Sacked police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter Tuesday in the death of African-American George Floyd in a case that roiled the United States for almost a year, laying bare deep racial divisions.
A racially-diverse jury of seven women and five men in the Midwestern city of Minneapolis took less than two days at the end of a three-week trial to find the white officer guilty in unanimous decisions on all three charges he faced.
Chauvin, 45, could be handed decades behind bars for Floyd's May 25, 2020 killing, which sparked protests against racial injustice around the world and is being seen as a landmark test of police accountability.
Tears of joy, relief after conviction in Floyd murder case
More than 200 people had gathered to hear the verdict for the man accused of killing African-American George Floyd
"Guilty on all three counts," a man announced over a megaphone, and tears streamed down more than one face in the crowd. "Today we celebrate justice for our city," he added.
"I can't believe it... guilty," said 28-year-old Lavid Mack, who stood on a concrete block to get a better view of the gathering. He had not thought Chauvin would be found guilty.
A woman stepped out of the crowd, too moved to speak and fell into the arms of a friend.
Another woman, her eyes brimming with tears, voiced her relief: "Now we can finally start to breathe," said Amber Young.
"This year has been so traumatic, I'm now hoping for some healing," she said.
Fists in the air, a group of a dozen people started chanting, "Black power! Black power!"
Before the verdict was announced, one man was waving a bottle of brandy in the crowd, hoping to open it if Chauvin was found guilty.
The road in front of the court house was closed to traffic and several vehicles that were turned away honked their horns in support of the crowd.
In the past week, tensions had been mounting in Minneapolis, which was rocked by massive protests following Floyd's death last year.
Troops from the National Guard have been patrolling the tense city and most of the businesses had boarded up their storefronts just in case unrest broke out again.
The court house itself was surrounded by armored vehicles, concrete walls and 10-foot high metal fencing, a testament to the sensitivity of the case that ignited the largest protests over race and police brutality in a generation.
'Justice': America reacts to Floyd murderer's conviction
Politicians, rights activists, family members, and even world leaders reacted with jubilation and relief upon learing hte news. Here are some the immediate reactions following the announcement of the guilty verdicts on all three counts—second degree murder, third degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
US President Joe Biden during an evening address to the nation from the White House said, "Systematic racism is a stain on our nation's soul... No one should be above the law. Today's verdict sends that message. But it's not enough. We can't stop here."
Kamala Harris, America's first Black vice president, who also spoke from the White House said, "A measure of justice isn't the same as equal justice. This verdict brings us a step closer, and the fact is we still have work to do. We still must reform the system."
Meanwhile, Floyd's brother, Rodney Floyd also spoke: "I am feeling tears of joy, so emotional that no family in history ever got this far. We were able to get a guilty charge on all counts. We got a chance to go to trial and we took it all the way. This right here is for everyone that's been in this situation. Everybody."
Floyd family lawyer Ben Crump said that the verdict "is a turning point in history." "Justice for Black America is justice for all of America," he said.
Former US president Barack Obama also commented: "Today, a jury did the right thing. But true justice requires much more. Michelle and I send our prayers to the Floyd family, and we stand with all those who are committed to guaranteeing every American the full measure of justice that George and so many others have been denied."
"George Floyd's family and community deserved for his killer to be held accountable. Today, they got that accountability," said former first lady and ex-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Former US president Bill Clinton said, "The jury made the right decision in convicting Derek Chauvin for murdering George Floyd. His tragic death, and the evidence at the trial, made painfully clear that we must do much better in recruiting, training, and holding law enforcement accountable to the communities they serve. The failure to do so continues to plague America, as we have seen in recent days."
US Congresswoman and Democratic rising star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said, "That a family had to lose a son, brother and father; that a teenage girl had to film and post a murder, that millions across the country had to organize and march just for George Floyd to be seen and valued is not justice. And this verdict is not a substitute for policy change."
"Chauvin might never see the light of freedom again. That would be just. But it wouldn't be nearly enough. The SYSTEM that let him murder George Floyd must be changed. But for a bystander’s iPhone camera, Chauvin wd’ve gotten away with murder," exclaimed Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe.
"The evidence of our eyes met at last by accountability in the eyes of justice," said US voting rights activist and Democrat Stacy Abrams.
"While today’s verdict is a step forward in the fight for police accountability and may help heal a grieving community, the systems that allowed a police officer to murder Mr. Floyd, ripping him away from his family and the communities that loved him so much, remain fully intact," said the American Civil Liberties Union in a statement.
"I was appalled by the death of George Floyd and welcome this verdict. My thoughts tonight are with George Floyd’s family and friends," said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. (AFP)