Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter by a jury Tuesday for his role in the murder of George Floyd last May outside of a local convenience store.
Floyd’s death, and the video that showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes, became a catalyst for the sports world’s racial and social justice movement last summer.
A jury of six white, four Black and two multiracial jurors deliberated nine hours over two days — five hours on Monday; four hours Tuesday — before rendering a verdict. ABCNews.com has full coverage of the decision.
Chauvin faces a 40-year maximum sentence for the second-degree unintentional murder conviction, a 25-year sentence for third-degree murder and a 10-year sentence for second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin’s bail was immediately revoked, and his sentencing will be in eight weeks.
“One year ago, George Floyd was murdered, causing unimaginable pain and trauma for his family, the Minneapolis community, and communities across the nation,” the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves and WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx said in a joint statement Tuesday. “Our deepest thoughts have been with the Floyd family since this unjust tragedy. Throughout our history, racial and social inequalities have been ingrained in our society.
“We are hopeful that today’s decision will serve as a step forward, but it does not ease the physical and emotional pain that continues in an environment where systemic racism exists.”
— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) April 20, 2021
Floyd’s death led to nationwide protests and prompted athletes throughout the sports world to speak out about social and racial injustice. Former NBA player Stephen Jackson traveled to Minnesota the week Floyd died and said, “I’m hurt, I’m angry, but I ain’t scared” in an emotional speech alongside fellow NBA players Karl-Anthony Towns and Josh Okogie. Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics drove 15 hours to march at a protest in Atlanta.
NBA and WNBA players spoke out frequently, and both leagues resumed their seasons with “Black Lives Matter” painted on the court. “Through peaceful protest, we must demand strong leadership at all levels that is equally committed to achieving true social justice,” the Women’s National Basketball Players Association said in a statement the week of Floyd’s death.
As news of Floyd’s death spread, LeBron James posted a Twitter message with a photo of Floyd alongside an image of Colin Kaepernick and wrote, “Do you understand NOW!!??!!??” Magic Johnson tweeted, “How many times do we have to see Black men killed on national television?” Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr tweeted, “This is murder. Disgusting. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with US????”
On Tuesday, James tweeted just one word: “ACCOUNTABILITY.”
The NBA and National Basketball Players Association issued a joint statement Tuesday, saying, “we are pleased that justice appears to have been served” but also adding that “there is much work to be done.” The WNBA said the verdict was “a step toward justice.”
Atlanta Hawks interim coach Nate McMillan on Tuesday said there was uncertainty over whether the team’s game against the Orlando Magic would’ve been played had the ruling been different.
“We, as a league, we really didn’t know if we were going to play this game,” McMillan said. “… I feel that the jury did their jobs. You got to hold everybody accountable for their actions. The jury found him guilty on all three charges. I thought they did their jobs.”
Last spring, a group of NFL players, including Patrick Mahomes, appeared in a Twitter video that started with “It’s been 10 days since George Floyd was brutally murdered. How many times do we need to ask you to listen to your players? What will it take? For one of us to be murdered by police brutality?” and asking, “What if I was George Floyd?”
When the NFL season opened in September, the Minnesota Vikings honored Floyd’s family at their opener with a moment of silence and silencing the team’s signature Gjallarhorn in his honor. The league had every team play “Lift Every Voice And Sing,” often called the Black national anthem, before season openers, and players wore the names of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black men and women killed by police on the back of their helmets.
“The past year following George Floyd’s death has been extremely painful for the Minnesota community, particularly for the State’s Black residents,” the Vikings said in a statement Tuesday. “While today’s decision does not minimize the anguish or solve the intolerable issues of racism and hate, we hope it can mark the beginning of community healing.
“Now, more than ever, it is crucial to respectfully listen, communicate and engage in order for us to move forward toward an equitable society. … Our work is just beginning. Our commitment is unwavering.”
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) April 20, 2021
— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) April 20, 2021
Minnesota: United. pic.twitter.com/6lsedMdHcB
— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) April 20, 2021
Tennis player Naomi Osaka wore the names of Black people killed by police on her masks in her seven matches at the US Open. When a reporter asked her what message she wanted to send, she said: “Well, what was the message that you got was more the question. I feel like the point is to make people start talking.”
On Tuesday, Osaka said she had varying emotions regarding the ruling.
“I was going to make a celebratory tweet but then I was hit with sadness because we are celebrating something that is clear as day,” Osaka posted on Twitter. “The fact that so many injustices occurred to make us hold our breath toward this outcome is really telling.”
The USC football team said it postponed Tuesday’s practice to instead take the time to “discuss the racial injustices prevalent in our society and in our daily lives.”
The Major League Baseball Players Association on Tuesday said it remains committed “to the difficult work of healing and advancing the cause of civil rights and equal justice under the law.”
Floyd was killed on May 25 after Minneapolis police officers responded to a call shortly after 8 p.m. about a possible forgery at a corner grocery store. Floyd, saying he was claustrophobic as officers tried to put him in a squad car, ended up handcuffed and face-down in the street.
Chauvin used his knee to pin Floyd’s neck as bystanders shouted at him to stop. Bystander video shows Floyd crying, “I can’t breathe” multiple times before going limp. He was pronounced dead at a hospital. He was 46.
Police initially issued a statement saying Floyd died of a “medical incident.” Bystander video was posted online the next day, and in the face of growing protests in Minneapolis and nationwide, police said the FBI would investigate. Chauvin and three other officers were eventually fired as Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey called for criminal charges against Chauvin.
Chauvin, age 45 and a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis police force, was arrested on May 29 and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. The charges were later upgraded to second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
As protests in Minneapolis and around the country grew, the county medical examiner ruled on June 1 that Floyd’s heart stopped as police restrained him and compressed his neck, noting that Floyd had an underlying health issue and listing fentanyl and methamphetamine use as “other significant conditions.”
At trial, prosecutors argued that Chauvin was responsible for Floyd’s death by keeping a knee on his neck. The defense argued that he died because of drugs in his system and preexisting health conditions.
Three other officers were also arrested and will stand trial together this summer.