Now that the jury has handed down a verdict and Derek Chauvin is an ex-police officer behind bars — found guilty of all three charges for killing George Floyd — the question remains.
“What change will this verdict and upcoming sentencing bring?
Will this verdict, and sentencing to come, pause police departments across the country enough to cause them to change their culture of intimidation? What will “police reform” truly mean?
Will this guilty verdict spread to put a stop to the inherent racism that permeates every institution in this country? Will the scores of other families who’ve lost their loved ones to questionable officer involved shootings, chokeholds and knees to the neck ever receive their justice?
The truth is, most families who’ve lost family members at the hands of police have not received justice and aren’t likely to. Fatal Officer-Involved Shootings more often than not have gone unnoticed in cities across this country.
Make no mistake — it took a citizen’s clear video, body cam, a crowd of witnesses in broad daylight, nationwide media coverage, daily protests, social media, the support of civil rights organizations and the most notable dream team of attorneys to bring a rightful outcome of justice and closure to George Floyd’s family.
Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson stood with the Floyd family following the verdict. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris gave their statements from the White House.
Most families without benefit of video or resources are sadly standing alone.
There have been thousands of questionable shootings across the country. Despite the adage, there are far more than “a few bad apples” that make up our nation’s police forces. Databases show that the “bad apples” are counted in the tens of thousands, and complaints against police are in the hundreds of thousands.
Police abuse, including shootings, do occur without accountability — right in your own backyard.
One deadly shooting in need of transparency occurred under the darkness of night in the City of San Fernando earlier this month as eyes were focused on the Chauvin trial.
On April 10, on Harps and Fourth Street in the small, mostly Latino town some still like to mythically promote as “Mayberry,” —proudly boasting of a three-minute police response time — Guillermo Amezcua died while sitting in his car across the street from his own house.
He died at the scene after police, according to neighbors, fired a barrage of shots into the car where the 49-year-old father of a large family sat. The family disputed SFPD’s account that claims he had a gun and fired first at police.
As is pro forma, the “investigation” of this shooting has been punted over to the LA County Sheriff’s office where oftentimes, in cases like these, little is heard from again.
The City of San Fernando has had several questionable deaths over the years. Among them, a man who was killed in his apartment after police broke through his front door, police announcing he had a knife, and opening fire. A homeless man armed with a tree branch was shot and killed. And yes, there is that never explained jail hanging and a taser to the eye to a deaf mute.
But without video tape, local political leadership or community outrage to stay on top of the investigation and demand transparency, police aren’t held accountable — and allowed to move on without question. It was disheartening to watch a recent San Fernando City Council meeting and hear your local council laud their “confidence” in the police investigation.
Instead of voicing concern or putting questions on the record, they listened as Chief Tony Vairo re-read his same police statement given a day after the shooting. No one asked if the man had a gun as SFPD claimed.
Was it recovered? Why isn’t there a mention of the gun in the statement? Was any responding police officer wearing a body cam? Did police go into the man’s home after police fatally shot him and if they did, why?
Does the SFPD have the coroner’s report?
Instead, your local council members expressed their support of SFPD and the Sheriff’s Department investigation, which most often, lets time pass and cases go quietly away.
Another disservice that prevents families from receiving justice are small-time attorneys who solicit them to sue and settle their cases, which later prevents them from talking to media and protects the police department and cities from further public exposure.
There are Latino families however who are continuing to demand justice. Disappointed by the lack of support from Latino elected officials, they’ve joined Black Lives Matter and marched. They’ve attempted to have press conferences and demonstrations in their own communities but haven’t received the widespread attention they deserve.
Latinos have a long, tragic history of negative altercations with the police and on a larger scale, the immigrant community fears the threat of ICE. Longtime residents have reported not only police harassment but ICE apprehending them as they left their front doors.
The family of 18-year-old Andres Guardado, a Trade Tech College student who was shot and killed by police last year, has had a very difficult time in getting support. They with other Latino families have joined marches with Black Lives Matter and reached out to the ACLU to get answers and accountability from police.
In Guardado’s case, surveillance cameras were reportedly “broken” and there is no video or police body cam.
There is no doubt that without that video taken by the steady hand of a remarkable teenager, George Floyd would have been just another guy, a victim to the lies of police who will claim he “resisted” and “deserved” it.
George Floyd knew that if he resisted, it gave police the license to kill. It’s what every person of color knows.
The video of Derek Chauvin putting his body weight on the neck of George Floyd was, for many white Americans, the first time they saw what people of color know. When pulled over by police, you are at risk.
It sadly also required the crowd who had gathered, who yelled and pleaded with Chauvin to lift his knee but knew they couldn’t make a move to help Floyd and as Chauvin’s fellow officers kept them back, to painfully watch as George Floyd died.
May communities across the country demand full, transparent investigations that answer questions, change the culture that keeps the dirty secrets, and lifts the blue code of silence.
At the very least, may this guilty verdict be viewed as an admission of racism and the brutality imposed on people of color in our country.
It’s hoped that this verdict may at last give great pause to law enforcement whether locally or nationwide to finally put an end to the killings and change the deeply rooted systemic, institutional and societal racism that has plagued us all.