Justice Families Seek Police Accountability with Derek Chauvin Trial Underway

Minneapolis, MN – “There was many police murders that led up to George Floyd,” said Toshira Garraway, founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence (FSFAV). Families who’ve lost their loved ones to police violence have been gathering in the Twin Cities demanding justice and the passing of legislative bills aimed at police accountability.

When they kill our loved ones, they don’t just kill our loved ones and that’s it and everyone just goes on. They kill the entire family, our entire community. They have stolen something from us that we can never get back.

Toshira Garraway

About a dozen families held a press conference on Friday, March 5, the weekend before the Derek Chauvin trial started, to speak about their loved ones lost to police terror, the impacts on their lives, and new police accountability demands. Aside from the families, community organizers spoke along with Soren Stevenson, who lost his left eye from Minneapolis Police shooting him with a rubber bullet on May 31, 2020. Unicorn Riot was live for the presser.

Organized by FSFAV, a support organization for the families of people killed by police, the presser was led by Toshira Garraway, who says her fiancé Justin Teigen was killed by St. Paul Police in 2009. St Paul police claim that Teigen hid in a recycling bin after police chased him on foot. Garraway says that it’s more likely that police beat him badly and deposited Justin’s body in the recycling bin. The official cause of death was asphyxiation due to mechanical compression inside the recycling truck. Justin died in 2009, his family has received no justice. Garraway, who’s been consistently fighting for police accountability, shared her story with Unicorn Riot two years ago.

Other family members who spoke during the Friday presser included:

  • Matilda Smith, Mother of Jaffort Smith, killed by St. Paul Police: Our family has been traumatized. We gets no apology. We gets nothing.
    • Jaffort Smith was 33-years-old when he was killed by a flurry of bullets from St. Paul Police Officers John Corcoran, Mark Grundhauser, Jeffery Korus and Michael Tschida after he allegedly shot a person in the face and fired at police during a schizophrenic episode. Jaffort was hit with 19 bullets.
  • Marilyn Hill, Mother of Demetrius Hill, killed by St. Paul Police: The officers that were involved in the murder came up with a story, planted a gun, and put in the papers lies regarding my son.
    • Demetrius Hill was 18-years-old when he was shot and killed by Saint Paul police during a raid on the wrong address. Hill was killed in 1997 while inside his own apartment. Marilyn Hill told Unicorn Riot in September 2020 that she learned the officer who killed her son was shot in the back and killed ten years after killing her son. Hill feels some kind of justice has been served in the form of her son’s killer being shot himself, yet she said her son’s murder was covered up.
  • Tiffany Brown along with Danielle Burns, Sisters of Jamar Clark, killed by Minneapolis Police: Our family has been through so much with the state and the police department covering up my brother’s murder and tormenting our family.
    • Jamar Clark was 24-years-old when he was fatally shot in the face by Minneapolis Police. Police were called to a birthday party in North Minneapolis where Clark’s girlfriend had allegedly fought with the host of the party. After his girlfriend was placed in an ambulance, Jamar (who was unarmed) approached the vehicle and was taken down and shot in the face by Minneapolis Police. His killing led to an 18 day occupation of Minneapolis Police’s 4th Precinct. Clark was killed in 2015, no officers were charged, his family received a settlement.
  • Bettie Smith, Mother of Quincy Smith, killed by Minneapolis Police: I wasn’t allowed to go to the grand jury, they only hear the police side and of course they’re going to acquit them.
    • Quincy Smith, a 24-year-old radio DJ also known as ‘Q the Blacksmith’ was killed by Minneapolis Police after being shot with a taser and beaten in 2008. The officers involved were Carlos Baires-Escobar, Shawn Brandt, Timothy Devick, Christopher Humphrey and Nicholas McCarthy. Smith was in the middle of a lawsuit against the Minneapolis Police for excessive force during a 2005 false arrest.
  • Valerie Castile, Mother of Philando Castile: killed by Falcon Heights Police: We are here today to stand in visual unity as a statement to the State of Minnesota that we’re not gonna shut up, we’re not gonna sit down, we’re gonna stand in unity and we’re gonna bring it to ya!
  • Ashley Quinones, Wife of Brian Quiñones-Rosario: killed by Edina and Richfield Police: Everything is an uphill battle. We’re exhausted and we need everybody who can get involved to get involved.
    • Brian Quiñones-Rosario was 31-years-old when he was fatally shot by suburban metro police forces. Quinones was a father, husband, and hip hop artist also known as ‘Blessed the M.C.’ Police killed him after a small chase through southern suburbs on September 7, 2019. Quinones exited his vehicle with a small knife and within seconds he was shot to death by police standing about 20 feet away from him.
  • Ethan Heisler, Brother of Kobe Heisler, killed by Brooklyn Center Police: Kobe was autistic and attempted to flee. He was scared for his life. I don’t think he was supposed to be murdered that day.
    • Kobe Dimock-Heisler on the one year anniversary of his death. Kobe, a 21-year-old autistic man, was unarmed when he was shot and killed by Brooklyn Center Police officers responding to a mental crisis call. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman chose to not charge officers Brandon Akers, Steven Holt, Cody Turner, and Joseph Vu, who were involved in the killing of Heisler.
  • Carlotta Madison, Brother of Andre Madison, shot by Minneapolis Police: My brother Andre Madison was shot by Minneapolis Police 24 years ago, in 1996. I first wonder if it was still relevant since it happened 24 years ago. But the thing about it is that it’s still happening.
    • Andre Madison was shot during a no-knock raid led by former Minneapolis Police Federation President Bob Kroll. After being shot, Madison said police kicked and punched him, called him racial epithets and told him to die. Madison filed a civil lawsuit against the MPD and the city settled for $15,000.
  • Paul Johnson, Best Friend of Travis Jordan, killed by Minneapolis Police: We are tired of being the quiet rain that gets washed away. Stories will be the thunder and lightning and torts of wind for justice.
    • Travis Jordan was 36-years-old when Minneapolis Police officers killed him while he was experiencing a mental health crisis. His girlfriend called 911 out of concern, telling the dispatcher that Jordan had said he was having suicidal ideations. Travis was inside his home holding a kitchen knife when police arrived. Officers Ryan Keyes and Neal Walsh urged Jordan to come outside and talk; after he did so, the police shot him to death. Jordan was killed in 2018, no officers were charged and his family has yet to receive any kind of justice.
  • Walter Bell, Father of Walter Collins, killed by Minneapolis Police: We had three trials, they said that we tainted the jury. How can we taint the jury without their addresses, phone numbers, or names.
    • Walter Collins was 21-years-old when he was fatally shot by Minneapolis Police Officer Jamie Conway in 2003. Collins and his friend’s car broke down near Franklin and Park Avenues and when police arrived and shone their searchlight on the two, Collins ran. Conway chased and killed Collins on the corner lot of 22nd St. and Park Ave. and faced no consequences. Conway is still on the force patrolling the 3rd Precinct. He was seen protecting the roof of the 3rd Precinct the day it was overran by the community during in last year’s George Floyd Uprising.
  • Bayle Adod Gelle, Father of Dolal Idd, killed by Minneapolis Police: I know that the mayor, the sheriff, the police, and the rest of them all have anti-Blackness and that’s why my son was killed.
    • Minneapolis officers fatally shot 23-year-old Dolal Idd during a sting at an open gas station while dozens of bystanders were near. Idd was entrapped by undercover police who were allegedly going to buy a gun from Idd. Idd’s parents home was raided by authorities and his family was detained in their home a few hours after MPD killed him.

Murder after murder and these officers walking free to kill more and more of our people. We will not be silenced any longer.

Toshira Garraway

Johnathon McClellan, President of the Minnesota Justice Coalition, spoke on March 5 about a list of legislative demands, nine bills that community organizations had crafted. The bills were aimed at creating police accountability.

We are the check, the collective pushing back for our people and for our shared communities through policy and legislation.

Johnathon McClellan

The following are the nine bills put forth to the Minnesota Legislature:

  • Ending Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Deaths
    • This bill will eliminate the statute of limitations for wrongful death civil suits, enabling families of people killed by police to seek justice. Has 5 year look back, also eliminates Statue of Limitation’s for sexual assault by Police.
  • Police Professional Liability Insurance
    • This bill will create a requirement for law enforcement officers to carry professional liability insurance as a condition of employment. Employing agencies may pay the base but any additional premiums based on officer conduct will be the officer’s responsibility.
  • Civilian Oversight Strengthened
    • This bill will repeal MN Stat. 626.89, subd. 17 which prohibited civilian oversight bodies from making findings of fact in complaints against police.
  • Access to BWC Footage within 48 hours 
    • This bill allows families, and or their legal representative access within 48 hours to unredacted body-worn camera footage in police critical incidents.
  • Ending Police-Only Responses to Mental Health Crisis Calls
    • This bill would End Police-Only Responses to Mental Health Crisis Calls.
  • Qualified Immunity
    • This bill will end qualified immunity as a legal defense for police misconduct.
  • Independent Investigatory and Prosecutory Body
    • This Bill creates an Independent Investigatory and Prosecutory Body for officer involved critical incidents.
  • End Prosecution for Reporting Police Misconduct
    • Ends Prosecution for Reporting Police Misconduct. (609.505, subd. 2)
  • End No Knock Warrants
    • This bill will prohibit police officers from obtaining no knock warrants except under narrow circumstances

We spoke to McClellan about the bills after a March 12 press conference announced a record $27M settlement between the City of Minneapolis and the family of George Floyd. McClellan stated at the time that the bill to end qualified immunity had moved a little bit but that the political will wasn’t there to enact any of the bills into law. This, after last year’s global uprising against racist police violence. The bills will have to be attached to another bill or wait until the 2022 legislative session.

Toshira Garraway also spoke to Unicorn Riot after the settlement. Garraway said that Floyd’s death wasn’t a singular issue and that other police killings have “led up to the murder of George Floyd.

The other community organizers who spoke at the March 5 presser, included: Jaylani Hussein of CAIR-MN, Michelle Gross of Communities United Against Police Brutality, Jess Sundin of TCC4J, Angela Myers of the NAACP, State Representative John Thompson, and Deborah Watts, Emmett Till’s cousin.

Many of the families who spoke at the March 5 presser, also spoke at the Governor’s Residence the next day, March 6 in a similar form as last June shortly after George Floyd was killed (see below). Another family gathering of a stolen life happened on March 14 when many people gathered to remember Cordale Handy, who was killed by St. Paul Police in 2017.

As the Chauvin trial continues and the city threatens to clear the sacred space at George Floyd Square with the assistance of federal agents, justice families are continuing to band together and speak up. For some of these families, the quest to have a taste of justice is never-ending, many of the families are now hoping actionable police accountability will occur in the future.

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