“I can't breathe!” No one could breathe when the jury went into deliberation to decide Derek Chauvin's fate. And this uncertainty after the world had witnessed the slow, sadistic murder of 46-year-old George Floyd under Chauvin's knee. No extenuating circumstances could explain the 9-minute, 29-second torture, and yet we couldn't be certain of the verdict. Because when it comes to the abuse and killing of black Americans, even a sure thing isn't a sure thing.
Of the approximately 1,000 annual fatal police shootings, only about 1% are prosecuted. Since 2005, only seven officers have been convicted of murder. Philando Castile? The officer was found not guilty. Freddie Gray? No charges filed. Stephon Clark, shot in his grandmother's back yard? No charges. Breonna Taylor? No charges. In South Dakota, if you're the attorney general, you can mow down a pedestrian and still keep your job.
If not for the cell phone video shot by a 17-year-old girl, Chauvin might be out on the streets choking someone else. According to a report on Minnesota Public Radio, Chauvin had a record of six arrests dating back to 2015 in which he restrained people by their necks or kneeling on them. Two were Black, one Latino, and one Native American. The race of the other two was not documented. During 19 years on the Minneapolis Police Force, Chauvin was the subject of at least 22 complaints or internal investigations with one resulting in discipline.
The coverup was in motion from the beginning. The official Minneapolis Police Department press release, entitled, “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction,” said in part, “(Floyd) was ordered to step from his car. After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.”
No mention of the fact that Chauvin had his knee on Floyd's neck. No mention of the fact that Floyd was clearly dead by the time EMTs arrived. If not for one teenager's cell phone video, Chauvin could still be on the streets torturing those he pledged to protect and serve.
What's dumbfounding is that, according to a USA Today poll, 45% of Republicans and 15% of Democrats who presumably saw the video disagreed with the verdict. Sadly, many of those people are blinded by racism. Here's a sample from a Valley News Live Facebook page:
• “It's all about Blacks — that's all you hear about 'cause they are a bunch of babies.”
• “Can you imagine if that thug would have just gotten in the police car as he was asked to do?”
• “If George Floyd had been a law-abiding citizen, none of this would have had to happen!”
• “Should have been not guilty... now the stupid BLM people gonna get big heads.”
• “I bet about 22% of that crowd actually showers.”
• “No justice served today, thugs win. Shame.”
Yes, justice was served last week in Minneapolis. The Blue Wall of Silence collapsed under the weight of the awful evidence, but one wonders, if not for that video, would a murderer be a free man today?
Tony Bender writes an exclusive weekly column for Forum News Service. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of this publication, nor Forum Communications ownership.