MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced Friday to 22 1/2 years in prison for the murder of George Floyd, whose dying gasps under Chauvin’s knee led to the biggest outcry against racial injustice in the U.S. in generations.
The punishment — which came after Chauvin broke his yearlong silence to offer condolences to the Floyd family and express hope that they eventually have “some peace of mind” — is one of the longest prison terms ever imposed on a U.S. police officer in the killing of a Black person.
Still, Floyd family members and others were disappointed. The sentence fell short of the 30 years prosecutors had requested. And with good behavior, Chauvin, 45, could get out on parole after serving two-thirds of his sentence, or about 15 years.
“Just because it’s the most time doesn’t mean it’s enough time,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong, a Minneapolis protest leader.
Judge Peter Cahillwent beyond the 12 1/2-year sentence prescribed under state guidelines, citing Chauvin’s “abuse of a position of trust and authority and also the particular cruelty” shown to Floyd.
Floyd family attorney Ben Crump said the family had gotten “some measure of accountability” but is hoping Chauvin gets the maximum at his upcoming federal civil rights trial. Crump said this was the longest sentence a police officer has ever received in Minnesota.
But he added: “Real justice in America will be Black men and Black women and people of color who will not have to fear being killed by the police just because the color of their skin. That would be real justice.”
Outside the courthouse, a crowd of about 50 people clasped hands or placed them on each other’s shoulders. The reaction was subdued as people debated whether the sentence was long enough. Some cursed in disgust.
At George Floyd Square, as the intersection where Floyd was pinned to the pavement is now known, members of the crowd broke into applause, and several said, “We’ll take it.”
Chauvin was immediately led back to prison. He showed little emotion when the judge pronounced the sentence. His eyes moved rapidly around the courtroom, his COVID-19 mask obscuring much of his face.
The fired white officer was convicted in April of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck for up to 9 1/2 minutes as the 46-year-old man gasped that he couldn’t breathe and went limp on May 25, 2020.