News/Op-Ed: The Trial of Derek Chauvin Sheds Light on Killing of Angel Zapata Hernandez As Well As the Future of Police and Criminal Justice Reform

by Joseph Theisen

On April 20th 2021, almost a year after the murder of George Floyd, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison procescuded Derek Chauvin, former Minneapolis police officer, and convicted him on two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter.

Derek Chauvin Murder Trial: How to Watch and Livestream

On May 25th 2020, George Floyd was killed while being arrested for allegedly using a fake $20 bill. This caused America to take a stand against police brutality, causing several demonstration of civil protesting around major cities of the country.

The three other police officers, Thomas Lane, Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, have not yet presented themselves to trial but are being prosecuted for aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter. Chauvin has not yet been sentenced to a specific amount of years. However, he could receive as few as twelve and a half years or as many as 40 years. These extremes are unlikely, and his sentence will probably be somewhere in the middle.

George Floyd’s murder was not by any means the first time a police officer has killed a black man in America, but it was one of the most impactful on our society in recent history. This fateful day sparked many police reforms across America in Congress and on smaller scales, such as in specific police departments in towns.

The killing of George Floyd metaphorically woke up many people in America, heading in the right direction towards progress being made, but there is still a long way to go to achieve equality.  On October 15th 2019, just a few months before George Floyd, Angel Zapata Hernandez, a 24 year old Latino man was killed in a similar manner to George Floyd.  Hernandez was stopped by an MTS code compliance inspector while walking over railroad tracks, and an Allied Universal security officer came over to the scene. 

When Hernandez saw the security officer, he took off and was pursued for about 100 yards at which point the two men tackled and handcuffed him.  After the incident, one of the men stayed on top of him with his knee on Hernandez’ neck and continued to do so for six minutes.  When the two men could not feel a pulse, Hernandez was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead. 

No charges were brought against either of the MTS employees, and the family of Angel Zapata Hernandez reached a $5.5 million settlement.  No matter the situation, a security guard should work to deescalate situations before resorting to killing someone in pursuit, and in this case, the guard got away without any charges. 

This was a case in which a minority man was killed, and it was brushed under the rug and largely silenced in the media. America has a long way to go, and the American citizens are the ones that need to make sure these changes happen. With the current political climate and many citizens being tired of living under fear, several reforms can be lobbied in government in order to prevent a catastrophe like that of George Floyd or Angel Zapata Hernandez.

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