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Jury swiftly finds Chauvin guilty in Floyd's death

MINNEAPOLIS — After three weeks of testimony, the trial of the former police officer charged with killing George Floyd ended swiftly: barely over a day of jury deliberations, then just minutes for the verdicts to be read — guilty, guilty and guilty — and Derek Chauvin was handcuffed and taken away to prison.

Chauvin, 45, could be sent to prison for decades when he is sentenced in about two months in a case that triggered worldwide protests, violence and a furious reexamination of racism and policing in the U.S.

The verdict set off jubilation mixed with sorrow across the city and around the nation. Hundreds of people poured into the streets of Minneapolis, some running through traffic with banners. Drivers blared their horns in celebration.

“Today, we are able to breathe again,” Floyd’s younger brother Philonise said at a joyous family news conference where tears streamed down his face as he likened Floyd to the 1955 Mississippi lynching victim Emmett Till, except that this time there were cameras around to show the world what happened.

The jury of six whites and six Black or multiracial people came back with its verdict after about 10 hours of deliberations over two days. The now-fired white officer was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Chauvin’s face was obscured by a COVID-19 mask, and little reaction could be seen beyond his eyes darting around the courtroom. His bail was immediately revoked. Sentencing will be in two months; the most serious charge carries up to 40 years in prison.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson followed Chauvin out of the courtroom without comment.

President Joe Biden welcomed the verdict, saying Floyd’s death was “a murder in full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world” to see systemic racism.

But he warned: “It’s not enough. We can’t stop here. We’re going to deliver real change and reform. We can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that tragedies like this will ever happen again.”

The jury’s decision was hailed around the country as justice by other political and civic leaders and celebrities, including former President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a white man, who said on Twitter that Floyd “would still be alive if he looked like me. That must change.”

At a park next to the Minneapolis courthouse, a hush fell over a crowd of about 300 as they listened to the verdict on their cellphones. Then a great roar went up, with many people hugging, some shedding tears.

At the intersection where Floyd was pinned down, a crowd chanted, “One down, three to go!” — a reference to the three other fired Minneapolis officers facing trial in August on charges of aiding and abetting murder in Floyd’s death.

Janay Henry, who lives nearby, said she felt grateful and relieved.

“I feel grounded. I can feel my feet on the concrete,” she said, adding that she was looking forward to the “next case with joy and optimism and strength.”

The verdict was read in a courthouse ringed with concrete barriers and razor wire and patrolled by National Guard troops, in a city on edge against another round of unrest — not just because of the Chauvin case but because of the deadly police shooting of a young Black man, Daunte Wright, in a Minneapolis suburb April 11.

The jurors’ identities were kept secret and will not be released until the judge decides it is safe to do so.

Zingre becomes Kankakee's first female police sergeant

It was eight years in the making for Kankakee Police officer Lacie Zingre.

For the Kankakee Police Department, it was a first.

Zingre has became the first woman officer promoted to the rank of sergeant. The 32-year-old Zingre has been on the Kankakee force since 2013.

When she began her law enforcement career, Kankakee was the only department she applied for.

“When I was at [the Police Training Institute], others were talking about how they had applied and tested at multiple agencies. I was like, ‘Wow.’ It was almost like fate that I landed where I did.”

Other female officers have taken the sergeant’s exam, so the weight of her accomplishment is not lost on Zingre.

“It’s everyone’s victory,” she said. “While law enforcement is still a male-dominated profession, there is plenty that females have to offer and there is room for us, too.”

Many of the local female police officers are mentors to Zingre as well as other female officers in the county.

Among them are retired Kankakee officer Sue Wagner, Angie Kinstner of Illinois State Police, Teresa Lanie and Brooke Payne of Kankakee County Sheriff’s Department, and fellow KPD officer Marci Gearhart, who has been on the force for 30 years.

“Marci was a big push. She said, ‘You got to do this,’” Zingre recalled. “We all support one another.”

Zingre also has the support of her male counterparts on the force.

“You grow a bond with one another,” she said. “When there’s trouble, your training kicks in. You work as a team. You can’t do this working solo.”

To women looking to get into law enforcement she says, “Know your strengths and constantly work to improve your weaknesses. Always work to improve yourself and learn new skills. Let your skin be thick, but maintain compassion and self-love.”

Career goals

From the start of her career, Zingre’s goal was to be promoted in rank.

“Pretty much since I got hired by Kankakee and found out a female had never been promoted, it was so unbelievable. It was 2013 and no female had been promoted. It quickly became a goal of mine,” Zingre explained.

Retired Investigation Commander Jay Etzel worked closely with Zingre throughout her career.

It came as no surprise to him to learn Zingre had been promoted to sergeant.

“She’s going to be a fantastic addition in a supervisory role as our first-ever female sergeant,” Etzel said.

“That says a lot about her character and her work ethic. She will continue to make Kankakee PD the best in our area.”

As he handed Zingre her sergeant’s badge, Kankakee Police Chief Frank Kosman said, “You have been working hard, overcoming obstacles, proving yourself, which you have done.”

Outgoing Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong has watched Zingre grow in the past four years.

“The first time I met you, I saw the passion you had,” Wells-Armstrong said during Zingre’s promotion ceremony last Friday.

“You are an asset to the community, particularly our young people. They love you.”

Zingre enjoyed working in Kankakee School District with the students.

“I like to make a difference in their lives,” she explained.

Now she gets to make a difference in a new role.

“I’m not done climbing yet,” Zingre said.

Bourbonnais trustees returning to in-person meetings

BOURBONNAIS — For the first time since March 2020, the village of Bourbonnais Board of Trustees will hold a regular board meeting in-person.

At Monday’s virtual meeting held via Zoom, Mayor Paul Schore announced the May 3 meeting will take place in the Municipal Center’s community room.

The meetings are typically held in the board room, but the community room offers more space to allow for social distancing. That’s something village leaders think will be needed as the meeting will include a swearing-in ceremony for the victors of the April 6 municipal elections and likely a larger audience of family members.

Those being sworn in will include Schore, village clerk Brian Simeur and trustees Rick Fischer, Bruce Greenlee and Angie Searfini.

The last in-person board meeting was March 17, 2020, before COVID-19 locked down the state. While restrictions have since been relaxed on in-person gatherings, village officials continued with virtual meetings.

The May 17 board meeting will move back to the board room that has been modified to comply with social-distancing guidelines.

Gaming license

At Monday’s meeting, trustees also adopted changing the village’s ordinance to mirror the state’s guidelines in regard to which restaurants with liquor licenses can offer video gaming.

The village’s 2012 ordinance allowed restaurants holding a Class A, F or G license to offer video gaming.

Class A licensees are allowed to serve hard liquor, beer and wine as well as food.

Monday’s change to the 2012 ordinance will allow businesses with a Class B license to offer video gaming. There are four businesses in the village with Class B licenses, which can serve beer and wine.

One of those, Jimmy Jo’s BBQ, has applied to the Illinois Gaming Board. Owner Jim Johanek wrote a letter to village officials that during the state’s investigation whether or not to grant the license, the village did not allow gaming at Class B establishments.

Jimmy Jo’s has held a Class B liquor license since it opened in 2009, according to Johanek’s letter.

Municipal leaders decry proposed cuts to local budgets

SPRINGFIELD – Municipal leaders are pushing back on a proposal by Gov. JB Pritzker that would further reduce state funds given to local governments each year.

Several municipal groups held a virtual news conference Tuesday to outline their concerns with the governor’s suggestion, representing over 200 municipalities in the Chicago-Metro area. Elmhurst Mayor Steve Morley, who serves as vice president for the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference, acted as a moderator for the event.

Morley said local governments cannot afford cuts to the share of state income taxes directed to municipalities, known as the Local Government Distributive Fund, or LGDF, in light of the disastrous effects of the coronavirus pandemic on city revenues.

“We’d like to address really two issues as it relates to LGDF. One is, we want to protect against further cuts,” he said. “The other thing that we want to talk about is not only halting any further reduction in the distribution of funds that rightly belong to the municipalities, but we actually want to discuss how we restore the distribution of these funds to the original levels that were agreed upon over 50 years ago.”

According to Morley, when Illinois first adopted its flat income tax in 1969, it was agreed that 10 percent of the revenue generated from the income tax would be redistributed by state government back to municipalities.

This was the case until 2011, when Democratic former Gov. Pat Quinn reduced the LGDF share of income tax revenue, while also raising Illinois personal income tax from 3 to 5 percent, and its corporate tax rate from 4.8 to 7 percent in an attempt to balance the state’s budget.

Illinois currently has a 4.95 percent income tax rate and a 7 percent corporate tax rate, and the LGDF contribution has fallen to 6.06 percent of state income revenue.

In 2020, Pritzker pushed an amendment to the Illinois Constitution that would have allowed for the state’s income tax to be graduated rather than flat.

According to the Illinois Department of Revenue, accompanying legislation passed by the General Assembly would have kept taxes the same or lower for the vast majority of Illinoisans while raising personal income taxes for those earning over $250,000 annually. The top rate would have been 7.95 percent on those earning more than $1 million.

The state Department of Revenue projections estimated the tax increase would affect about 3 percent of Illinoisans.

Following a lopsided defeat for the amendment in November, Pritzker promised to not raise the flat tax, but suggested “painful cuts” would be necessary to balance the state’s budget.

The governor’s February proposal included one such cut, another 10 percent reduction to the $1.2 billion LGDF in order to make up for a $152 million shortfall in the projected 2022 Fiscal Year budget caused by the failure of the graduated tax.

“The residents of Illinois, I think, spoke out overwhelmingly against additional taxes,” Morley said. “Now this is just another option, another way to go about taxing the residents of our municipalities and the state of Illinois when they’ve already told us that they’re taxed enough.”