Tanikgwa Givins of St. Paul testified Tuesday that she threw herself over Ray Widstrand to shield him as a mob of young men and boys brutally attacked him this summer.
“People were stomping on him,” Givins, 22, testified. “There were too many people. I tried to lay down on top of him, but I got kicked.”
Months after the Aug. 4 attack, Widstrand remains dependent on a wheelchair and struggles to speak.
Givins’ testimony came as the first of five men charged in the attack went on trial in Ramsey County District Court. Issac O. Maiden, 19, is charged with first-degree assault, first-degree aggravated robbery and two counts of a crime committed for the benefit of a gang.
Givins said that she was picking up her sister and cousin from a party that had devolved into fights between girls in the street near the intersection of Preble Street and E. Minnehaha Avenue. Authorities said as many as 40 to 50 teens, some with gang ties, were present.
Givins testified that she heard a “knock” and turned to see Widstrand on the ground. She ran to his aid and struggled to pull up his shorts as thieves stripped them off and ran away.
“His boxers came down, and I put them back up,” Givins said as Widstrand’s mother, Linda Widstrand, nodded in quiet appreciation.
Givins said she could not identify any of the attackers by face because all she saw were shoes and legs.
“I think she did a great thing,” Linda Widstrand said during a noon lunch break.
Widstrand’s sister, Alice Widstrand, testified that her brother still speaks in a “rough, slow” voice and will undergo surgery Wednesday morning to replace two bone flaps in his skull.
Video of attack
Also Tuesday, St. Paul police Sgt. Sheila Lambie testified that cellphone video obtained from someone at the scene shows several people gathered around some girls fighting as a white male entered the frame. His face cannot be seen, Lambie said, but his white T-shirt with a distinctive logo and yellow shorts with white lacing matched the clothes that Widstrand was wearing when he was attacked about 11:30 p.m.
The video stopped right after Widstrand appeared to bend over and extend his arm toward one of the girls, Lambie testified. Widstrand lived a block from the scene.
Maiden’s attorney, Bruce Wenger, successfully objected when Assistant Ramsey County Attorney David Miller tried to have a photo from the video and then the video itself admitted as evidence.
In his opening statement, Miller said that no blood was found on the shoes Maiden was allegedly wearing that night. He did not say what would tie Maiden to the attack.
Wenger latched onto that apparent gap in evidence.
“This was a devastating beating,” Wenger said, “but Mr. Maiden wasn’t even there.”
Wenger said Maiden was at the party but left when an irritant was sprayed to break up the fights. Donzel Maxwell testified that he saw Maiden walking away from the scene before Widstrand arrived.
Unconscious after one hit
De’Onta Davis testified that he saw a teen knock Widstrand unconscious with one hit. Davis said he sprayed Mace into the crowd to help Givins and saw Maiden standing with a group of men and boys who were attacking Widstrand. But under cross-examination, Davis admitted that he did not see Maiden’s actions.
Davis also testified that Cindarion D. Butler, 17, did not attack Widstrand, contradicting other testimony.
Butler is charged in the attack as an adult and has a pretrial hearing later this month.
Givins’ sister, Doneesha Richards, testified that Butler was among the 12 people attacking Widstrand. Lambie testified that presumptive blood and Widstrand’s DNA were found on Butler’s shoes and jeans.
A 15-year-old pleaded guilty in October to his role and was sentenced to 18 to 24 months in a juvenile facility. Another 15-year-old is charged in juvenile court. The last juvenile, 15, charged in the case has an adult certification hearing in December.