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Former Officer Charged with Killing George Floyd Had Long History of Complaints Against Him

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Former Officer Charged with Killing George Floyd Had Long History of Complaints Against Him

2020-06-01 16:38:41

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Minneapolis precinct on fire (Image source: Hungryogrephotos via Wikimedia Commons)

Derek Chauvin, the 44-year-old then-police officer who knelt on George Floyd when arresting him, had many prior incidents on the job, more so than is normally expected of a police officer. In addition to that, both he and Floyd worked security at the same nightclub.

With protests and riots across the country demanding justice for Floyd, Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder. The other officers involved in the killing have been fired. 

Chauvin and Floyd both worked security at El Nuevo Rodeo, a Latin nightclub, according to former owner Maya Santamaria. The two men may not have known each other, as Chauvin worked outside while Floyd worked inside, and there are dozens of staff working in security. Chauvin has worked there for 17 years and Floyd much less than that.

Santamaria said the former cop was a "night guy" and that he was "always mellow" when around her, yet she also found him to be "tightly wound." She said she was "extremely disappointed that a good friend of mine would be the culprit of this horrible crime." 

She notes she could feel the escalating tension in the Third Precinct where the nightclub was located. "I could feel the tension," she said. "I could feel the racism. The cops, the Third Precinct, even the Minneapolis licensing inspectors. They were hating on me for bringing that element into the neighborhood."

The department posted a summary of the collection of complaints against Chauvin, yet no information was given on why they were filed initially. Sixteen of the complaints were closed without discipline, and the remaining two resulted in letters of reprimand. 

Ronal Serpas, former head of police in New Orleans, Nashville, and Washington state, said it's difficult to draw conclusions about the complaints against Chauvin without more information. Yet, he noted that there seemed to be more than the average.

"It's a little unusual to have essentially one a year for 19 years," he said. "That's a concern even if he was late every time. It would certainly catch my attention." 

Chauvin joined the department in 2001. He lived in a single-family home outside St. Paul. He also owns a townhouse in Windemere, Florida,  something demonstrators have already figured out.

In 2006 he was one of six officers who shot and killed a stabbing suspect. Wayne Reyes allegedly drew a shotgun on them, which prompted them to shoot back. A grand jury did not bring charges in the case. 

Just two years later he opened fire on a 21-year-old, Ira Latrell Toles, while responding to a domestic disturbance call. When Chauvin arrived with another officer, Toles locked himself in a bathroom. After forcing his way in, Chauvin shot him twice in a struggle, later saying Toles tried to grab his gun.

Tole survived and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor while pleading self defense. "He tried to kill me in that bathroom," he said this past week. 

In 2011 Chauvin was nearby when officers shot and wounded a suspect. He was placed on temporary leave in that case and others during an investigation.

Serpas notes most officers go their full careers without ever firing their service weapons. He's unsure if Chauvin faced different circumstances after being on the force for a long time. 

"The longer you're there, the more likely you're going to be exposed to it," he said, "compared to a lot of cops who are going to transition to detectives or something else where they're not out in the public every day."

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