On Tuesday, April 20, 2021, a jury said that Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd.
Folks have been reacting to that.
But protestors haven’t torched Minneapolis shops and services in the three days since then. Not as far as I know.
Which is a relief, but not a surprise. For one thing, it’s late April: still a bit too chilly for comfort during pyromaniac performance art’s prime time.
I’ll be taking a quick look at headlines. Then I’ll talk about life, law, justice and why I think murder is a bad idea.
- Troublesome Topics
I still don’t know what, if anything, folks who thought defunding Minneapolis police was a good idea were thinking.
Maybe that’s because I don’t assume that police departments cause crime.
Or maybe if I understood the political subtleties in play, then I’d have added my voice to an anarchist anthem, liberal lyric or conservative chorus.
Then again, maybe not. I’m guessing “not.”
At any rate, there’s been no shortage of opinions — expressed by words or actions— regarding the recent trial.
- “Judge in Derek Chauvin trial says Rep. Maxine Waters’ comments may be grounds for appeal”
Caroline Kelly, CNN (April 19, 2021)
- “Man charged after drive-by shooting at National Guard soldiers in Minneapolis”
Andy Mannix, Star Tribune (April 20, 2021)
Before I wade into politics, pigs and all that, another of my assumptions.
Based on experience and ‘book learning,’ I figure that police officers neither paragons of virtue, nor thugs with badges. Not all of them.
Maybe picking a knee-jerk response the last year’s craziness would be easier if I chose one or the other stereotype. But that doesn’t make sense. Not to me.
“Pig’s head thrown at former home of Chauvin defense witness”
Tim Stelloh, NBC News (April 18, 2021)
“Vandals threw a pig’s head at the onetime home of a former California police officer who was a defense witness for Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer accused of killing George Floyd, police said.
“The incident occurred early Saturday in Santa Rosa, California, at a house where the witness, Barry Brodd, used to live, Santa Rosa police said in a statement….”
“Waters calls for protesters to ‘get more confrontational’ if no guilty verdict is reached in Derek Chauvin trial”
Chandelis Duster, CNN (April 19, 2021)
“…The comments by Waters, a California Democrat and icon among progressives, were immediately seized on by Republicans who claimed that Waters was inciting violence. The congresswoman denied in a subsequent interview that she was encouraging violence, but the remarks come at a time of immense national tension amid several high-profile killings of Black people at the hands of police officers and as American cities brace for a fresh wave of protests as the Chauvin trial nears a close….”
A key phrase in the pig’s head piece is “used to live.”
Barry Brodd doesn’t live in Santa Rosa, or California, any more. But seeing the pig’s head as an anti-Brodd protest seems reasonable.
On the other hand, it’s not the only possible motive.
Maybe whoever lives there incurred a militant vegetarian’s wrath, shortchanged a butcher or was the victim of random pig violence.
Regarding the Waters “more confrontational” statement, I don’t know its context or history. In any case, I’m glad that folks didn’t celebrate the guilty verdict by torching more stores. By my standards, that’d be daft: at least as daft as last year’s use of arson as a call for justice.
“George Floyd: Jury finds Derek Chauvin guilty of murder”
(April 20, 2021)
“…Chauvin was found guilty on three charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.
“He will remain in custody until he is sentenced and could spend decades in jail….
“…The 12-member jury took less than a day to reach their verdict, which followed a highly-charged, three-week trial that left Minneapolis on edge….
“…They say one of the most likely avenues of appeal is the huge publicity given to the case, with the defence team arguing that this might have influenced the jury.
“Also, Presiding Judge Peter Cahill said on Monday that public comments by Democrat Congresswoman Maxine Waters could be grounds for an appeal.
“Over the weekend, Ms Waters had urged protesters to ‘stay on the street’ and ‘get more confrontational’ if Chauvin were acquitted….
I wasn’t surprised at a guilty verdict in the D. Chauvin trial.
Intransigent conservatives and ardent liberals agree that Chauvin’s actions resulted in Floyd’s death.
Well, mostly agree. One version of the events says that Floyd was sick, and so didn’t survive last year’s encounter.
The way I heard it, Chauvin restrained Floyd in a way that’s legitimate. When dealing with a strong, active suspect.
If Floyd was so unwell that a routine restraint technique killed him, then I’d wonder why police used the technique: when they outnumbered the suspect four to one.1
But I grew up in an America where too many of my homeland’s self-described best and brightest could have checked into a loony bin, no questions asked.
Could have, if they’d had a trifle more self-awareness and weren’t promoting currently-trendy crackpot notions.
Watching McCarthyism’s dying gasps and enduring academia while political correctness was in bloom did nothing to encourage adulation of my betters. And that’s another topic.
What does surprise me a bit is that D. Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts. And that the jury reached that conclusion after only 10 hours of deliberation.
- “Derek Chauvin’s sentencing will be in 8 weeks”
Amir Vera, Jason Hanna; CNN; via KCTV5 (April 20, 2021)
I’m not looking forward to that.
Quite a few folks, I strongly suspect, feel prison is too good for Chauvin. I also strongly suspect that we’ll see a revival of last year’s ‘defund the police’ demands.
And nights are warmer in June, so maybe we’ll have a replay of last year’s ‘let’s set fire to the neighborhood’ events. I hope not.
Duante Wright had an outstanding arrest warrant. He and a Mr. Driver had been accused of attacking and robbing someone. Using a gun as well as their hands.
- “Daunte Wright Was Facing Attempted-Robbery Case for ‘Choking and Holding Woman at Gunpoint’ for $820”
R. Ghosh, International Business Times (April 14, 2021)
Maybe that explains why a police officer used a “Taser” during the traffic stop. But the arrest warrant doesn’t explain how the Taser turned out to be a Glock pistol.
Events during the next few minutes reminded me of yesteryear’s underground comix.3
“How a veteran officer could have mistaken a Glock for a Taser in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright”
Corky Siemaszko, NBC News (April 13, 2021)
“…The answer to that question may have as much to do with what was going on in Brooklyn Center police Officer Kim Potter’s mind as with which weapon she was holding in her hand, experts told NBC News on Tuesday.
“The Glock pistol that Potter was wielding when she fired the fatal shot at Wright on Sunday as he allegedly attempted to flee is black metal and almost a pound heavier than the neon-colored plastic Taser she may have believed she was brandishing as she was caught on a video yelling, ‘Taser! Taser! Taser!’…”
I’ve never been a police officer. My frame of reference does not include dealing with someone who violated traffic rules, and may have used force while acquiring $820.
So maybe just over 7 ounces of plastic can look and feel just like 1 pound, 6 ounces of metal during a traffic stop.
Maybe everything with a handle looks like a Taser on Tuesday afternoons.
At any rate, a bullet from the “Taser” punctured Duante Wright.
Maybe he shouldn’t have driven away, but he did. Then he hit another car and a concrete barrier. Police officers caught up with him, used CPR, but he died anyway.
Then the ‘I didn’t know the Taser was a Glock’ police officer and the Brooklyn Center police chief resigned. The last I heard, the police officer has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. I don’t know what’s happened in that $820 robbery case.
I gather that quite a few folks aren’t happy about how Duante Wright died. Can’t say that I blame them.
Something that’s gotten lost in the George Floyd shuffle is why four police officers came to Cup Foods last May.
And this brings me to life, law, justice and other awkward topics.
Whether or not George Floyd bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill is probably a moot point.
He’s dead. And in the Cup Food owner’s place, I’d prefer dropping charges to risking the wrath of Floyd’s followers.
For all I know, someone’s proven that the $20 bill was genuine.
But oddly enough, nobody’s said that money, cigarettes or Big Tobacco caused last summer’s mess. Not that I’ve seen. Maybe news and social media can accommodate only so many crazy ideas at a time, and that’s yet another topic. Topics.
Since proof that a mistake sparked George Floyd’s lethal encounter would enhance his value as a martyr, I suspect that the bill was bogus. Whether he knew it was counterfeit, and hoped a clerk wouldn’t notice, or thought it was legal tender — is another moot point.
The same goes for the $820 robbery charge that ended in death by “Taser.”
How I see law, justice and all that hasn’t changed since the last time talked about it.
So this may be a good time for you to stop reading — and go polish the cat, let out your shoes or do whatever.
I must also see everyone as a real person, a neighbor, someone who matters: created in the image of God. Someone I should — must — love. No exceptions. (Genesis 1:27; Matthew 5:43–44, 22:36–40; Mark 12:28–31; Luke 6:31, 10:25–37; Catechism, 1789, 2258, 2260)
As I’ve said before, and almost certainly will again, that can be awkward.
But that’s not because I think America’s assorted federal and state laws are sacred: immutable principles carved into the great world-tree Yggdrasil.
It’s because I think our laws regarding counterfeit currency aren’t all that far from natural law: principles that are woven into reality, and which don’t change.
Recapping what I keep saying: natural law doesn’t change. It’s part of reality. Positive law, rules we make up, changes. And should change as our circumstances change. In an ideal world, positive law would reflect natural law. (Catechism, 1950–1974)
We don’t live in an ideal world; so sometimes what’s legal isn’t right, and sometimes what’s right isn’t legal. That sort of disconnect may have inspired Chickenman’s ongoing quest: opposing crime and/or evil. (June 6, 2020)
For example, if I paid someone $10 for $20 worth of work, that’d be wrong; even if my era’s laws said it was okay.
Buying something with a piece of paper that’s nearly worthless strikes me as being uncomfortably close to forgery: which the Church says is a form of theft. (Catechism, 2409)
That’d be true, even if I feel that stealing is okay because I’ve been cheated. Intent matters, but the end does not justify the means. (Catechism, 1753)
Finally, justice isn’t fueled by anger. Or shouldn’t be. (Catechism, 2302)
Defining “person” and “innocent” gets tricky.
So does settling on what “killing” means. And that’s yet again another topic.
Since I’m a Catholic, I think killing an innocent person is murder, no matter how it’s done — or how young, old, or sick the person is. That’s because, again, human life is sacred: a gift from God. (Catechism, 2258, 2268–2279)
I also think that sometimes taking a human life can’t be avoided.
But legitimate defense isn’t even close to saying murder is okay if I feel threatened. And I sure don’t think an alleged $820 robbery warrants ‘shoot to kill.’
I’m not so much angry as disgusted and puzzled by this month’s ‘I thought the Glock was a Taser’ SNAFU in a Twin Cities suburb.
And I’m profoundly glad that I live in a town where the local police are not earning a reputation for using lethal force when responding to allegedly counterfeit bills, or being befuddled over distinctions between a Glock and a Taser.
But being angry, or disgusted, won’t help me understand what went so horribly wrong in Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center.
So I’ll keep trying to stay calm(ish), remember that my assumptions aren’t facts, and maybe return to this subject when I’ve learned more. Or table the topic. Maybe permanently.
I’ve talked about this sort of thing before:
- “Life and Death, Laws and Principles”
(January 22, 2021)
- “Wheat, Tares, Fear of the Lord and Working on Wisdom”
(December 19, 2020)
- “Floyd, Signs and Statues”
(June 28, 2020)
- “Executed: Daniel Lewis Lee”
(July 14, 2020)
- “Beyond George Floyd”
(June 6, 2020)