They came as siblings, parents, spouses and friends. Families of more than a dozen Minnesotans who died while dealing with police gathered Friday before the trial of Derek Chauvin to demand a murder conviction in the death of George Floyd.
If guilty, Chauvin would be the first former police officer to be convicted of murdering a Black man in Minnesota. The state's only ex-cop now in prison for murdering a civilian is Mohamed Noor, who in 2019 was sentenced to 12 years in prison for fatally shooting Justine Damond after she called 911 to report a possible rape.
"We have to be brutally honest about what's going on in this country," said Valerie Castile, whose son Philando was shot five times during a traffic stop in 2016 with his girlfriend and her young daughter in the car. "Out of 400-some people that have been murdered by police here in the state of Minnesota … the only person that's been incarcerated is the Black guy. He committed the ultimate sin. He killed a white woman."
The relatives are part of a coalition called Families Supporting Families against Police Violence, organized by Toshira Garraway
Garraway's fiancé, Justin Teigen, was found dead in a recycling truck that had emptied the dumpster he was in following a chase with St. Paul police in 2009. An autopsy determined that Teigen had died of mechanical compression in the truck, and noted complications that included "acute alcohol intoxication" and a minor head injury from a recent vehicle accident. But Garraway believes police beat her fiancé and threw him into the dumpster.
In each of the families' cases, facts are disputed, with police escaping criminal liability when grand juries decline to indict or juries refuse to convict.
"When they kill our loved ones, they don't just kill our loved ones and that's it, everybody just goes on," Garraway said. "They kill the entire family, the entire community."
Also present were advocacy groups Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar, Communities United Against Police Brutality and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Rep. John Thompson, DFL-St. Paul, a friend of Castile serving his first term in the Legislature, promoted a bill to appropriate $357 million for African American and African immigrant communities to "end systemic racism and racial injustice" by investing in cultural heritage and preservation, business training and housing stabilization. The bill has no Republican sponsors and has not advanced in the Legislature.
The Minnesota Justice Coalition, a group that lobbies for criminal justice reform, also has a raft of legislative demands including ending qualified immunity for police misconduct, which can shield police from lawsuits; requiring police to get professional liability insurance; strengthening civilian oversight; and banning no-knock warrants.
Nine such bills in the Legislature have not received committee hearings, said coalition president Johnathon McClellan.
"Minnesota is ground zero, and being last or not present doesn't cut it," he said. "So this is my advice to the Minnesota Senate who refuses to give us a hearing: You are on a sinking ship. The life rafts will not be out for long. You can get on board with justice and help heal our shared communities, or you can drown in your ignorance."
The families group is scheduled to hold a rally at 2 p.m. Saturday outside the governor's residence on Summit Avenue in St. Paul.
Susan Du • 612-673-4028