Valley Coalition issues statement on Floyd death

District Attorneys from Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, and Willacy counties released a joint statement saying they condemned the death of 46-year-old George Floyd by a veteran Minneapolis police officer on May 25.

In the video now seen across the globe, 44-year-old officer Derek Chauvin is shown kneeling on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes while the man frantically tried to communicate that he couldn’t breathe. Floyd was unresponsive for nearly three minutes before the officer stopped. Chauvin now faces second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.

Three other officers at the scene — Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng — were charged with aiding and abetting the death following a week of worldwide protests, rioting, and unrest demanding that law enforcement be held accountable and demilitarized.

Locally, the RGV District Attorney Coalition, formed earlier this year to strengthen relationships and communication between the offices, law enforcement, and citizens of the Rio Grande Valley, said the killing was unnecessary and called for immediate action to address what happened.

District Attorneys Luis V. Saenz, Cameron County; Ricardo Rodriguez, Hidalgo County; Omar Escobar, Starr County; and Annette Hinojosa, Willacy County, offered their condolences to Floyd’s loved ones.

“Each of us and our staffs has taken an oath to support and protect the Texas and United States Constitution. We constantly remind ourselves and those we represent that said oath demands that we see that justice is done. Every day we strive to do this fairly. No one is above the law, and no one is below it.”

The coalition’s statement came after residents demonstrated Valley-wide both in memory of Floyd and in recognition that excessive use of force against people of color needs to end before more lives are lost.

One of those demonstrations was held peacefully in front of the Cameron County Courthouse, where the DA’s office is located. The coalition seemed to agree with that sentiment, concluding, “It is wrong that a helpless man was choked to death begging for his life with a knee jammed into his neck by a man who swore he would protect him and the good people of Minneapolis.”

“We are unaware of any known law enforcement technique or precedent that justifies Officer Derek Chauvin holding his knee on the throat of Mr. Floyd and ignoring his pleas for help that he could not breathe.”

The coalition’s colleague and president of the National District Attorneys Association, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, made the decision to charge Chauvin with second-degree murder, which the RGV DA’s specified was “a very quick response for an officer-involved homicide.”

They urged patience, noting that the process takes time, and that the “best and proper avenue for justice for Mr. Floyd will be in a Minnesota courtroom.”

The DAs warned against riots, theft, and arson, which they specified are criminal acts. “Bad actors will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” they wrote.

Anti-police brutality and racial justice advocates across the country said this week that rioting is an expression of generations of oppression and trauma, though destroying businesses and infrastructure in already marginalized communities will ultimately hurt those most in need of help.

The coalition’s statement expressed hope that productive reforms are possible. “Protestors and officers all around the country have been joining hands in peacefully expressing the desire for positive change. This is a testament to what will become Mr. Floyd’s legacy. We, all Americans, can do better. This commitment will lead us to improve our law enforcement training, practices, and help us realize, not just promise, equal justice for all.”