The news that Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all counts Tuesday for killing George Floyd sparked emotional reactions from those whose lives have been upended by police violence and from those fighting to hold police accountable through the court system.
Rodney Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, described “tears of joy” upon hearing the news of the conviction.
“I’m so emotional that no family in history ever got this far,” he said on MSNBC just moments after the jury announced it found Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. “We got a chance to go to trial and took it all the way. This right here is for everyone that has been in this situation.”
Ben Crump, the Floyd family’s attorney, described the verdict as “painfully earned justice” in a statement.
“Justice for Black America is justice for all of America. This case is a turning point in American history for accountability of law enforcement and sends a clear message,” he said.
George Floyd’s brother Terrence Floyd was happy to see history made.
“I am grateful that my grandmother, my mother, my aunts, they got to see this history made,” Terrence Floyd said during a press conference after the conviction.
“Every day of my life I will salute him,” he said of his brother. “I will miss him, but now I know he is in history.”
After closing arguments Monday, Philonise Floyd, another brother of George Floyd’s, said he was feeling “optimistic,” telling the “TODAY” show, “I just feel that in America, if a Black man can’t get justice for this, what can a Black man get justice for?”
Chauvin’s conviction is a rare moment in the justice system; law enforcement officers are rarely found guilty of murder when tried for on-duty killings of civilians. Police fatally shoot around 1,000 civilians a year, but less than 10 officers have been found guilty of murder since 2005, Vox reported. Floyd’s death marks the first time in Minnesota history that a white police officer has been convicted of murder in the killing of a black man.
“It is shocking,” said Samaria Rice, whose son, Tamir Rice, was only 12 years old when he was shot and killed by police in Ohio on Nov. 22, 2014.
Tamir Rice, who was Black, was playing with a toy gun when a white police officer, Timothy Loehmann, shot him almost immediately after arriving to the recreation center where Rice was. A grand jury declined to indict Loehmann and another responding officer, and federal prosecutors said in 2020 they would not pursue charges either.
Samaria Rice said she was glad to see a conviction.
“That gives me a little hope,” she said, “I’m hoping I can get the same results in the Tamir Rice case. My son was murdered in less than a second, and as we know Timothy Loehmann is walking around as a civilian right now.”
Rice described Tuesday’s verdict as “a step towards trying to seeing how this justice system can be effective.” She’s hoping the Department of Justice will reopen her son’s case.
Lee Merritt, who served as the family attorney in the high-profile shootings of Atatiana Jefferson and Ahmaud Arbery, described the conviction as a “relief for the community, but a far cry from justice.”
“I have a concern this case might give someone a false security in our legal system,” Merritt said. He cited the many cases where convictions, even of lesser charges, did not happen and hopes Chauvin’s trial will mark the beginning of a change in what he described as the “deadliest police culture in the world.”
Shan’e Perkins, whose brother Kenneth Jones was killed by Omaha, Nebraska police in November, said the verdict brought her mixed emotions.
Jones, a Black man, was shot and killed during a traffic stop.
“I’m happy for George Floyd’s family,” she said. “It sucks that this had to happen. I’m happy and sad at the same because this could have been prevented.”
A grand jury recently declined to make an indictment in her brother’s case but Perkins says she is not giving up.
“African American males are continuing to get murdered by the police,” she said. “We aren’t going to get him back, so there will never be justice,” she said of her brother.
The most she can hope for now is holding the cops involved accountable and finding closure for her brother’s children.
“This gives me a little bit of hope to keep fighting, no matter what.”
Ben Kesslen is a reporter for NBC News.