The video didn’t lie.
The final, agonizing nine minutes and 29 seconds of George Floyd’s life were documented by the cell phone of 17-year-old Darnella Frazier.
But she also captured the transition of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin from civil servant to murderer. It didn’t happen in a split-second like so many simlar cases. Chauvin had almost 10 minutes to consider what he was doing.
Do not underestimate the pivotal role Frazier and others with cell phones played in documenting what happened on Memorial Day 2020 on a Minneapolis street.
Without the disturbing video, it is anyone’s guess how the Hennepin County jury might have ruled in Chauvin’s murder trial.
But the video — shown to the jury on the first day of the trial — was undeniable, even though Chauvin’s defense team insisted that his actions were “reasonable” under the circumstances.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson tried to suggest that Floyd’s death was caused by his ingestion of drugs and his own medical history. Floyd’s criminal past was recited, as if what he’d done previously somehow earned Chauvin’s knee on his neck for almost 10 minutes.
The jury saw through that smokescreen and found Chauvin guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Floyd’s offense was in allegedly buying cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill at Cup Foods at the corner of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood.
Before too long, a police cruiser arrived, then another and finally a third. The final Minneapolis police duo on scene included Chauvin, who took command of the scene as the senior officer on site.
Less than an hour later, Floyd was dead and Minneapolis would never be the same. America, too, has undergone radical changes in a year of tumult and unrest.
Protests and riots have plagued multiple U.S. cities and the deaths of multiple other Black men and women at the hands of police officers in the months since has only increased tensions.
But a jury in Minneapolis on Tuesday took one of the first steps toward healing some of the most serious societal fractures we’ve experienced in a generation or more.
The jury of six white and six Black or multiracial people did so by delivering the needed message that rogue cops can — and will — be held accountable.
Make no mistake about it. Police officers are seldom tried for taking a life on the job. How many times have we seen a grand jury return a “no bill” in similar cases?
Convictions of cops almost never happen.
The difference this time was the proof — on video — that Chauvin acted in anything but a reasonable manner as he took control of the scene outside Cup Foods and ultimately took George Floyd’s life.
There was no justification for what happened on May 25, 2020. But finally, there is justice.