As former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin awaits sentencing for the murder of George Floyd, community activists say the fight for substantial change in policing continues.
Rev. Michael Bell, senior pastor at Greater St. Stephen Church in Fort Worth, watched the verdict read live on television. Chauvin was convicted Tuesday of all three counts he faced in the death of Floyd: unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
“The only verdict that made sense was a guilty verdict. Was I elated? No. Did I celebrate? No. Was I overjoyed? No, because we have been to this precipice before,” Rev. Bell said.
Bell has been involved in community activism for more than 50 years and said from his perspective, the idea of ‘justice’ goes beyond a verdict.
“That was one officer being held accountable for murdering,” he said. “Justice means that I don’t have to wait with bated breath to see if someone who is obviously guilty is convicted. Too many times, we thought or we used to think that if you have video evidence of an officer shooting someone, killing someone, that immediately, that officer would be held accountable. That’s been debunked.”
Bell said as he watched the verdict on Tuesday, Atatiana Jefferson was not far from his mind. Jefferson was shot and killed inside her Fort Worth home in Oct. 2019 by now-former police officer Aaron Dean after what started as a welfare check.
The case has been assigned to the 297th District Court of Tarrant County and as of Wednesday, a trial date has not been set yet. A court coordinator for Judge Hagerman told NBC 5 Wednesday, they are still operating COVID-19 restrictions and have not received clearance on trials from the Office of Court Administration in Austin.
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The pending trial date was brought up when NBC 5 spoke with another community activist Patrice Jones, a member of Enough Is Enough, on Tuesday prior to the verdict.
“Justice delayed is justice denied,” Jones said.
Bell added while Chauvin’s trial resulted in accountability, it does not necessarily add any promised hope in Atatiana Jefferson’s case.
“Am I hopeful? I think the word is, I 'anticipate' that the District Attorney’s office will do due diligence,” Bell said. “Am I looking at yesterday’s verdict? This is Texas. This is a totally different animal. This is Tarrant County. This is a totally different animal. So, I am just anticipating that the District Attorney, one day, is going to... that there will be a trial.”
NBC 5 reached out to Jim Lane, the attorney representing Dean, but he could not comment on the case given the gag order which is still in effect.