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Crime & Justice

Austin Reacts After Jury Finds Former Minneapolis Police Officer Guilty Of Murdering George Floyd

A mural in honor of George Floyd and others killed by police was painted on a wall of Native Hostel in Austin.
Michael Minasi
/
KUT
A mural painted on a wall outside Native Hostel in Austin shows former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling before George Floyd.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on all three counts of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died last May after Chauvin pressed his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly 10 minutes.

His murder sparked a national reckoning on police violence and systemic racism. In Austin and across the country, people took to the streets to protest racial injustice and demand police reform.

Austin City Council Member Greg Casar said Tuesday's guilty verdict was important, but doesn’t provide “real justice.”

“Real justice would be George Floyd being able to return to his daughter Gianna,” he said on Twitter. “Real justice would be never allowing this to happen again.”

But Chas Moore, the founder of the Austin Justice Coalition, said the verdict could be a precursor to cases involving police misconduct here in Austin.

"I think [Travis County District Attorney José Garza has] made it clear about how the lay of the land is going to be in these kinds of cases," he said. "I think the Derek Chauvin verdict ... gives people a sense that this could very ... well be a reality here, as well. So I'm looking forward to seeing how these [cases] play out."

During protests last summer in Austin, demonstrators demanded justice for Floyd, but also change within the local police department. The Austin Police Department had been facing allegations of racism for years. And just a month before Floyd's death, Mike Ramos, a Black and Hispanic man, was killed by Austin police.

The protests led to further clashes between APD and the public. During the first weekend of demonstrations in Austin, officers fired bags filled with lead pellets at demonstrators, severely injuring several protesters who have since filed lawsuits against APD. Protesters also converged onto I-35, where police used tear gas to get them off.

In response to calls for reform, Austin City Council decided to cut millions from APD and make changes to policing, or "reimagine public safety" as the city calls it.

“This prosecution and today’s verdict address the immediate need for justice and are symbols of the commitment communities like Austin have made to hold police officers accountable and to implement social justice and policing reforms to ensure the safety of and justice for all residents, especially those of color,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said in a statement Tuesday.

The verdict came just days before the anniversary of Ramos' death.

The 42-year-old was fatally shot by Austin police officer Christopher Taylor on April 24. Police were responding to a 911 call that someone was using drugs and had a gun in the parking lot of a Southeast Austin apartment complex. Ramos attempted to flee in a car toward a dead-end when he was killed. Police later determined he was unarmed.

A Travis County grand jury indicted Taylor on a murder charge last month.

Ramos' mother welcomed the decision in Minnesota on Tuesday. Brenda Ramos told KUT she hopes it could signal more police accountability in Austin.

She also said she's tired of waiting for answers in her son's death.

"I started tearing up. I was joyful, I was happy that justice was served," she said. "But there's still a lot of justice that needs to be done."

State lawmakers have introduced a bill named for Ramos that would make de-escalation training mandatory for police officers statewide and set a statewide standard for releasing police body camera footage.

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