Chauvin guilty verdict met with relief, renewed calls for reform in Puget Sound area
Former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on three charges related to the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd – unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. That verdict in Minneapolis sent a wave of relief throughout the country, including here in Washington.
Civic leaders expressed gratefulness and hope -- albeit tinged with sadness -- along with calls for continued police reform and an end to racism. Regular citizens shared similar feelings.
State Rep. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, spoke with KNKX’s Ed Ronco about a half-hour after the verdict.
Lovick's perspective: He's Black, he grew up in the segregationist South, and he worked in law enforcement – with the Washington State Patrol, and as Snohomish County sheriff.
"Justice was served," Lovick said. "I'm also torn because I can't imagine how many times justice has NOT been served. I'm dealing with some hard, hard emotions right now.”
Lovick wasn’t alone with his hard emotions.
“I am very happy. This is a step forward. We got it right. We didn’t drop the ball,” Omar Abdulla told KNKX’s Will James Tuesday afternoon on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. “But, at the same time, this has to be the precedent. We have to do this every time when someone is truly guilty. We have to do the work and get to the bottom of it.
"I’m happy. I don't want to be too joyous because, at the same time, somebody did lose their life and that can't be taken back,” he added.
"I just thought justice was served," Daniel Beyene said at Seattle's Cal Anderson Park. "I think it maybe sets a good precedent for the future, more cops are held accountable for their bad actions."
A Seattle resident who asked to be identified as Rebel reflected at a makeshift memorial for Floyd and others killed by police in recent years.
"This is a moment of accountability for one police officer who murders one Black man in a racist, oppressive policing system," she said.
As she stood at the memorial, Rebel said she thought of Floyd’s family and hoped they were able to find some peace.
The Rev. Harriett Walden believes that peace was found.
"Whenever children call their mother, no matter how old their mother is or how young the mother is, a mother always get up to see when their children call. Mr. Floyd called out for his mother. Although she was beyond the veil, she came and got her son," Walden said. "So today they are rejoicing on the other side of the veil, and they are together. And this is a good day for justice and for America."
In Tacoma, the verdict was hailed as "a great decision." But the death of Manuel Ellis wasn't far from many people's thoughts.
Ellis died March 3, 2020, in Tacoma, handcuffed by police and lying on the ground. "I can't breathe, sir," were some of the 33-year-old Black man's last words.
Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards and City Manager Elizabeth Pauliissued a joint statement Tuesday. They reflected on the Chauvin verdict while also acknowledging the weight of the Ellis case.
“With today’s announcement of a guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, we want to acknowledge the crushing weight and deep impacts that the death of George Floyd, this subsequent trial, and the wait to get to this verdict have had on our community and the entire nation. Juries play a crucial and oftentimes difficult role in our justice system, and we want to express our appreciation for this jury’s efforts to come to a decision in this monumental case,” the statement said.
“While the trial of Derek Chauvin comes to a close, we recognize that this historic moment alone does not lift the tension and weight that currently rest on our city or our country. As we reflect on today’s national news, we also acknowledge the continued local impacts of ongoing investigations – including the one into the death of Manuel Ellis – right here in Tacoma.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Robert Boddie stood outside Goodfellas barbershop, right by a mural of Ellis.
"It’s a great verdict, it’s a great decision," Boddie said. "You know, we got justice for him, you know. As African-Americans, it helps our community, helps his family come at peace and growth. I wasn't really expecting anything, you know, but having a guilty verdict with three different charges, it's a blessing."
A block away, Michael Simon was working inside Bob’s Bar-B-Q Pit while watching the news on TV.
"I feel like that justice was served and, you know, it's about time. I think it took a little too long," he said. "I mean, it was clearly, you know, it was clearly a man was hollering for his mother and then, you know, they didn't respond and didn't get off of him. I mean, come on now."
The general manager of the barbecue restaurant, Jonathan Clark, weighed in, too.
"George Floyd, it is the beginning of something new. It's the change in this community that needed to happen. Police need to be held accountable when they do things like that," Clark said. "And every time I watch that video and I see him and I see something I didn't see, like the way his face was smashed onto the concrete, the way that his neck was held so hard that -- I've tried to put my knee on the ground before, and my knee got numb and started hurting. So I know that guy really, really meant to do what he did. There's no doubt about it. That man was definitely guilty.
"This doesn't mean that all the police that did something wrong are going to get convicted. But I thank God for just one. I have never seen it happen before," he added. "And that's why you're going to see so many Black people happy."
STATEMENTS FROM LOCAL LEADERS
“Weary families in so many communities, traumatized from images of brutality against Black and Brown people and feeling no power to stop it, can take heart today that justice was served in this instance. Yet, there is still much work to do. This is one step on a long journey we are just beginning,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. "Let this be the beginning of progress rather than the end of one trial. Today’s sense of relief for some is fleeting. They know more must be done to prevent this from happening again and again. Too many live with this uncertainty. We must end systemic racism.” Read Inslee's statement in its entirety here.
King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg echoed those thoughts.
“The whole world witnessed the slow and deliberate killing of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer last year, and today a jury delivered a just verdict holding the officer accountable for murder. While the jury’s decision makes that label official, this cannot be the end of the story,” he said in a statement. “The verdicts do not erase the pain this murder caused or fix the many other problems with policing in America. This verdict is accountability, which is one facet of justice, but we have a lot of work to do as a nation before we achieve true social justice that benefits everyone.
"Since George Floyd’s murder, dozens of other people of color have been killed by police," Satterberg continued. "There are steps in the accountability process that must be fixed, here and across the nation. As prosecutors, we have a duty to help bring about those systemic changes.”
King County Executive Dow Constantine tweeted: “We can, and should, hope that the jury verdict today will mark a shift – a break in a system poisoned by racism. The outcome of this trial illuminates for us all the importance of standing up against racism and bias, in policing and the entire system.”