The Minneapolis police officer who murdered George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by kneeling in his neck and cutting off his breathing, was the subject of 13 police misconduct complaints that resulted in no disciplinary action. The officer, who was praised for valor during his career, also once fired his weapon during an encounter with a suspect, records show.
The officer, Derek Chauvin, and three fellow officers were fired Tuesday from the Minneapolis Police Department but only after a video showed Chauvin kneeling on the neck of of George for seven minutes even after he is heard saying “I can’t breathe” multiple times before he died. Minneapolis police identified the other officers as Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng.
To be the subject of a dozen complaints over a two-decade career would appear “a little bit higher than normal,” said Mylan Masson, a retired Minneapolis Park police officer and longtime police training expert for the state of Minnesota at Hennepin Technical College.
But, she added, anyone can file a complaint against an officer, whether or not it’s valid, and officers might be subject to more complaints if they deal with the public often. Either way, an officer’s disciplinary record will be up for scrutiny in any legal proceedings, Masson said.
Chauvin, who joined the Minneapolis Police Academy in October 2001, has had a career that included use-of-force incidents and at least one lawsuit related to an allegation of violations of a prisoner’s federal constitutional rights.
In 2006, Chauvin was one of six officers from the Third Precinct who responded to a stabbing at a Minneapolis home. Police said Wayne Reyes stabbed his friend and his girlfriend and then threatened to kill all of them with a shotgun.
Police pursued Reyes, who fled in his truck. He got out of the vehicle with a shotgun, and “several officers fired multiple shots,” killing Reyes, police said in a report.
It was unclear during the initial investigation which officers fired their weapons and whether Reyes had made any verbal or physical threats.
All of the officers, including Chauvin, were put on paid leave during an investigation, which is standard protocol. It is unclear what happened with the investigation, and Minneapolis police did not immediately respond to a request for Chauvin’s service record.
The same year, Chauvin and seven others were named in an unrelated federal lawsuit filed by an inmate at the Minnesota Correctional Facility at Lino Lakes. Further information was not immediately available; records show that the case was dismissed without prejudice in 2007.
n 2008, Chauvin and a second officer were called to a residence for a domestic disturbance. According to police, Ira Latrell Toles, 21, was holed up in a bathroom and tried to escape when Chauvin got inside. When Toles refused to obey Chauvin’s order to get down, police said, a struggle began and Toles grabbed for Chauvin’s weapon.
Chauvin fired twice, hitting Toles in the abdomen but he survived.
Chauvin and the other officer, who was not named, were placed on paid leave during an investigation, which is standard protocol. Police did not respond to a request for information about the outcome of the investigation.
The newspaper said that earlier in 2008, Chauvin was awarded a department medal of valor for “his response in an incident involving a man armed with a gun.” Chauvin was recognized again in 2009 by the police department.
In 2011, Chauvin was again placed on temporary leave after he responded to the scene of a shooting.
Police said that Leroy Martinez, 23, drew his gun near a playground at the Little Earth of United Tribes public housing complex and that an officer shot him after he refused to drop the gun and listen to commands. Chauvin and other officers arrived at the scene, and while none of them fired their weapons, they were all placed on a standard three-day administrative leave as part of the investigation.
Tim Dolan, then the police chief, later said the officers, including Chauvin, “acted appropriately and courageously.”
Chauvin has also been the subject of complaints listed in the city’s Office of Police Conduct database. Details of those cases were unavailable after they were closed and listed as “non-public.” They resulted in no discipline.
Minneapolis police did not respond to a request Wednesday for comment or more information about Chauvin’s disciplinary record.