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Washington families of people killed by police react to Chauvin verdict

caption: Fred Thomas, whose son Leonard was killed by a Pierce County SWAT team in 2013, called Chauvin verdict 'just the beginning.'
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Fred Thomas, whose son Leonard was killed by a Pierce County SWAT team in 2013, called Chauvin verdict 'just the beginning.'
KUOW/Amy Radil

People in Washington state who have had family members killed by police said the guilty verdict in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial Tuesday brought strong emotions of relief and satisfaction for the Floyd family.

Some said they’re hopeful that the conviction of the former police officer for the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis will mark a turning point for similar cases.

RELATED: Washington officials react to Chauvin guilty verdict

Elaine Simons, foster mother of Jesse Sarey: “This is for all of us! I pulled over, I was driving when I heard the news and I had to pull over. Because I was afraid my yelling and screaming might get me pulled over…This is hopefully not going to end here. If people then go back about their normal lives and it stops, then we’re going to get louder and bring it right back up again.”

Maria Giron, mother of Oscar Perez-Giron: “I cried, I was screaming, I’d got my windows open and I ran outside and I’m screaming like crazy and I say, ‘finally we did it!’ Because I was fighting for justice, too."

Fred Thomas, father of Leonard Thomas: “It’s really just the beginning. Hopefully this is a step forward that juries know they can convict an officer. It almost seemed in the past like they were given instructions that, 'no matter what you can’t convict this officer ' … It was the video. They just cannot deny it: the malice that was in [Chauvin’s] face. And that’s the whole problem in the whole system. He sat there knowing he was on camera and did it anyway, because he thought down in his heart he was going to get away with it.”

Po Leapai, cousin of Iosia Faletogo: “I can’t help that it is a bittersweet moment for some of us … To everybody that’s been discouraged along this journey, stay encouraged. Stay encouraged. This isn’t over, we’re just starting. And I’m praying for justice for all of us, but I’m very happy for the Floyd family.”

Marilyn Covarrubias, mother of Daniel Covarrubias: “This has been happening everywhere and a lot of us have not gotten justice. We won’t ever get justice really, there will be no closure. But this gives me hope, you know, hope that now that the people know this is happening, that we’ll stop it.”

Castill Hightower, sister of Herbert Hightower Jr.: “What caused this to happen is not because we’re where we should be, but because there was such a powerful outcry from a multiracial, multigenerational movement. There was such a powerful outcry that the courts and the system felt like they had no other choice. So put that energy into our families.”

Sonia Joseph, mother of Giovonn Joseph-McDade: “There are so many families that have lost loved ones that are innocent – innocent! And have received no justice. And so until more families can receive justice there’s still more work to be done. But the George Floyd case is just the beginning.”

Debbie Novak, mother of David Novak: “This gives us all hope and it’s a step in the right direction. I really think we’re going to see some change with our law enforcement agencies. It’s not going to happen overnight but I really think this is the beginning of some big change.”

Steven Sarey, cousin of Jesse Sarey: “Part of me was happy but another part was like, 'OK, let’s move on to the next now. Because Floyd is not the only one. Is it because of really good camera footage, and that officer [Chauvin] was that bold to do it like that? ... I’m really happy for [Floyd’s family], there’s a lot of work that needs to be done, there’s a lot of families that are impacted, a lot of families who never got any answers for years and years.”

Auburn police officer Jeffrey Nelson has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Jesse Sarey and is currently awaiting trial.

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