‘It’s been happening all along’: Panel discusses killing of George Floyd and police relations in Richmond
Former Richmond police officer, homicide investigator and sheriff C.T. Woody entered law enforcement in 1968, the year Martin Luther King
Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated and the country was rocked by civil unrest.
But he said the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis last month has had an even greater impact in Richmond. “This is the first time nationally, locally and citywide that the public has been able to see a live murder by a policeman in public,” Woody said.
“It’s been happening all along but ... thank God for video and thank God for bringing it out to the public to see how it happened,” he said. “It was a murder right before our eyes.”
Woody participated in a panel discussion on Facebook Live Wednesday evening along with Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin; state Del. Jeff Bourne, DRichmond; Shameka Hall, a local attorney; and Maj. Sybil El-Amin of the Richmond Police Department. The forum was arranged by Pastor Fred Wyatt of Speaking Spirit Ministries.
On May 25, Floyd, 46, died after a white police officer in Minneapolis, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and facedown on pavement. At times, Chauvin had his hands in his pocket while pressing down on his knee.
Other officers helped restrain Floyd and prevented witnesses from intervening. The incident has sparked outrage around the world and prompted thousands of protestors — for the most part peaceful, but some violent — to demonstrate in Richmond for five straight days.
On Monday, Richmond police came into criticism for hitting peaceful demonstrators at the Lee
Monument with tear gas without warning. More than 230 arrests have been made but most for the misdemeanor crime of violating the city’s curfew, which is no longer in effect.
McEachin said one of the first things that struck her was that none of the witnesses, black or white, to Floyd’s death, intervened. They obeyed the police authority.
“These people did that, they obeyed the law and all that happened as a result of that, was that they were forced to be a witness to a murder,” said McEachin.
Woody said the murder brought to light what had been going on. “The people are just sick and tired of it . ... Enough is enough.”
“Working homicides and everything else, but I’ve never seen a thing so blatant and [the police] didn’t really care who saw it or what was going on. They should be put under the jail,” said Woody.
El-Amin said, “I’ve never, in my life seen the callousness ... such cruelty.”
“The officer’s hands were in his pockets.” There was no threat to the police from Floyd, she said. Unlike in other incidents where a video only shows part of what happened, the full context could be seen in this attack, said El-Amin.
She said that Richmond police officers undergo extensive diversity training and have worked for years to improve the relationship between police and the community.
“We don’t have the type of people who would stand for this type of behavior,” El-Amin said. She said it was heartbreaking to see the anger directed at Richmond officers for something that happened elsewhere.
Woody agreed that the current Richmond police department has far better relations with the African American community than the department he joined in 1968.
Pastor Fred Wyatt asked questions of Shameka Hall, a local attorney; former Richmond Sheriff C.T. Woody; Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin; Del. Jeff Bourne, D-Richmond; and Maj. Sybil El-Amin of the Richmond Police Department on Wednesday.