The archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis prayed for peace and called for racial reconciliation on Friday after the sentencing of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.
“I pray that today’s sentencing will bring a measure of peace and healing to George Floyd’s family, his friends, and our community, while prompting us to go deeper in our conversations about race, justice, violence, and peace,” stated Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis on Friday.
“Please join me in praying that the Lord will guide us in those conversations, no matter how difficult and uncomfortable they may be, while bringing consolation to the Floyd family, healing to our community, and protection to all who work for peace,” Archbishop Hebda stated.
Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted on three charges of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter for the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, was sentenced to 22 ½ years in prison on Friday. Chauvin was convicted on April 20.
He had restrained Floyd, a 46 year-old Black man, and held him in custody on May 25, 2020 for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store.
Bystanders took video footage of the arrest, which revealed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck in a “chokehold” on a street in downtown Minneapolis for nearly nine minutes as Floyd audibly gasped, moaned, and complained he could not breathe. Towards the end of the video, Floyd appeared unconscious. After an ambulance arrived and transported Floyd to a nearby hospital, he was pronounced dead.
Chauvin was arrested on May 29 and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Prosecutors later upgraded the charges to second-degree unintentional murder. The four officers involved in the attempted arrest, including Chauvin, were eventually fired by the Minneapolis Police Department.
After Floyd's death, widespread protests, rallies, and riots ensued throughout the country and the world, highlighting police brutality and racism. Pope Francis on June 3 prayed for Floyd’s soul and asked for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe for peace and justice.
According to the Associated Press, Chauvin’s sentence is one of the longest prison terms imposed upon a police officer in the United States for the killing of a Black person, but was short of the 30-year sentence prosecutors had pursued. He would be eligible for parole after 15 years in prison, the AP reported.
The Minnesota Department of Corrections would not say where Chauvin is being held after his sentencing, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
After Chauvin was convicted in April, leading U.S. bishops emphasized the significance of the reaction to Floyd’s murder.
“The death of George Floyd highlighted and amplified the deep need to see the sacredness in all people, but especially those who have been historically oppressed,” stated Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, chair of the U.S. bishops’ anti-racism committee, and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, chair of the bishops’ domestic justice and human development committee.
“Let us pray that through the revelation of so much pain and sadness, that God strengthens us to cleanse our land of the evil of racism which also manifests in ways that are hardly ever spoken, ways that never reach the headlines,” they stated.