One-year-old Reynaldo enjoys his pacifier and plays serenely on the beige carpet, unaware of the tension in the room. His grandpa, Pastor Terrell Walter of Beacon of Hope Church, sits on a couch across from him, next to his sleeping dogs. He fixes his eyes not on the boy but on the television screen beyond. He says his heart is thumping.
He watches as Judge Peter Cahill reads the verdict finding former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, 45, guilty of all three charges against him in the 2020 death of George Floyd: second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Walter, who is black, lets out a deep breath: “That’s good. That’s very good.”
In the hours after Cahill read the jury’s verdict inside the downtown courtroom, crowds gathered across Minneapolis—including the site where Floyd died last May after Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes—to weep, shout, and embrace. Walter’s immediate reaction was more tempered.
“OK, this is a victory, but it’s not a victory,” he tells me. “Someone is still dead, someone is going to prison for a long time, and two families are still really hurting. We have a long way to go.”
It took jurors 10 hours of deliberation over two days to reach their verdict Tuesday following a trial that began in late March. After protests that turned to riots that turned to fiery chaos following the 46-year-old Floyd’s death last year, police and National Guardsmen had locked down the city, especially after a police officer killed Daunte Wright, who was black, on April 11 in nearby Brooklyn Center.
Walter lives just blocks away from where Wright was shot. He planned to call his friends shortly after the verdict, both black and white, to ask what they plan to do to make things better in their community: “In other words, what difference will this verdict make to you personally?”
In the minutes after Judge Cahill read Chauvin’s verdict, Walter went from saying he felt numb, to talking excitedly about the need for changes in laws, to shedding tears. He switched to preaching mode, pointing his finger to make a point, saying all people—black and white, police and civilians—are sinners who need saving. “But even with the verdict, the change needs to start with us,” he said. “With me.”
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