CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV/AP) - Watching intently from inside a popular Charlotte barbershop, Tony Weathers and Stanley Johnson were hoping for the right outcome.
The outcome they wanted was for what they believe was justice in the death of George Floyd.
The nation’s eyes were on a courtroom in Minneapolis, Minnesota Tuesday afternoon.
People throughout the country were anxiously awaiting the jury to announce the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial.
That includes activists and people in Charlotte.
“Things can’t be done fairly to serve people and their different opinions regardless of race of color,” said Johnson, who was getting his hair cut at TNT Barbershop on Beatties Ford Road. “If you do the crime, you must pay the time.”
Chauvin will do his time.
The ex-police officer was found guilty of all three counts he was charged with for the 2020 death of George Floyd.
“If you ask me, justice was served,” said Weathers, who works at the barbershop. “For him to deliberately kneel on his neck, and that’s just my thought, kneel on his neck and watch him cry for his momma for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, to me justice was served.”
CMPD reacts to guilty verdict in Derek Chauvin trial:
The jury, made up of six white people and six Black or multiracial people, found Chauvin guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The most serious charge carries up to 40 years in prison.
Chauvin will be sentenced in eight weeks.
The verdict arrived after about 10 hours of deliberations over two days, was to be read late in the afternoon in a city on edge against the possibility of more unrest like that that erupted last spring.
The courthouse was ringed with concrete barriers and razor wire, and thousands of National Guardsmen and other law enforcement officers were brought in ahead of the verdict.
Shortly after the judge read the verdict, and Chauvin was taken out of the courtroom in handcuffs, Charlotte leaders addressed the decision.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Johnny Jennings spoke about the verdict, along with Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles.
Jennings said he hopes the guilty verdict is a starting toward healing a hurt nation.
“Justice has spoken here. The justice system has made its statement and that statement is being heard around the world today,” Jennings said. “We, as a department, respect the decision by the jury. We respect the process that was laid out and we hope this is something we can move forward with to build trust within the community.
“We have a lot of work to do, and we recognized that, and we know that. The majority of the work is still ahead of us and we are committed as a department, as a city and as a profession that we continue to gain that trust.”
Lyles was asked if she felt relief that justice was served or because of possible protests throughout Charlotte.
“I don’t know if I can separate myself as role of mayor in a time like this because we were thinking all the while that justice needed to be served,” the mayor said. “At the same time, I was thinking, how do I work to make sure the chief have the resources necessary and make sure people had the right to protest, and make sure our city was safe? I am mayor because I love this city.”
Floyd died last May after Chauvin, a 45-year-old now-fired white officer, pinned his knee on the 46-year-old Black man’s neck for about 9 1/2 minutes.
“I’m not going to lie to you and say I am praying for him because I’m not,” Charlotte NAACP President Corine Mack said. “What I want him to do is go to jail for the rest of his life and every single day remember what he did.”
Community members rallied together in Marshall Park Tuesday evening.
Rather than displaying anger, the majority were in a celebratory mood.
A small group meeting for what they called a victory party was much more subdued.
The handful of people didn’t march. They didn’t make major celebratory movements.
They spent the time, really, just talking about the day’s events with one another.
Some told WBTV the verdict was a good start, but in no way means that much progress was made.
“This is new for us,” activist Kass Ottley said. “We’re usually upset with the verdict and we’re usually out protesting. So this was really quite impromptu – hey, let’s go out to the park let’s just unwind and celebrate the small victory.”
Floyd’s death last year sparked days of protests, demonstrations and calls of ending racial injustices and police brutality across the nation, even here in Charlotte.
In Charlotte, the guilty verdict brought some relief and justice to many who have been following the trial.
“I hope this verdict brings some measure of closure to the family of #GeorgeFloyd,” Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles said on social media. “George Floyd’s death and this trial should give us pause. Another Black man lost his life. Finally, justice was served.
“I hope everyone respects the result and understands this will not be the last time we have to address a situation like this. Change is needed and we should all be a part of that change.”
Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden said the judicial system worked, in this case, to hold Chauvin accountable.
“Today, a jury of his peers found former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all three charges in the death of George Floyd. While the system worked to hold Chauvin accountable for his criminal actions, we know the decision will never return Mr. Floyd to his family, friends and community,” McFadden said. “At the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, we believe in the sanctity of life and treating everyone with dignity and respect. We have a moral responsibility to protect people in our custody from harm. As Sheriff, I believe policing is a noble profession – yet I also know that not all individuals feel equally protected.
“The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office remains committed to doing the hard work necessary to build the trust and confidence required to enhance safety for all who live and work in Mecklenburg County.”
Johnson C. Smith University President Clarence D. Armbrister released this statement:
“I am pleased that justice has been served today in the trial of Derek Chauvin,” Armbrister said. “This verdict is a step in the right direction to address systemic racism that is too often evident in America’s policing. I as well as the students of Johnson C. Smith University – many of whom protested for justice following Mr. Floyd’s death – grieve with the family and friends of George Floyd. This verdict is not a cause for celebration nor does it change past events. However, it does serve as a new precedent for justice in our nation.”
Local organizations started protesting in Charlotte on Sunday, the day before closing arguments in the case.
“The message is we’re just warming up because when this verdict hits, we’re going to hit the streets,” Ottley said.
Ottley says this isn’t the end of the fight in this case.
The other three officers in the George Floyd murder who were there when Derek Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck go to trial next. They’ll be in one joint trial.
Ottley said they’ll be keeping a close eye on that as well.
Leaders in the Carolinas also spoke about the jury’s verdict.
“I appreciate the jury’s work for justice,” N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper said. “George Floyd’s death shouldn’t have happened and we must continue to work to bring positive change to our state and country.”
South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott released this statement:
“George Floyd died because Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck and stopped him from breathing for more than nine minutes. There is no question in my mind that the jury reached the right verdict.
“While this outcome should give us renewed confidence in the integrity of our justice system, we know there is more work to be done to ensure the bad apples do not define all officers—the vast majority of whom put on the uniform each day with integrity and servant hearts. We must all come together to help repair the tenuous relationship between law enforcement and Black and minority Americans.
“To deny the progress we’ve made is just as damaging as not making progress at all. I urge people across this nation to peacefully make their voices heard and engage in conversations that will continue to move us toward a more just America. I believe in the goodness of our country; we can and will do better.”
North Carolina Rep. Alma Adams said this:
“Justice was served today, and while that will not bring back George Floyd or the countless thousands lost to state-sanctioned violence, it means the millions of Americans struggling, fighting to breathe free are closer to living in a just, beloved community. Thank you to the judge, the jurors, and the officers of the court for your work.
“However, in spite of today’s verdict, our work continues. The Senate must pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to ensure that no other father, mother, son, daughter, aunt, uncle, sister, brother or loved one again dies at the hands of the police without accountability. Without passing the bill that bears his name, true justice for George Floyd and countless other victims still remains to be served.”
Statement from UNC Charlotte Chancellor Dr. Sharon Gaber:
“Today, we have learned of the guilty verdict for Derek Chauvin. While we are not naive to believe one verdict will change the course of history, I want to reinforce our commitment to positive change and healing as a UNC Charlotte community.”