• Tiana Poirier

Derek Chauvin Found Guilty of the Murder of George Floyd

Accountability has finally been delivered nearly 11 months after the murder of 46-year-old Africian-American George Floyd by former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. On May 25, 2020 Chauvin was seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, a practice banned by the Minneapolis Police Department, ultimately resulting in Floyd’s death. On April 20, 2021 the final verdict convicted Chauvin with 2nd-degree unintentional murder, 3rd-degree murder, and 2nd-degree manslaughter after the jurors spent 10 hours deliberating. His sentencing is set to take place in 8 weeks and until then he is held without bail at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Oak Park Heights in solitary confinement for his own protection.

On May 25, 2020 Floyd had the police called on him by a store clerk after allegedly appearing intoxicated and using a counterfeit $20 to buy cigarettes. Officers Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng responded to this call and took Floyd into custody but he refused to get into the police vehicle because he was claustrophobic and in distress. By this time the third police car arrived, carrying officers Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao. We can see from a security camera that Kueng was shoving Floyd in the police car and Chauvin pulled him from the other side and pushed him onto the street. All four officers were gathered around Floyd, with Lane applying pressure to his legs, Kueng on his torso and Chauvin kneeling on his neck while Thao watched a crowd form. They then called for an ambulance for non-emergency medical assistance, all while remaining on Floyd. They soon called again, this time for emergency medical assistance.

At this time a 17-year-old bystander, Darnella Frazier, started recording and we are unable to see if the other officers are still on Floyd, but we see that Chauvin has not stopped kneeling on Floyd’s neck even after handcuffing Floyd and calling for medical assistance. Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for a total of 9 minutes and 29 seconds, all of which he was not actively resisting, and became unconscious. During this time Floyd cried out “I can't breathe” at least 28 times along with “Please,” “I'm through,'' “They’re going to kill me,” “Mama,” and other indicators that Chauvin was being too forceful. Paramedics then arrived and Floyd was declared dead an hour later at a local hospital after doctors tried to resuscitate him for 30 minutes.

After the video was released that day, Black Lives Matter protests broke out in Minneapolis demanding social justice and accountability. The next day protests grew into movements. All over the world people were watching the video of Chauvin on Floyd’s neck and felt furious and shocked that police brutality is so prominent. Protests soon became violent when looters and rioters started hijacking protests, which resulted in many places around the world setting curfews and sending the National Guard. Clashes between protesters and police began when police started using tear gas, rubber bullets, and smoke grenades.

As the months have passed, the protests have been less violent but just as important and still continue with the same passion. Protests are not only for Floyd’s murder, though. Black Lives Matter takes on police brutality of all innocent black people murdered in police custody. Since the murder of Floyd, the world has paid more attention to the many lives lost in a similar way before him like Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor and Elijah McClain -- all killed by police officers while unarmed and declared not dangerous. The movement has brought great attention to the systemic racism grounded in the foundation of the U.S. and continues to march for justice and peace.

The day after the murder, all four officers were fired and Chauvin was charged with 3rd-degree murder and Thao, Lane, and Kueng with aiding and abetting 3rd-degree murder. This outraged protesters and supporters because they felt Chauvin had intention when killing Floyd and the conviction should be 2nd-degree murder. Chauvin then was advised to plead guilty until U.S. Attorney General, William P. Barr, listened to the people and reinstated his case and charged him with 2nd-degree unintentional murder and 2nd-degree manslaughter on top of 3rd-degree murder. Then Lane, Thao, and Kueng were charged with aiding and abetting 2nd-degree unintentional murder, aiding and abetting 3rd-degree murder, and aiding and abetting 2nd-degree manslaughter.

President Joe Biden has also agreed to sign the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act if it gets passed. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is a reform bill aiming to take down police misconduct, racial bias and excessive force in policing.

The verdict is now final that Chauvin is convicted of 2nd-degree unintentional murder, 3rd-degree murder, and 2nd-degree manslaughter, and is awaiting sentencing. Thao, Lane, and Kueng face aiding and abetting 2nd-degree unintentional murder, aiding and abetting 3rd-degree murder, and aiding and abetting 2nd-degree manslaughter. Their joint trial is set to take place on August 23, 2021. Protests and outrage still run strong as the demand for change and justice continues.

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