Not long after a jury convicted former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin of killing George Floyd, police chiefs across the U.S. started speaking up. And it wasn't to defend the police.
New Orleans Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said convicting Chauvin on Tuesday showed "police officers are not above the law." Charmaine McGuffey, the sheriff in Cincinnati, said it was a "necessary step" in healing a nation torn apart by police violence. Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo encouraged Americans to breathe "a collective sigh of relief."
Law enforcement leaders said Chauvin's conviction was a step toward restoring trust in the criminal justice system and repairing relations between police and the communities they serve. It was a major departure from years past, when even the highest levels would close rank around an officer following an on-duty killing.
But police leaders and activists alike cautioned that a single case will not end systemic racism or stamp out excessive force in departments nationwide.
"The American justice system has not always served all of her people well, and the death of George Floyd is a shocking example of where we can fail each other," said Madison, Wisconsin, Police Chief Shon Barnes, the city's first Black police leader. "As an officer of the law, I believe that today justice has prevailed. We hear you. This moment matters."
Grim list of deaths at police hands grows even after verdict
Just as the guilty verdict was about to be read in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, police in Ohio shot and killed a Black teenager in broad daylight during a confrontation.
The shooting of Ma'Khia Bryant, 16, who was swinging a knife during a fight with another person in Columbus, is in some ways more representative of how Black and other people of color are killed during police encounters than the death of George Floyd, pinned to the ground by Chauvin and captured on video for all the world to see.
Unlike Chauvin's case, many killings by police involve a decision to shoot in a heated moment and are notoriously difficult to prosecute even when they spark grief and outrage. Juries have tended to give officers the benefit of the doubt when they claim to have acted in a life-or-death situation.
While Tuesday's conviction was hailed as a sign of progress in the fight for equal justice, it still leaves unanswered difficult questions about law enforcement's use of force and systemic racism in policing. The verdict in the Chauvin case might not be quickly repeated, even as the list of those killed at the hands of police grows.
"This was something unique. The world saw what happened," said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, who has examined over 100 use-of-force cases there. To have video, witnesses, forensic evidence and multiple police officers testify against one of their own is unique and "demonstrates how high the bar has to be in order to actually have that kind of accountability," he said.
EXPLAINER: Why India is shattering global infection records
NEW DELHI (AP) — The world's fastest pace of spreading infections and the highest daily increase in coronavirus cases are pushing India further into a deepening and deadly health care crisis.
India is massive — it's the world's second-most populous country with nearly 1.4 billion people — and its size presents extraordinary challenges to fighting COVID-19.
Some 2.7 million vaccine doses are given daily, but that's still less than 10% of its people who've gotten their first shot. Overall, India has confirmed 15.9 million cases of infection, the second highest after the United States, and 184,657 deaths.
The latest surge has driven India's fragile health systems to the breaking point: Understaffed hospitals are overflowing with patients. Medical oxygen is in short supply. Intensive care units are full. Nearly all ventilators are in use, and the dead are piling up at crematoriums and graveyards.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Biden pushes for momentum as US returns to climate fight
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is convening a coalition of the willing, the unwilling, the desperate-for-help and the avid-for-money for a global summit Thursday aimed at rallying the world's worst polluters to move faster against climate change.
The president's first task: Convincing the world that the politically fractured United States isn't just willing when it comes to Biden's new ambitious emissions-cutting pledges, but also able.
Success for Biden in the virtual summit of 40 leaders will be making his expected promises — halving coal and petroleum emissions at home and financing climate efforts abroad — believable enough to persuade other powers to make big changes of their own.
For small countries already fighting for their survival, global climate progress noticeably slowed in the four years of President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the effort. Panama Foreign Minister Erika Mouynes hopes the United States' high-profile return to international climate work will spur months of one-on-one worldwide deal-making leading up to November. That's when there will be United Nations talks in Glasgow, where about 200 governments will be asked to spell out what each is willing to do to keep the Earth from becoming a far hotter, more dangerous and less hospitable place.
With Biden's summit, "we can start with that momentum," Mouynes said. In Panama, freshwater shortages that officials blame on climate change already are complicating shipping through the Panama Canal, one of the world's main trade routes and the country's main money earner. Even Panama's best climate safeguards, like hotlines and surveillance drones to catch rainforest logging, aren't enough to save the country on their own, Mouynes says.
Daunte Wright to be eulogized at Minneapolis funeral
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Just days after guilty verdicts were handed down for the former Minneapolis police officer whose killing of George Floyd set off nationwide protests and a reckoning over racism, the family of another Black man killed by police, this time in a nearby suburb, is preparing for his Thursday funeral.
Hundreds of people turned out Wednesday at a Minneapolis church for the public viewing for 20-year-old Daunte Wright, a father of one shot by a police officer on April 11 during a traffic stop in the small city of Brooklyn Center.
Friends and family members wept as they stood before Wright's open casket, which was blanketed with red roses. All who viewed the open casket on Wednesday saw the young man dressed in a jean jacket bedazzled with several red and green gem-like buttons on both sides of the lapels.
An obituary handed out at the memorial recalled Wright's love of Fourth of July fireworks, the "lemon head" nickname bestowed by an aunt and the months he spent in a hospital intensive care unit when his son was born prematurely.
The city's police chief said it appeared from body camera video that the officer who shot Wright used her pistol when she meant to use her Taser. The white officer, 26-year veteran Kim Potter, is charged with second-degree manslaughter. Both she and the chief resigned soon after the shooting.
Floyd killing has prompted state reforms, but not everywhere
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — George Floyd's killing last year and the protests that followed led to a wave of police reforms in dozens of states, from changes in use-of-force policies to greater accountability for officers. At the same time, lawmakers in a handful of states have had success addressing racial inequities.
But those changes mask a more complicated legislative legacy to a movement that many hoped would produce generational change: Other states have done little or nothing around police and racial justice reforms, and several have moved in the opposite direction.
In Texas, where Floyd was raised and laid to rest, state Sen. Royce West this year helped introduce the "George Floyd Act" to overhaul policing. But the bill has languished for weeks after getting one hearing, and West, one of the state's most prominent Black lawmakers, acknowledges it faces long odds in the Republican-dominated Legislature.
"We have members of the Senate that just refuse to pass a bill with his name on it," he said.
He now hopes to take a different approach in hopes of getting a win — stand-alone bills without Floyd's name that would make piecemeal changes such as banning police chokeholds.
Searching for footing in a life nearly extinguished by COVID
WESTFIELD, Ind. (AP) — On line in the hospital atrium, Kari Wegg folds her hands in her lap while husband Rodney pilots the wheelchair, moving forward together a few feet at a time, their progress halting but methodical.
After all the years the two have worked in hospitals -- and the long months last summer and fall that Kari spent confined to an intensive care bed -- what's another half hour now?
"Any risk factors for COVID?" a hospital employee asks when they reach the vaccine check-in desk.
"Double lung transplant for COVID," Kari says, quietly.
"All right, it's your graduation day today," the worker replies.
Indonesia looking for submarine that may be too deep to help
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia's navy ships on Thursday were intensely searching for a submarine that likely fell too deep to retrieve, making survival chances for the 53 people on board slim. Authorities said oxygen in the submarine would run out by early Saturday.
The diesel-powered KRI Nanggala 402 was participating in a training exercise Wednesday when it missed a scheduled reporting call. Officials reported an oil slick and the smell of diesel fuel near the starting position of its last dive, about 96 kilometers (60 miles) north of the resort island of Bali, though there has been no conclusive evidence that they are linked to the submarine.
"Hopefully we can rescue them before the oxygen has run out" at 3 a.m. on Saturday, Indonesia's navy chief of staff, Adm. Yudo Margono, told reporters.
He said rescuers found an unidentified object with high magnetism in the area and that officials hope it's the submarine.
The navy believes the submarine sank to a depth of 600-700 meters (2,000-2,300 feet) — much deeper than its collapse depth estimated at 200 meters (656 feet) by a firm that refitted the vessel in 2009-2012.
DC statehood faces a crossroads with congressional vote
WASHINGTON (AP) — Proponents of statehood for Washington, D.C., face a milestone moment in their decades-long movement to reshape the American political map.
The House will vote Thursday on legislation that would create the new state of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, with one representative and two senators. A tiny sliver of land including the White House, the U.S. Capitol and the National Mall would remain as a federal district. The measure is expected to pass easily in the House and be sent to the Senate — where the real fight awaits.
For lifelong statehood proponents like Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington's long-serving and nonvoting delegate in the House, the vote will be a culmination of a life's work.
"My service in the Congress has been dedicated to achieving equality for the people I represent, which only statehood can provide," Norton said at a Wednesday news conference. "My life as a third-generation Washingtonian has marched toward this milestone."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wearing a "D.C. 51" face mask at the news conference, called Norton the "patron saint of D.C. statehood" and predicted the vote would "reaffirm the truth that all deserve a voice in our democracy."
Relics seized from smugglers are returning to Afghanistan
WASHINGTON (AP) — Precious relics of Afghanistan's ancient past are returning home as the nation confronts deepening uncertainty about its future.
A collection of 33 artifacts seized from a New York-based art dealer who authorities say was one of the world's most prolific smugglers of antiquities was turned over by the U.S. to the government of Afghanistan this week.
"The significance of the material is huge," Roya Rahmani, the country's ambassador to the U.S., said Wednesday. "Each one of these pieces are priceless depictions of our history."
Rahmani formally took control of the collection in a ceremony Monday in New York with the Manhattan District Attorney's office and Homeland Security Investigations, which recovered the artifacts as part of a larger investigation into the trafficking of antiquities from a number of countries.
Now, after briefly being displayed at the embassy in Washington, the masks, sculptures and other items, some from the second and third centuries, are en route to Kabul, where they are expected to go on display at the National Museum.