Dayton reacts to guilty verdicts in case of George Floyd’s death

Local people who called for justice for George Floyd in the days following his death rejoiced that three guilty verdicts were announced Tuesday in the case against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Derrick Foward, president of the Dayton Unit of the NAACP, said he was “overjoyed” at the verdict. He said, though, that there are still many families, like John Crawford III and Breonna Taylor, who have not seen justice.

“That’s really the big issue in the African American community, is when law enforcement officials are not held accountable,” he said.

ExploreLocal police prepare for possible protests following Chauvin verdict

Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter and was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon. He is expected to be sentenced in the coming weeks where he could face decades in prison.

Prosecutors argued during the trial that Chauvin killed Floyd last May when the white officer knelt on or near the 46-year-old Black man’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes. The defense contended that the now-fired officer acted reasonably and that a heart condition and illegal drug use led to Floyd’s death.

Floyd’s death prompted a number of protests throughout the region last year.

Bishop Jerome McCorry, founder and president of the National Congress on Faith and Social Justice, said “this can be a good beginning.”

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Local couple reacts to Chauvin verdict

“So in as much as I’m delighted that in this particular case that we saw three charges and three guilty verdicts that were read, that the truth of the matter is that true justice cannot be done until we see some change in policy and the way we do policing in this country,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dayton residents Robert and Wilma Thornton said the verdict was just.

“The whole world saw what was happening in real-time and I just couldn’t see it any other way,” Robert Thornton said. “Hopefully the nation can begin to heal and we do need cohesiveness with our police department because we truly need them. But we need them to have compassion also in certain situations.”

Wilma Thornton said she is relieved the trial is over.

“It was devastating to see what the man had to go through when he was asking for breath and the man continued to put his knee on his neck. That was very hurtful to see,” she said. “I am ready for us to heal and to come up out of this because we have so much killing going on. So much.”

Wilma and Robert Thornton said they hope the country can heal after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter.
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Wilma and Robert Thornton said they hope the country can heal after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter.

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Central State University President Jack Thomas said it’s important to acknowledge that Floyd’s life was lost and that prior to his killing, a political and social divide was increasing. He said the country must elevate dialogue and conversations about race, class, bias and diversity.

“Central State University is a historically Black university, and much of the population that we serve has been adversely impacted disproportionately,” he said. “We speak for those whose voices may have been muted and may be ignored. Our highest priority is our student, scholars, their learning and their safety. Given the challenge that this will create along with still being in the midst of a global pandemic, we encourage our students not to act off emotions, but rather, leverage their intellectual fortitude. We will continue to expand our counseling and support services.”

Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck Jr., Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said Tuesday that they agreed with the verdict.

“From the information that I have seen and heard, this appears to be a fair and just verdict. This is a significant verdict for the criminal justice system, and for those who work in criminal justice,” Heck said. “Hopefully, the family of George Floyd can now begin the healing process.”

“My thoughts are with George Floyd’s family,” Whaley said. “While nothing can replace the loss of a loved one, this is a step towards accountability for his murder. We must make sure that our systems always recognize that Black lives matter.”

“The death of George Floyd was and will always be a tragedy. One most deeply felt by his family and loved ones, but also by individuals and communities across the nation,” said Biehl in a released statement.

The chief also pointed to a combined effort of the community, elected and appointed officials and police joining together in Dayton to recommend and implement changes in policing practices in Dayton. “We are committed to continuing this important work collaboratively, to create a community where we are all proud to live, work and recreate. How we respond will make all the difference.”

Montgomery County Commissioners Judy Dodge, Debbie Lieberman and Carolyn Rice sent a release with a statement of their reaction. They acknowledged that Chauvin’s guilty verdict is only one step towards equal justice.

“Law enforcement, and everyone in a position of authority, must be held accountable by those they are charged with serving,” the statement read. “We recognize the verdict is just the beginning of our quest for racial equality. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Floyd family during this time.”

Ohio Families Unite Against Police Brutality Inc. is an organization made up of families from across Ohio whose family members have been killed by police violence, including Sabrina Jordan, a local woman whose son, Jamarco McShann, was shot and killed by police in Moraine in 2017, when he was 23.

“Officers like Derek Chauvin undoubtedly feel too comfortable to use excessive and deadly force due to a lack of accountability measures,” the organization said, adding, “...there are still not enough safeguards to protect the public from unnecessary use of force and police brutality.”

Justice was served in the case, and the guilty verdicts give some measure of hope, Lawrence Burnley, vice president for diversity and inclusion at the University of Dayton.

“I am mindful of the (people) who died at the hands of police, where there was no verdict at all, because there were no charges ever made,” he said. “So I found myself thinking of those families right now as well and loved ones who did not get the measure of justice that we have in this case.”

Burnley said he’s hopeful the verdict is historic in many ways, adding that he prays it sends a message to the few “bad apples” in the law enforcement community that there are consequences and they are not above the law.

IS THIS A TURNING POINT?

The response and reaction to Floyd’s murder in the United States and around the world last summer are indications of the potential of this being a turning point for policing as it relates to violence towards Black and brown people, Burnley said.

Systemic racism is complex and nuanced, and it expresses itself in a myriad of ways, he said.

“So, there’s some measure of hope because we can’t see this outcome and for me to say it does not provide some measure of hope,” he said.

A message was sent to some in the law enforcement community who commit heinous crimes. But time will tell if the message is heard, Burnley said.

In quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he was asked about the state of race relations in the United states while visiting the University of Dayton in November 1964, Burnley said, “We’ve come a long, long way; but we still have a long, long way to go.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.