"That was our song," said LaTonya Floyd, who received the plaque from "Keep on Loving You" from lead singer Kevin Cronin

By Wendy Grossman Kantor
April 10, 2021 11:45 AM
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reo Speedwagon
Credit: Tiffany Cofield

When LaTonya Floyd last spoke to her brother, George Floyd, days before he died last May with a police officer's knee pinned to his neck, the two sang REO Speedwagon's hit "Keep on Loving You" over the phone to each other, she told PEOPLE.

Band members read about that anecdote in PEOPLE and responded by contacting Floyd family attorney, Ben Crump, to say they'd like to give LaTonya a surprise.

On Friday, as the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin for George Floyd's murder continued in Minneapolis, REO lead singer Kevin Cronin joined LaTonya and others for a vigil honoring George, 46, at The Community of Faith Church in Houston, where Cronin and LaTonya stood on stage and sang the song together.

"It's like a direct connection with my brother – that was our song," LaTonya, 52, told PEOPLE afterward. "I had my eyes closed the whole time picturing my brother. He was there with me."

reo Speedwagon
Credit: Tiffany Cofield
George Floyd Family
George Floyd (center) with LaTonya Floyd and her stepson Treyshawn Barker
| Credit: Courtesy LaTonya Floyd

Cronin also presented LaTonya with the plaque commemorating the Billboard chart-topping single's 1981 platinum status for sales of more than 1 million copies.

"It means so much," LaTonya said. "The lead singer of REO Speedwagon, Kevin – he's a rock-n-roll Hall of Famer – he said, 'How about that LaTonya, your first live performance, and you've got a platinum record already.' "

Chauvin's defense in his trial, which began March 29 with prosecution testimony, is due to start next week.

reo Speedwagon
Credit: Tiffany Cofield
reo Speedwagon
Credit: Tiffany Cofield

Chauvin, 44, has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of George seen on bystander video as Chauvin pressed his knee to George's neck for nearly nine minutes while George lay handcuffed on the ground during his arrest for allegedly spending a counterfeit $20 bill.

The May 25 incident, watched worldwide as that video went viral, sparked mass protests across the country and around the globe over police brutality and racial injustice. Three other now-former officers on the scene face related charges in George's death, and will be tried later this summer. They also have pleaded not guilty.

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Sisters of George Floyd Zsa Zsa Floyd, embraces her sister LaTonya Floyd during a funeral service for George Floyd at The Fountain of Praise church Tuesday, June 9, 2020, in Houston
LaTonya Floyd, at right, with sister Zsa Zsa Floyd at their brother George's funeral June 9, 2020.
| Credit: DAVID J. PHILLIP/POOL/AFP via Getty

Friday's prayer vigil with its call for justice on George's behalf "was beautiful," LaTonya said. "It was so inspirational."

Afterwards, she spent time with Cronin, his daughter and his manager.

"It was just amazing," she said. "We laughed, we joked – it was like we knew each other forever. After the stage performance, we sang, 'I Can't Fight This Feeling' and a couple of his other songs. He was like, 'Oh my God, you're a true fan!' "

LaTonya added, "My dream has come true to meet REO Speedwagon. It was monumental."