Chauvin Found Guilty of Murder, Manslaughter


Andrea Santiago, Student Journalist

The murder of George Floyd was a horrific event that put Minnesota in the public eye. It all happened on the afternoon of May 25th in the neighborhood of Powderhorn, in the city of Minneapolis, as a result of his arrest by four local police officers. In the following days, it caused a wave of people outraged at the situation throughout the United States. Marches and protests were held against racism, xenophobia, and police abuses against African American citizens.

The video of Mr. Floyd’s murder spread rapidly on social networks where he was seen being arrested by a police officer who then subdues him by putting his knee on his neck for over nine minutes in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The 40-year-old man said he couldn’t breathe and asked for help. A group of people that gathered pleaded with the officer to take his knee off of Mr. Floyd’s neck, but he refused. A few minutes later Mr. Floyd was put on a stretcher to be transferred in an ambulance in which he was pronounced dead. All four officers present were fired, and Derek Chauvin was arrested a few days later on charges of murder and manslaughter.

On the evening of Mr. Floyd’s murder, a series of protests began in Minneapolis and another man was shot and killed. Many businesses were destroyed, including the Third Precinct and our school, MTS Secondary. A curfew was put in place to try and stop the protests, but it wasn’t very effective.

A few days later, hundreds of people demanded justice in front of the White House during the night, before a large group of police who tried to disperse them even with tear gas. Tension inside the White House prompted the Secret Service to take President Donald Trump to a bunker inside the same building, designed for use in terrorist attacks. 

Although a preliminary report had originally said that Mr. Floyd died because of a medical condition and drugs in his system, a later independent autopsy performed on him determined that the cause of death was sustained pressure asphyxia. The report states that the cause of death was, “…sustained pressure on the right side of Floyd’s carotid artery impeded blood flow to the brain and the weight on his back impeded his ability to breathe.”

On the sixth day of protests, the curfew was extended to more than 20 cities in the United States.

Jumping ahead almost a full year, the trial for Derek Chauvin finally began on March 8th in Minneapolis. It was the first criminal trial in Minnesota to be entirely televised and the first in state court to be broadcast live.

On Tuesday, April 20th, after only ten hours of deliberation, Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts: second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. When the announcement was made of the upcoming verdict reading, many people in the Twin Cities left work early, and many schools switched to online learning for the remainder of the week. According to Shawn Fondow, the principal at MTS Secondary, “The decision to go online for the remainder of the week was made by Superintendent Erlandson. Without knowing what the verdict would be, and what the reaction to the verdict would be, Mr. Erlandson wanted to make sure everyone was safe.” Staff were also allowed to leave early on Tuesday. Mr. Fondow told us, “I made the decision in the morning that if there was a verdict, we would cancel our afternoon meetings. There was so much riding on that decision that it would be impossible to focus on anything else. And in all reality, nothing else mattered as much.” He went on to say, “As far as leaving early, again, it was a matter of safety. I wanted to make sure everyone was able to get home safely. From there, they would be able to process the decision at home and with their loved ones.”

The maximum time Chauvin could be incarcerated is 40 years, but we won’t know for sure how long he’ll get until the sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for June 15th.

Even though many people are relieved by the guilty verdict, tensions are still very high in Minnesota. On April 11th, a Brooklyn Center police officer shot and killed another unarmed Black man named Daunte Wright only a few miles away from the trial in Minneapolis. Immediately protests began in both Brooklyn Center and Minneapolis. A curfew was instituted in the Twin Cities area. As of now, over 300 protestors have been arrested. 

Terry Brown, an English teacher at MTS Secondary, summarized how so many of us are feeling during this time. “We’ve been sitting on a powder keg for nearly eleven months. When they read the verdict I breathed a sigh of relief. It’s unfortunate that George Floyd lost his life to a senseless act of violence. Yet, I’m relieved that Chauvin was convicted. Now, I’m hoping that this conviction sets a precedent of accountability within the police force. We still have a long way to go before we see fairness in how people of color are treated by law enforcement, and today was a step in the right direction.” 

President Biden has spoken with Mr. Floyd’s family as well. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on her Twitter account Tuesday, “President Biden called George Floyd’s family yesterday to speak with them and to tell them that his family was in his prayers.” Regarding this call, Mr. Floyd’s younger brother, Philonise Floyd, explained that Biden, “…knows what it is like to lose a family member,”and that he knows what Floyd’s family is going through. He was referring to the fact that Biden lost, when he was 29, his first wife, Neilia, and his daughter, Naomi, in an accident. President Biden also lost another of his children, Beau, in 2015 from brain cancer.

Mr. Floyd’s brother went on to say, “He was letting us know that he was praying for us, hoping that everything would work out,” in an interview with the US television network NBC. Biden made this call the day that the final arguments of the Prosecutor’s Office and Chauvin’s defense ended, during the deliberations by the jury. Last Tuesday, the president confirmed the information to reporters at the White House and said he was praying for “the correct verdict” to be produced, in a case that he considered “overwhelming.”