MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A longtime friend who was in the car with George Floyd moments before his fatal arrest told The New York Times on Wednesday that Floyd was trying to defuse tensions with police and in no way resisted.
Lester Hall, 42, told the newspaper that his friend was “trying in his humblest form to show he was not resisting” on the evening of May 25, when the 46-year-old was taken into custody for allegedly trying to pass a fake $20 bill at a south Minneapolis corner store.
What happened next sparked protests and riots across America: Now-former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck as the 46-year-old lay prone, handcuffed, and pleading with officer, telling them he couldn’t breathe.
“I’m going to always remember seeing the fear in Floyd’s face because he’s such a king,” Hall told The Times. “That’s what sticks with me, seeing a grown man cry, before seeing a grown man die.”
Hall is a key witness in the state’s prosecution of Chauvin and the other three former officers involved in Floyd’s death. His interview with the Times sheds light on the first moments of Floyd’s encounter with police. While the ex-officers were all wearing body cameras, that footage has yet to be released to the public.
Two other witnesses were also in a car when the ex-officers first encountered Floyd. Hall gave the name of one of the witnesses to the Times, the other he didn’t know.
In the immediate aftermath of Floyd’s death, Hall told The Times that he gave investigators a false name, as he had outstanding felony warrants. Days later, he hitchhiked to Houston, Texas, where both he and Floyd are from.
Minnesota investigators tracked Hall to Texas, and a spokesperson for the Minnesota Bureau of Investigation told The Times that they repeatedly tried to contact Hall, who ignored them. Hall told The Times that he had turned his phone off as a way to deal with the trauma of Floyd’s death.
On Monday, Hall was arrested in Texas on the outstanding warrants and Minnesota investigators questioned him about what happened to his friend. Hall was released from jail Tuesday, the newspaper reports.
Chauvin is facing charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. The other three ex-officers — Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J Alexander Kueng — are charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.