Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murder in George Floyd’s shooting, is implicated in two new civil claims alleging excessive use of force during separate interactions in 2017.
The plaintiffs, Zoya Code and John Pope, both Black, say in their cases that Chauvin restrained them on the ground with his knee on their necks, which their attorneys term Chauvin’s “signature maneuver.”
Chauvin was sentenced to more than 22 years in jail for Floyd’s 2020 murder, during which the then-officer kneeled on the 46-year-old Black man’s neck for more than nine minutes as Floyd gasped for air and said, “I can’t breathe.”
Floyd’s killing prompted global and national protests against social inequalities and police brutality, particularly those suffered by unarmed Black individuals during confrontations with law enforcement officials.
The city of Minneapolis is also named as a defendant in each complaint. Both complaints argue that “Chauvin was a serial predator who was never stopped by the City — a walking Monell violation — and who enthusiastically accepted the City’s teaching on harmful restraint techniques.”
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Monell is a US Supreme Court ruling decided in 1978 that determined a city government can be held liable if a policy or custom resulted in a constitutional violation by an employee.
The US Department of Justice initiated a federal civil investigation of policing operations in Minneapolis in April 2021.
The lawsuits filed Tuesday jointly identify seven additional defendants who were Minneapolis police officers present for the arrests of Code and Pope.
Attorneys for Chauvin did not respond to CNN’s request for comment Tuesday.
Minneapolis interim city attorney Peter Ginder said in a written statement Tuesday that the instances involving Code and Pope “are worrisome.”
“We expect to proceed forward in negotiations with the Plaintiffs on these two concerns and hope we can reach a reasonable resolution. If a settlement cannot be reached on one or both lawsuits, the problems will have to be handled through the normal course of litigation.”
Lawsuits claim a pattern of excessive force
The claims argue that the failure by the Minneapolis Police Department to stop a pattern of excessive force by Chauvin in those situations ultimately contributed to Floyd’s homicide.
Code’s meeting with Chauvin occurred June 25, 2017, when he and another officer responded to a 911 in which Code’s mother stated her daughter assaulted her, Code’s lawsuit alleges. (pp. 21, graf 124)
During the discussion, the cops forced Code to the ground and handcuffed her “without incident,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also alleged Chauvin carried Code out of the residence by her arms, which were chained behind her back.
“Outside the apartment, Defendant Chauvin gratuitously smacked Zoya’s exposed head on the ground. Then he instantly took his famous posture, kneeling on the back of Zoya’s neck,” the lawsuit alleges.
Code “never presented an immediate threat to the safety of the police or others” throughout her arrest, her lawsuit states.
“I asked Chauvin, ‘What happens the next time you do this? Are you just going to slaughter a Black man on the street like a dog?’ And that’s what occurred,” Code said during a news conference Tuesday. “So we have a long journey ahead of us. This is only a beginning point.”
In his claim, Pope said Chauvin repeatedly hit him in the head with a metal flashlight during an altercation that transpired when Chauvin was responding to a domestic dispute call on September 4, 2017.
Pope, who was 14 at the time, was pinned to the floor with Chauvin’s knee on his upper back and neck for more than 15 minutes, the lawsuit alleges. That interaction led to a federal civil rights prosecution against Chauvin, who pled guilty to all charges in December, admitting to employing “unreasonable and disproportionate force.”
“They attempted to hide it, and they didn’t want to come forth with it until it required the (Department of Justice) to come and look at it and say it wasn’t right,” Pope said during the news conference Tuesday, referring to Minneapolis city officials. “It took George Floyd dying for anybody to look into it.”