Two Minneapolis residents sue Derek Chauvin over incidents going back to 2017

Two lawsuits were filed in federal court against Derek Chauvin on Tuesday alleging that he used excessive force in two 2017 incidents that went unabated by the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD).

The lawsuits claim that the inaction on those incidents, which happened years before Chauvin murdered George Floyd during an arrest in 2020, enabled the officer to continue his tactics.

Both lawsuits claim Chauvin discriminated against the plaintiffs due to their race and violated their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, also alleging civil rights violations against the City of Minneapolis.

Chauvin was convicted of murder after kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, receiving a sentence of more than 22 years in prison. Floyd’s killing set off a nationwide movement for social equality and policing reform.

The first lawsuit, filed by attorneys for John Pope, alleges that Chauvin engaged in “gratuitous use of excessive force” on Sept. 5, 2017, when he struck Pope with a flashlight at least four times and pressed his left knee into Pope’s upper back and neck for more than 15 minutes. 

Pope was 14 years old at the time, and Chauvin had been dispatched to the house for a report of domestic assault, according to a copy of the lawsuit posted online. Pope said he lost consciousness as a result of Chauvin’s force and had to receive treatment.

The lawsuit claims at least eight officers responded to the house during the incident and observed Chauvin’s actions. The lawsuit names seven police officers, including Chauvin, and the City of Minneapolis as defendants.

“Each of these individuals had the opportunity, and indeed the duty, to intervene and stop Defendant Chauvin’s unlawful use of force against John. None did,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuits allege the City of Minneapolis “enables” racist, predatory police officers and unconstitutional force practices.

Minneapolis interim City Attorney Peter Ginder called the incidents detailed in the lawsuits “disturbing.”

“We intend to move forward in negotiations with the plaintiffs on these two matters and hope we can reach a reasonable settlement,” he said in a statement. “If a settlement cannot be reached on one or both lawsuits, the disputes will have to be resolved through the normal course of litigation.”

Attorneys for Zoya Code allege in a second lawsuit that Chauvin used excessive force by kneeling on the back of Code’s neck for four minutes and 41 seconds during an incident roughly two months earlier on June 25, 2017.

Chauvin had been sent to the house after Code’s mother called police alleging that she had assaulted her and strangled her with an extension cord, according to the lawsuit. Code was arrested but the charges were later dropped.

The lawsuit alleges Chauvin “gratuitously slammed” Code’s head on the ground outside the house before kneeling on her neck, which both lawsuits referred to as Chauvin’s “signature pose.”

Code’s lawsuit names Chauvin, officer Ross Blair and the city as defendants.

Both lawsuits claim Chauvin’s actions were approved by his supervisors and he did not face any repercussions. The lawsuits also state Chauvin lied and left out critical details when he prepared official reports about the incidents.

“The MPD embraced a militaristic culture where unnecessary drama often was injected into situations by officers,” both lawsuits state.

Parts of the incidents were captured on officers’ body-worn cameras, according to the documents filed by Pope and Code’s lawyers. 

Three former MPD officers were found guilty of violating Floyd’s civil rights in February, and the officers will go on trial later this month in state court, where they are charged with aiding and abetting Floyd’s murder.

Chauvin asked a court in April to appeal his conviction.