‘It’s been hap­pen­ing all along’: Panel dis­cusses killing of Ge­orge Floyd and police re­la­tions in Richmond

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - NEWS - BY FRANK GREEN Richmond Times-Dis­patch fgreen@times­dis­patch.com (804) 649-6340

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.

ALEXA WELCH EDLUND/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

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.

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