approved the settlement without any discussion, and Williams’ lawyer, Jeff Storms, couldn’t be reached for comment right away. Storms has successfully helped get large sums of money for Floyd’s family and other well-known victims of deadly police incidents.

The Toll Of Costly Settlements Relating To Discrimatory Policing Practices

This instance is the latest of expensive settlements amidst increased scrutiny as Minneapolis engages in negotiations with the Justice Department regarding discriminatory policing practices. The city has paid out nearly $50 million in claims related to police brutality following Floyd’s death.

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Williams, who is a mixed-martial arts fighter, played a crucial role as a witness in Chauvin’s 2021 murder trial. He described how Chauvin used a “blood choke” on Floyd, a maneuver that restricts circulation. “I called the police on the police,” he testified. When asked why, he replied, “Because I believe I witnessed a murder.”

Sentences Served: Accountability For George Floyd’s Death

Chauvin is now serving a 20-year prison sentence for violation of Floyd’s civil rights and his murder. The other officers—Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane—are serving similar sentences, that range from 2 ½ to almost 5 years, for violating Floyd’s civil rights and aiding and abetting manslaughter.

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Last week, Thomas Lane aged 41, completed his federal sentence. However, he will remain housed at the low-security federal lockup in Littleton, Colo., until his state sentence ends on Aug. 20.

Coping With Trauma: Donald Williams’ Post-Trial Struggles

Williams mentioned in the weeks that he faced major struggles after the trial coping with the trauma that came about as a result of his witnessing one of the most famous cases of American police brutality of recent memory.

Source: X/Lufthee

“I look to my left, I see George Floyd,” he said in 2021. “I look to my right, I see George Floyd. I look somewhere else and it’s like I’m always remembering.”

Impact Of George Floyd’s Murder: Donald Williams’ Legal And Emotional Journey

Since then, he’s had a lot of trouble with the law himself. Most of it seems to come from him suddenly getting very angry and then doing something violent. Last May, he got in trouble in Olmsted County for hitting three people and causing a disturbance. 

Source: X/SCMountainGoat

Five months later, he got in trouble in Hennepin County for causing a scene and breaking stuff. In that case, he’s accused of punching through a school door because he wasn’t allowed inside, and then saying he wanted to choke people because he had to wait outside until his kid came out.

Legal Troubles Continue: A Troubling Pattern

In 2023, he was found guilty of breaking a domestic abuse order. Before that, he had been charged with serious crimes for allegedly choking his girlfriend outside the Minnesota State Fair and threatening the police who arrived, but those charges were dropped.

Source: X/JaredRutecki

The approval of the settlement for Donald Williams highlights how deeply George Floyd’s murder affected him.

Acknowledging Trauma And Accountability

At 35 years old, Williams not only endured physical assault but also suffered lasting psychological trauma, which resulted in him developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). His brave efforts to intervene during Floyd’s arrest showcase his strong moral character, despite facing opposition and retaliation from the police.

Source: X/ABC7NY

The unanimous support for the settlement from the Minneapolis City Council acknowledges the city’s responsibility for the harm caused to its residents by law enforcement officers.

Still Affected By Traumatic Experience

However, the aftermath of the trial shows that Williams is still dealing with the trauma he went through. His run-ins with the law, like being charged with assault, disorderly conduct, and property damage, prove that he’s still scarred by the event.

Source: X/unlimited_ls

While the settlement offers some compensation for Williams’ pain, it also brings attention to the bigger issue of police brutality and the need for significant changes. 

Catalyst For Change: The Impact Of George Floyd’s Murder

Attorney Jeff Storms’ success in getting large financial settlements for victims of police violence, including Floyd’s family, shows how common these incidents are and emphasizes the importance of reforming the system.

Source: X//Ruth Richardson

When the disturbing video of Floyd’s murder broke the internet on May 25, 2020, it sparked widespread calls for change across the nation. 

The Long Wait For Change

However, in the middle of the challenges of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, economic instability, and a divisive U.S. presidential election, 2020 went by without the major police reforms that many had hoped for, while others had feared.

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The years that followed—including 2021 and 2022—also saw little progress in this regard. It’s been nearly four years since Floyd’s death and there’s been calls for federal action, such as the prohibition of chokeholds and the modification of qualified immunity protections for law enforcement. However, the wait continues for any meaningful signs of change.

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Mary Scrantin

Written by Mary Scrantin

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