US police officer found guilty of George Floyd’s murder
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter by a jury Tuesday for his role in the murder of George Floyd last May outside of a local convenience store.
Floyd’s death, and the video which showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes, became a catalyst for the sports world’s racial and social justice movement last summer.
A jury of six white, four Black, and two multi-racial jurors deliberated nine hours over two days — five hours on Monday; four hours Tuesday — before rendering a verdict.
Chauvin faces a 40-year maximum sentence for the second-degree murder conviction, a 25-year sentence for third-degree murder and a 10-year sentence for second-degree manslaughter.
Floyd’s death led to nationwide protests and prompted athletes throughout the sports world to speak out on social and racial injustice. Former NBA player Stephen Jackson traveled to Minnesota the week Floyd died and said “I’m hurt, I’m angry, but I ain’t scared” in an emotional speech alongside fellow NBA players Karl-Anthony Towns and Josh Okogie. Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics drove 15 hours to march at a protest in Atlanta.
NBA and WNBA players spoke out frequently, and both leagues resumed their seasons with “Black Lives Matter” painted on the court. “Through peaceful protest, we must demand strong leadership at all levels that is equally committed to achieving true social justice,” the Women’s National Basketball Players Association said in a statement the week of Floyd’s death.
As news of Floyd’s death spread, LeBron James posted a Twitter message with a photo of Floyd alongside an image of Colin Kaepernick and wrote “Do you understand NOW!!??!!??” Magic Johnson tweeted “How many times do we have to see Black men killed on national television?” Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr tweeted “This is murder. Disgusting. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with US????”
A group of NFL players, including Patrick Mahomes, appeared in a Twitter video that started with “It’s been 10 days since George Floyd was brutally murdered. How many times do we need to ask you to listen to your players? What will it take? For one of us to be murdered by police brutality?” and asking “What if I was George Floyd?”
When the NFL season opened in September, the Minnesota Vikings honored Floyd’s family at their opener with a moment of silence and silencing the team’s signature Gjallarhorn in his honor. The league had every team play “Lift Every Voice And Sing,” often called the Black national anthem, before season openers, and players wore the name of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black men and women killed by police on the back of their helmets.
Tennis player Naomi Osaka wore the names of seven Black people killed by police on her mask at every US Open match. When a reporter asked her what message she wanted to send, she said: “Well, what was the message that you got was more the question. I feel like the point is to make people start talking.”
Floyd was killed on May 25 after Minneapolis police officers responded to a call shortly after 8 p.m. about a possible forgery at a corner grocery. Floyd, saying he was claustrophobic as officers tried to put him in a squad car, ended up handcuffed and face-down in the street.
Chauvin used his knee to pin Floyd’s neck as bystanders shouted at him to stop. Bystander video shows Floyd crying “I can’t breathe” multiple times before going limp. He was pronounced dead at a hospital at age 46.
Police initially issued a statement saying Floyd died of a “medical incident.” Bystander video was posted online the next day, and in the face of growing protests in Minneapolis and nationwide, police said the FBI would investigate. Chauvin and three other officers were eventually fired as Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey called for criminal charges against Chauvin.
Chauvin, age 45 and a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis police force, was arrested on May 29 and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. The charges were later upgraded to second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
As protests in Minneapolis and around the country grew, the county medical examiner ruled on June 1 that Floyd’s heart stopped as police restrained him and compressed his neck, noting Floyd had underlying health issue and listing fentanyl and methamphetamine use as “other significant conditions.”
At trial, prosecutors argued that Chauvin was responsible for Floyd’s death by keeping a knee on his neck. The defense argued he died because of drugs in his system and pre-existing health conditions.
Three other officers were also arrested and will stand trial together this summer.
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