South Florida reacts to verdict in Derek Chauvin trial

MIAMI (WSVN) - South Florida’s politicians, residents and law enforcement are sharing their reaction on the conviction of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis Police officer, for the murder of George Floyd last year.

Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts against him Tuesday afternoon, and U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., said she believes the jury got the verdict right.

“I was totally relieved, relieved because it was so clear to me that he was guilty, and it was so clear to me that it was murder, murder, murder,” she said. “I’m not one of these people about defund the police because I know what police does. I mean, I live in an urban city, and I know how much the police is needed, but we have put too much pressure on the backs of police, and we need to dissect that and begin to make changes.”

City of Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo also believed the jury handed down the correct verdict.

“I think justice has been served,” he said. “What it does is it shows that police officers are getting held accountable. That when police officers don’t do the right thing, they are held accountable. That does hopefully reduce tensions, but it also serves as a reminder that we still have work to do.”

Acevedo said his department remains on high alert following the verdict, but he supports citizens’ First Amendment right to protest.

“I think that the law enforcement profession beyond Miami believes in the right of folks to protest under the First Amendment and to always facilitate and support that,” Acevedo said, “but we will not support people engaged in criminal activity, which is either violent crime, violence or damaging property.”

“Demonstrating is fine, but you must do so peacefully,” U.S. District Judge Donald Graham said. “Otherwise, you’re going to subject yourself to arrests, possibly a felony conviction and imprisonment.”

Moments after the verdict, Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said in a statement, “Chauvin’s conviction is a reminder to all who wear a badge that we are not above the laws which we swore to protect.”

Chauvin was convicted on charges of second and third-degree murder along with a second-degree manslaughter charge.

Several Miami residents said they were relieved once the verdict was read aloud in court.

“I’m relieved because it’s just another step closer to the overall justice we’ve been looking for,” Miami resident Keith Finnie Jr. said. “The war isn’t over yet. We’re still fighting the good fight.”

“It shows that justice can be done,” Miami resident Keith Finnie said. “You’ve got some good cops, and you’ve got bad cops, and I’m just happy that he got what he deserved because he sat on that man’s neck for nine minutes.”

“He was guilty, so justice served,” Miami resident Gunesh Sayin said.

“It’s about time, about time,” Miami resident Michal Callaway said. “I thought he would get away with it, but I’m glad he didn’t, honestly.”

Miami resident Shauntina Murphy was among some of those who did not think Chauvin would be convicted for Floyd’s death.

“That’s how I thought it was going to go with this one,” Murphy said. “I thought he wasn’t going to be guilty, and it was just going to be another officer that got away with murder on a Black citizen.”

For local activist LaToya Ratlieff, the guilty verdict had a personal impact on her. She was injured during a protest last May when a Fort Lauderdale Police officer shot her in the eye with a rubber bullet.

Nearly a year later, she said the verdict has left her feeling relieved and inspired, though she was not sure it would come.

“It feels surreal,” she said. “This is a very sensitive subject for me because being at the George Floyd protest and what happened in Fort Lauderdale has shaped my life and changed the direction and focus of my life forever, and I’m so proud of everyone that didn’t give up, because it’s very easy for these situations to die down and people move on to something else.”

While people wait for Chauvin’s sentencing, some South Floridians said the verdict is a step in the right direction, but more work needs to be done.

“Even though we have other things to move onto, because we have Duante Wright and Adam Toledo, the most recent victims of police violence,” Ratlieff said. “We still stay focused and still continue to push this issue, and now, we’re ready to hear guilty verdicts for the other remaining officers.”

Members of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board met on Wednesday to discuss the verdict’s impact on the region as well as the new anti-riot law signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

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