AVON PARK, Fla. — The death of George Floyd rocked communities big and small across the United States. In a small city in Highlands County, friends are especially feeling the pain.
Floyd died during an incident with Minneapolis Police.
“I saw it and immediately recognized it, and said that’s George. That’s big Floyd,” said Marvin Lawton, owner at Magazine Ready Barbershop in Avon Park.
Lawton was a friend and former barber for Floyd. Floyd went to school at South Florida Community College in Avon Park from 1993 to 1995. The school has since been renamed to South Florida State College.
“I text my friend back and said, 'Man, is this really George?' and he said yeah. It took me by surprise, and I cried,” said Lawton.
College friend Robert Caldwell shared the emotions. He also met Floyd, who was on the college’s basketball team, while at school.
“I just literally broke down,” said Caldwell. “I said that’s my Floyd, that’s my guy, that’s Floyd.”
Friends say Floyd was humble and could make you laugh. Because of his height, friends around town called him a gentle giant.
“I don’t know what happened, but I know George didn’t deserve to die that way,” said Lawton.
Despite the chaos erupting in Minneapolis, friends want people to remember Floyd well and know that his life mattered.
“Love your neighbor, and I’m your neighbor,” said Caldwell. “And don’t tell me your complexion don’t matter because god made me in his image and my skin matters.”