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Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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The trial of ex-cop Derek Chauvin for killing George Floyd had the nation on edge. On Tuesday the jury found Chauvin guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree unintentional murder and of second-degree manslaughter. Floyd died last May after Chauvin, a white officer, pinned his knee on the 46-year-old Black man’s neck for about 9 1/2 minutes in a case that triggered worldwide protests, violence and a reexamination of racism and policing in the U.S.

The jury of six white people and six people who are Black or multiracial spent just a few hours on their task Monday after the day was mostly consumed by closing arguments. Chauvin, 45, faces up to 40 years in prison on the most serious of his charges.

The Paper. spoke with several people around UNM about their reactions to the verdict, which were overwhelmingly positive. “Justice is served,” said Nova DeNise. “My family is a rainbow tribe, and it’s about time. I’m so happy they reached a good verdict.”

Mayor Keller also weighed in on the verdict. “The death of George Floyd shook our nation, and for good reason. Some in our community want to believe that these instances of racism and police brutality against Black Americans are a thing of the past. When you take the time to listen to our Black neighbors and community leaders, you will hear about the very real experiences of injustice at the hands of police. It is tragic that it took the death of George Floyd, and the conviction of the officer who killed him, to spark the outrage that forced us all to pay attention.”

Governor Lujan Grisham stated her support of the verdict. “While no courtroom verdict will ever bring Mr. Floyd back to his family, to his children, and while no guilty verdict will ever fill the hole in the hearts of those who have loved someone taken from them in such a grievous act of injustice, today’s decision does give us all hope that our system is capable of achieving some measure of accountability.”

Albuquerque’s Police Chief Harold Medina offered his reaction just after the verdict was announced. “I am fully committed to ensuring that we build the proper culture that respects diversity and the equal treatment of all residents. It’s not an easy process. And it’s not as simple as rewriting policies and training officers. We have to get everyone in the department to buy into this culture. We have to be open-minded and willing to have uncomfortable conversations,” he said.

Around 50 people gathered at the south end of UNM’s Johnson Field Tuesday evening demanding further reform of law enforcement in the wake of Derek Chauvin’s trial. Speeches were made by local Black Lives Matter organizers. Speakers commended the verdict but emphasized more needed to be done to prevent such a tragedy from taking place in the future.

After the first round of speeches, the protest took to Central Ave., starting at Princeton Dr., before marching to Cornell Ave. in front of the UNM Bookstore. Police closed down the street for protestors after a few close calls from aggressive drivers. Organizers called for a moment of silence and knelt in the street for exactly 9 minutes and 29 seconds—the amount of time that Chauvin knelt on George Floyd.

The protest ended peacefully with organizers demanding extensive police reform from the City of Albuquerque.

Additional reaction from New Mexicans

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham

US Senator Martin Heinrich

US Senator Ben Ray Lujan

Mayor Tim Keller

Sheriff Manny Gonzales

  • Sheriff Gonzales, who is also running for mayor of Albuquerque, did not share any public thoughts or reactions on his official or campaign Twitter accounts.
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