News and public interest stories from WPVM's editorial staff.

Derek Chauvin found guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd: Live updates

MINNEAPOLIS — The jury has found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd last May.Chauvin, 45, was found guilty of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.The judge asked each juror if the verdict was correct, thanked them and dismissed them. “I have to thank you, on behalf of the people of the state of Minnesota, for not only jury service, but heavy-duty jury service,” Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill said.He revoked bail and told Chauvin to report back in eight weeks for sentencing. Chauvin, silent and wearing a gray suit and a light blue surgical mask, was handcuffed and taken into custody.George Floyd’s brother Philonise Floyd was sitting with his head bowed and his hands folded in front of his face in prayer before the verdict was read. As each verdict was read, his hands increasingly shook and his head nodded up and down.”I was just praying they would find him guilty. As an African American, we usually never get justice,” Floyd said.Afterward, Floyd cried and hugged prosecutors, who shook hands with the Minnesota attorney general. One prosecutor wiped away tears.  

'Finally': Asheville officials react to Derek Chauvin guilty verdict with tears, relief

ASHEVILLE – The city’s top Black elected official said she expected a verdict in the murder trial of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin that would see “American justice aborted yet again.”Instead, when the jury came back April 20 with the decision that Chauvin was guilty of murdering George Floyd, a Black resident of that city, by pushing his knee for more than nine minutes into Floyd’s neck while he lay facedown handcuffed, Asheville Vice Mayor Sheneika Smith said she wept.”Finally,” she said. Then, “I hope this is the turn of many tides. Onward to more justice.”The swirling together of surprise, relief, hope and sadness was a common among Asheville area African American officials and activists interviewed after the verdict.’This means everything’:  Minneapolis community joyfully chants George Floyd’s name after Derek Chauvin is found guilty of murderFormer City Councilman Keith Young, who was the lone Black member of Asheville’s governing body when elected in 2015 and went on to push through significant police reforms and a historic vote for reparations for African American residents, said he was also overcome with different feelings.”I can breathe,” Young said, turning around some of the last words of Floyd and also Eric Garner, a Black New York City resident who died after being held in a chokehold by officer Daniel Pantaleo in 2014. A grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo, though he was fired. The city reached a $5.9 million civil settlement with Garner’s family. Young said Chauvin’s conviction was important for both those most directly affected and the country, which he said remains in a crisis over issues of race and violence.”The family needed this verdict. But so did America. I don’t think we could have withstood an acquittal. America is still on the brink.”Asheville Black Lives Matter President DeLores Venable said she felt “a sense of shock,” as well as joy and sorrow.”I feel joy because it’s been a long time coming to where you had a decision of that magnitude levied against an officer in a civilian-involved homicide.”More:  Derek Chauvin found guilty of murder in George Floyd’s death. What else was he convicted of?But Venable, also acting chair of the city Human Relations Commission, said she felt sorrow because of Floyd’s family’s loss and because it took his death to make most of the country understand the violence experienced by Black citizens.”People now understand our trauma is real, not imagined. I just hate this man had to die for the world to see it.”Venable said she was chilled by Chauvin’s demeanor while the verdict was read, saying his expression resembled the one he had as he knelt on Floyd’s neck as bystanders pleaded for Chauvin to stop and Floyd cried out for mercy.”To me, that was the most frightening part,” Venable said.Still, she said the event as a whole was a key moment for the country.”It is a pivotal moment in history. It does give us hope.”Days after Floyd’s May 25 death, Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer and City Council members issued a statement condemning the killing and pledging to continue with local police reforms.They referenced the 2017 beating of Black Asheville resident Johnnie Rush, who was stopped for jaywalking by white officer Christopher Hickman before being choked, beaten and stunned with a taser. Hickman was put on desk duty but faced no disciplinary measures for months. He was eventually fired then convicted of felony assault, though the charge was dismissed in November after a first-of-its kind restorative justice program for a law enforcement officer. Rush, who won a $650,000 settlement with the city, could not be reached for comment about Chauvin’s verdict.Asheville Police Department Chief David Zack, who was hired after the assault on Rush, spoke out about Floyd’s death in a May 29 opinion piece in the Citizen Times, calling it an “egregious act” and saying he was “outraged and angry.”Soon after that, the city experienced of protests unprecedented in their size and intensity that tested the police and elected officials. Finding themselves the focus of the demonstrations, many officers resigned in the months that followed. After the April 20 verdict Zack, who is white, issued a short statement, saying, “the jury has spoken. Justice has been served.”Also condemning Floyd’s death last year was Quentin Miller, Buncombe County’s first African American sheriff, who called it an “obvious injustice” by law enforcement and said there should be accountability through criminal charges.After the verdict Miller said officers cannot condone abuses of authority or what he called “clear violations of the law,” such as Floyd’s killing.”This means not just losing their jobs as sworn officers, but that accountability also must extend to the criminal justice system,” he said in a statement.Miller said if he is going to promote a new type of policing for the county then he is obligated to speak up when such violations happen locally or in other places.”But we must not stop there,” Miller said, adding that officials and residents much address educational gaps for minority children, poverty, the opioid epidemic “and so much more that plagues our community or we will have failed.””Let’s keep moving forward together to build a community of we,” he said.Joel Burgess has lived in WNC for more than 20 years, covering politics, government and other news. He’s written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.