Where The Chauvin Verdict Fits In The Recent History Of High-Profile Police Killings
After only about 10 hours of deliberation, a jury has found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd — an outcome Floyd's civil legal team called "painfully earned justice" in a statement released after the verdict was announced.
The trial's outcome was highly anticipated and the guilty verdict not necessarily guaranteed: While Floyd's killing ignited a wave of protests against racism and police brutality nationwide and around the world, convictions of police officers over on-duty shootings are rare.
In fact, Chauvin is believed to be just the second officer to be convicted in an on-duty death case in Minnesota's history.
Between 2005 and Floyd's murder last year, only five non-federal law enforcement officers were convicted of murder in an on-duty shooting and not had the conviction later overturned, according to Philip Stinson at The Henry A. Wallace Police Crime Database at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
And it's impossible to ignore the role that race plays in such events, with many of these shootings involving white officers and Black victims. In fact, an NPR investigation published this year revealed that police officers have fatally shot at least 135 Black men and women across the country since 2015, with at least 75% of the officers identifying as white.
Here's a look at the outcomes of several high-profile cases in recent years.
Eric Garner: In July 2014, New York City Police officers approached Garner out of suspicion that he was selling untaxed cigarettes on the sidewalk outside a convenience store in Staten Island. Former officer Daniel Pantaleo applied a chokehold — which was prohibited by department policy — and Garner later died in a hospital. A grand jury in New York City declined to criminally indict Pantaleo in 2014, and the U.S. Department of Justice announced in 2019 it would not bring criminal charges in a federal criminal civil rights violation, citing insufficient evidence. Pantaleo was fired from the NYPD the following month.
Michael Brown: Brown was fatally shot by Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson in the middle of the street in August 2014, in an incident that sparked nationwide protests over perceived racial bias in policing and helped launch the Black Lives Matter movement. A grand jury declined to indict Wilson that year, and the U.S. Department of Justice did not bring criminal charges against him in 2015 but found in a review that Ferguson's police department engaged in a "pattern of unconstitutional policing." The prosecutor for St. Louis County reopened the case but announced last year that his office would not bring charges against Wilson, citing a lack of concrete evidence.
Laquan McDonald: Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder in the October 2014 shooting death of McDonald, a Black teenager. The jury also found him guilty of 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm, and acquitted him on one count of official misconduct. It took the jury about eight hours to reach a verdict in the 2018 trial, marking the first time in decades that a Chicago police officer was convicted of murder for an on-duty death.
Walter Scott: In April 2015, Michael Slager — then a police officer in North Charleston, S.C. — pulled over Scott, a Black man, because of a broken brake light on his Mercedes-Benz. Scott ran from his vehicle and Slager gave chase; after a scuffle, Slager shot Scott as he was running away, hitting him five times in the back. A bystander captured a video of the incident, which quickly went viral. A state murder trial ended in a hung jury, then Slager pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights violation for using excessive force as part of a plea agreement. In 2017, a judge found him guilty of second-degree murder and obstruction of justice, and sentenced him to 20 years in prison.
Samuel DuBose: Ray Tensing, a white University of Cincinnati police officer, killed DuBose during a traffic stop in July 2015. He had pulled DuBose over for missing a front license plate, and later said he shot him because he was being dragged by DuBose's car — body camera video showed the car slowly rolling off as Tensing questioned DuBose, before the officer shot the Black man in the head. Tensing's first trial, in 2016, ended with the jury unable to reach a unanimous verdict on murder and manslaughter charges. A second trial in 2017 also ended with a deadlocked jury and was declared a mistrial.
Sandra Bland: Bland was arrested after being pulled over by police in Waller County, Texas, in July 2015 for failing to signal a lane change and was found hanged in her cell in county jail three days later. A Texas grand jury declined to indict any officers in connection with her death. Brian Encinia, the Texas state trooper who pulled her over, was accused of lying about how he removed Bland from her car and was indicted on a criminal charge of perjury. The charge was later dropped after Encinia agreed to end his career in law enforcement.
Philando Castile: Castile was fatally shot by officer Jeronimo Yanez during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb in July 2016, after being pulled over for a broken tail light. Castile disclosed that he was legally carrying a gun, and Yanez shot him seven times, reportedly out of fear that he was reaching for it. A video of Castile bleeding to death, filmed by his girlfriend and streamed to Facebook Live, was seen by millions. Yanez was tried on charges of second-degree manslaughter and endangering safety by discharging a firearm, and a jury acquitted him after 27 hours of deliberation spread out over five days.
Terence Crutcher: Crutcher, who was Black, was killed in September 2016 by police officer Betty Jo Shelby after she stopped his SUV in the middle of a two-lane road in Tulsa, Okla. The incident was captured on dashboard cameras as well as a police helicopter camera. Shelby was charged with first-degree manslaughter and acquitted by a jury after several hours of deliberation in 2017.
Justine Ruszczyk: The only known Minnesota police officer to be convicted of murder in an on-duty incident is Mohamed Noor. The former Minneapolis police officer, who is Somali American, shot Ruszczyk, a white woman, as she approached his squad car after calling 911 to report a possible sexual assault near her home in 2017. A jury found him guilty of third-degree murder and manslaughter, and not guilty of intentional second-degree murder, in 2019. He was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison.
Daniel Prude: Prude, a Black man, died of asphyxiation last March after being restrained by Rochester, N.Y., police while he was in the midst of a mental health crisis. Police body camera footage of his arrest — showing him handcuffed and pinned to the snow-slicked ground, with a mesh hood over his head — was released in September, igniting days of protests and accusations of a cover-up by city officials. A New York grand jury voted in February 2021 not to file charges against any of the officers involved, and Prude's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and at least six police officers last month.
Breonna Taylor: The 26-year-old Black woman was fatally shot in her apartment last March by Louisville, Ky., police officers during a botched narcotics raid, of which she was not the target. A Kentucky grand jury indicted one of the Louisville Metro Police Department officers, Brett Hankison, over charges of wanton endangerment for firing into neighboring apartments. Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove, the other two officers involved, did not face charges. Hankison, Mattingly and Detective Joshua Jaynes — who secured the warrant for the raid — have since been fired.
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