George Floyd verdict: How did other cases involving US police officers end?

20 April 2021, 22:55

Derek Chauvin found guilty of the murder of George Floyd

By Will Taylor

The eyes of the world have been on the outcome of the trial of Derek Chauvin, who has been found guilty of George Floyd’s murder.

Today, jurors delivered their verdict after three weeks of testimony and a year of activism over racial disparities and policing. 

It was all sparked after the death of Mr Floyd, 46, after he was pinned to the ground as Chauvin, a white man, detained him. 

It has been rare to see police charged with crimes over the deaths of civilians, and convictions are even rarer because juries have been reluctant to second-guess officers’ split-second decisions. 

For the latest reaction to the Derek Chauvin verdict listen live on Global Player

Here are other recent high-profile deaths involving American police, and the outcomes. 

Eric Garner 

Eric Garner was 43 when he died in New York City after a white officer placed him in a chokehold. 

The incident, in July 2014, took place after Mr Garner refused to be handcuffed for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. 

A grand jury in Staten Island decided not to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo.

A mural to Eric Garner in Brooklyn, New York
A mural to Eric Garner in Brooklyn, New York. Picture: PA

Michael Brown 

Weeks of protests took place after 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, a white officer, in Ferguson, Missouri. 

The August 2014 shooting did not lead to an indictment for Mr Wilson over the unarmed black teenager’s death. 

Following a five-month review by the St Louis County prosecuting attorney, Wesley Bell, it was announced Mr Wilson would not be charged. 

Activists rally after Michael Brown's death
Activists rally after Michael Brown's death. Picture: PA

Laquan McDonald 

Jason Van Dyke, a Chicago police officer, shot Laquan McDonald 16 times as he walked away from officers in October 2014. 

Van Dyke was charged with first degree murder over the black teenager’s death on the same day the city released dashcam footage of the shooting. 

He was found guilty of second degree murder in 2018 and given nearly seven years in prison. 

Protests after the death of Laquan McDonald
Protests after the death of Laquan McDonald. Picture: PA

Tamir Rice 

A white Cleveland police officer shot Tamir Rice, 12, after officers went to a 911 call from a man drinking beer and waiting for a bus. 

During the call in November 2014, the man said a "guy" was pointing a gun at people. 

Tamir, who was black, had a pellet gun tucked in his waistband and was shot. 

A grand jury decided not to indict patrolman Timothy Loehmann, who fired the fatal shot, and training officer Frank Garmback. 

The video quality of the shooting was too poor to establish what happened, the US Justice Department said. 

Tamir Rice, 12, was shot dead by police
Tamir Rice, 12, was shot dead by police. Picture: PA

Walter Scott 

Walter Scott, an unarmed 50-year-old black man, fled after a 2015 traffic stop and was shot in the back by white South Carolina officer Michael Slager. 

Slager went on to plead guilty to violating Mr Scott's civil rights as part of a plea deal, which saw prosecutors drop state murder charges. 

He got 20 years in prison but is appealing his punishment, claiming his lawyer did not tell him about a plea offer that could have cut years from his sentence. 

Freddie Gray 

Three officers were acquitted and the remaining state cases were dropped after Freddie Gray's death. 

The 25-year-old black man died after suffering a spinal injury while handcuffed and shackled in a Baltimore police van, which triggered weeks of unrest there. 

The charges were dropped in July 2016, and the following year the US Department of Justice said it would not bring federal charges against six officers involved in the arrest, saying not enough evidence was found to prove they wilfully violated Mr Gray's civil rights. 

A mural to Freddie Gray in Baltimore
A mural to Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Picture: PA

Philando Castile 

Elementary school cafeteria worker Philando Castile was shot five times by a police officer in a 2016 traffic stop. 

The officer, in St Anthony, Minnesota, was informed by Mr Castile that he was armed. 

Mr Castile's girlfriend was in the car with her then-four-year-old daughter and livestreamed the aftermath on Facebook. 

Officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of manslaughter at trial after he said Mr Castile pulled his gun out of his pocket despite being ordered not to. 

The death of Philando Castile also sparked protests
The death of Philando Castile also sparked protests. Picture: PA

Justine Ruszczyk Damond 

Justine Ruszczyk Damond, an unarmed white dual citizen of the US and Australia, was fatally shot in July 2017 by Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor when she approached his squad car in the alley behind her home after calling 911 to report a possible rape.

Noor testified at trial that a loud bang on the squad car startled him and his partner and that he fired to protect his partner's life.

He was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter and sentenced in 2019 to 12-and-a-half years in prison. 

Justine Damond's memorial ceremony
Justine Damond's memorial ceremony. Picture: PA

Jordan Edwards 

Roy Oliver, a white Texas police officer, fired at a car full of teenagers as it drove away from a large house party in April 2017, fatally shooting 15-year-old Jordan Edwards, who was sitting in the front passenger seat.

Police initially said the vehicle backed up towards officers "in an aggressive manner", but later admitted that bodycam video showed the vehicle was moving forward as officers approached.

Oliver was convicted of murder in 2018 and sentenced to 15 years in prison. 

Breonna Taylor 

Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Louisville emergency medical worker studying to become a nurse, was shot several times in her hallway after three plain-clothes narcotics detectives busted down the door of her apartment in the middle of the night in March 2020.

A vigil for Breonna Taylor after her death
A vigil for Breonna Taylor after her death. Picture: PA

A grand jury brought no charges against officers over her death, although one was indicted for shooting into a neighbouring home that had people inside.

Prosecutors said two officers who fired at Ms Taylor were justified in using force to protect themselves after they faced gunfire from her boyfriend.

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