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WNC activists, law enforcement respond to Derek Chauvin verdict

WNC activists, law enforcement officers respond to Derek Chauvin verdict
In this image from video, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is taken into custody as his attorney Eric Nelson, left, watches, after his bail was revoked after he was found guilty on all three counts in his trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. (Court TV via AP, Pool)

A jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all three charges in the death of George Floyd, whose passing sparked nationwide protests and conversations about reforming policing.

The jury deliberated for about 10 hours between Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning in Minneapolis. In the early afternoon Tuesday, jurors reached a verdict, which was announced shortly after 5 p.m.

During the suspenseful moments leading up to the announcement of the verdict, the nation watched with bated breath.

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Tommy Kilgore, with the Transylvania County NAACP, said he wasn't feeling confident about getting a guilty verdict on all three charges in those moments.

"My thoughts went back to prior verdicts in previous cases, and I was not optimistic," Kilgore said.

Kilgore said he expected Chauvin to be found guilty on perhaps one of the lesser charges. Instead, Chauvin was found guilty of all three: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

"I felt that the verdict was justified. I felt that, unfortunately, there had to be such a high level of evidence in order to prove guilt," Kilgore said.

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Kilgore said without the numerous bystanders during Floyd's killing and the video recording that enraged so many, the verdict may not have turned out the way it did.

Kilgore said the verdict was a "step in the right direction," but not necessarily a turning point in American history, because police killings have continued after Floyd's death, like the killing of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, in April.

"Even during the ongoing trial, there was still shootings. One shooting 10 miles away from the courthouse where the trial was being held," Kilgore said.

He said this is an instance of justice being served in just one case, and there's a lot more to be done from here in terms of reforming law enforcement.

"I believe that the reform should start at the federal level. I believe that protocols, procedures and guidelines need to be handed down from the federal level to all 50 states and then they can deal with them as they see fit," Kilgore said.

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He said the verdict brings a sigh of relief to many, but it cannot undo what's been done.

"The verdict and the awards will still not bring their son back and will still not breathe life into George Floyd," Kilgore said.

DeLores Venable, leader organizer for the Asheville branch of Black Lives Matter, said she, too, is encouraged but saddened by the verdict.

"I didn't know how to process all of that at once. I felt happy, but I felt this wave of sorrow, like this is where we're at in this country, that you feel happy about something like this," Venable said.

She said the jury's verdict is an acknowledgement that Black trauma is real.

"I don't think there's an American or any people across this world will never forget that knee on the neck," she said, referring the video of Floyd's death.

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Just like Kilgore, Venable said this verdict is just a starting point.

"I think we have to look strategically as a country at policy change. We have to look at 21st century policing. We need to look at re-envisioning policing. Policing needs to go from policing to guardians," she said.

Venable said this was a monumental case --- but it was only one case.

"So many people are sitting at the table that George Floyd's family is in this country, right here, even in Asheville's community. It breaks my heart to know these people never get the results George Floyd got today," she said.

In Chauvin's trial, several of his fellow law enforcement members testified against him. Many police chiefs across the country have spoken out about Floyd's death, and now, Chauvin's guilty verdict.

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Rondell Lance, head of the Asheville Fraternal Order of Police, said he wants people to remember that not all law enforcement officers would go as far as Chauvin did.

"Every once in a while, you'll have one or two that will go beyond that limit. That does not mean that all law enforcement are that way," Lance said.

He hopes the verdict will spark conversation and cooperation between communities that historically haven't seen eye-to-eye.

"The FOP has been meeting with some of the local ministers, and we have been trying to get to a place where we can both look at the incident and look at all sides of it and see what mistakes were made, what mistakes weren't made and why some were made," Lance said.

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But above all, Lance said he hopes the decision will bring peace after a year that has seen so much unrest.

"'No justice, no peace,'" Lance said, reiterating the slogan that was chanted at protests across the country after Floyd's death.

"There was justice today, so there should be peace tonight in Minneapolis and across the country," he said.

The Transylvania County NAACP is holding a silent vigil at 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 21, outside the county courthouse in remembrance of Floyd. Everyone is encouraged to come in peace.

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