Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Minneapolis over the last week as they grieve the police killing of 46-year-old George Floyd, with demands that the four officers who killed him be arrested and brought to justice. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was arrested Friday afternoon and charged with murder and manslaughter, is seen in a video that has now been circulated widely with his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than seven minutes as he pleaded for his life. Three other officers stood by as Chauvin kneed Floyd, and all said they were responding to an alleged forgery at a nearby corner store.
Chauvin was fired earlier this week, along with the other MPD officers who were present at the time of Floyd’s death. This incident of police violence has now been shared globally, sparking an uprising in Minneapolis and demonstrations of solidarity in other cities across the country.
But, just as the demands for justice continue around the country, records show that at least two of the officers involved in Floyd's death have had multiple complaints filed against them with the Minneapolis Police Department's Internal Affairs.
Since joining the police force in 2001, Chauvin alone has had 18 complaints filed against him, only two of which were “closed with discipline,” CNN reports. A database that documents instances of police brutality listed seven complaints against Chauvin that have all been “closed” and resulted in “no discipline." Other reports documented his involvement in multiple violent, and deadly cases of police abuse.
According to CNN, in 2006, Chauvin and five other officers shot and killed a man who had stabbed his girlfriend and a friend. Two years later, he was reportedly involved in an altercation with an individual suspected of a domestic dispute. Chauvin shot the man twice, though the man survived.
In 2011, Chauvin was placed on a three-day leave, along with four other officers, for his involvement in the non-fatal shooting of an indigenous man, The Daily Beast reports. The officers were allowed back to work after it was determined they responded “appropriately.” Five more complaints made against Chauvin prior to 2012 have also been closed and resulted in no disciplinary action.
Mylan Masson, a retired Minneapolis Park police officer and police training expert told NBC News that while anyone can file a complaint against an officer, the amount of grievances against Chauvin in his 19 years on the police force is “a little bit higher than normal.”
Tou Thao, another officer involved in Floyd’s death, faced legal action in 2017 on behalf of a man who said Thao used excessive force during an arrest three years prior, The Guardian reports. According to the lawsuit, which was settled out of court, 26-year-old Lamar Ferguson said the officers “punch[ed], kick[ed], and kn[eed]” him “to the face and body,” while he was handcuffed. The assault caused “broken teeth as well as other bruising and trauma.” It remains unclear whether the officers involved in Ferguson’s arrest ever faced disciplinary action.
“Seeing that horrific video begs the question: what did the police do internally in response to the 2017 incident?” Seth Levanthal, an attorney involved in the lawsuit, told The Daily Beast.
Records of complaints against J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, the other two officers involved in Floyd’s killing have not yet been made available. As of the time of this report, Thao, Kueng, and Lane have been fired but have not been arrested or charged in Floyd’s killing, despite a public outcry that all officers present for Floyd's killing be taken to task.
The week’s events have also put Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s prosecutorial record in the state back in the spotlight. Klobuchar faced criticism this week for failing to prosecute Chauvin in 2006 for his involvement in a police killing that also took place while she was running for Senate. The case later went to a grand jury but the officers never faced charges.
“Senator Klobuchar’s last day in the office here was December 31, 2006, and she had no involvement in the prosecution of this case at all,” Lacey Severins, a spokeswoman for the Hennepin County prosecutor’s office told The New York Times.
Still, the senator’s troublesome record with matters of racial justice during her time as prosecutor from 1999-2007 is fair game for anti-racists and progressives, as the Minnesota Democrat undergoes vetting to become the possible vice presidential candidate for Joe Biden.
The uprising in Minneapolis brings the city’s long history of racist police violence back into focus. According to Campaign Zero, an organization that tracks police violence nationwide, Minneapolis police have killed Black residents at more than 13 times the rate of white residents. Minnesota has seen other large-scale mobilizations against police violence in recent years, in response to the police killing of 32-year-old Philando Castile in 2016.
“People are torn and hurt because they're tired of seeing black men die constantly, over and over again,” said Floyd’s brother Philonise of the ongoing protests across the city. He later added, “They have the same pain that I feel.”