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2 Lawsuits Filed Against Convicted Ex-MPD Officer Derek Chauvin, Alleging Excessive Force In 2017

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Two federal lawsuits have been filed against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, accusing him of using excessive force in 2017.

Chauvin is currently serving a prison sentence of over 20 years for murdering George Floyd during an arrest in May 2020.

Now, two lawsuits, which were filed Tuesday, allege that Chauvin used excessive force three years before Floyd's murder, including on one person who was 14 years old at the time. Seven additional MPD officers and the City of Minneapolis are also named in the lawsuit.

Derek Chauvin
(credit: Minnesota Department of Corrections)

Both lawsuits say Chauvin "actively sought to prey on complaint Black arrestees," including Floyd and the plaintiffs, identified in court documents as John Pope and Zoya Code.

According to the lawsuit, similar to Floyd's fatal arrest, Chauvin used his knee to restrain Pope and Code during their arrests, along with other excessive force.

- John Pope Lawsuit
- Zoya Code Lawsuit

Pope, who was 14 at the time of his arrest, said Chauvin struck him several times with a flashlight before restraining him. Chauvin then held Pope down in the prone position for 15 minutes, the lawsuit said.

"It took George Floyd dying for somebody to look into it," Pope said at a press conference Tuesday. "You look at a police department to protect you but they did the complete opposite."

In Code's arrest, the lawsuit alleges that Chauvin used his knee on her neck, and remained there for 4 minutes and 41 seconds. Another officer at the scene failed to intervene and the incident was captured on police body cameras, the lawsuit said.

"It was the same officer. This can't be happening," Code said. "We have a long road ahead, this is just a starting point."

The lawsuit further alleges that two sergeants with MPD later approved Chauvin's use of force in these two incidents. Pope and Code's lawyers argue that, as a result, Chauvin was able to continue his unchecked use of excessive force when he encountered Floyd in 2020.

"We called it torture, we called it subjugation, and we meant it," said Attorney Bob Bennett, who is representing both plaintiffs. "Had be been terminated in 2017, I guess George would be alive and the city would not have burned."

The lawsuits are seeking monetary damages for the injuries suffered by Pope and Code "as a result of the gratuitous use of excessive force" by Chauvin.

Pope, Code and their lawyers held a press conference Tuesday afternoon to discuss the lawsuit and Chauvin's "racist policing and unchecked use of excessive force." At the press conference, images of body cameras were shared, showing Code's arrest.

derek chauvin code arrest 2017
Body camera image shows Chauvin with his knee on Code's neck. (credit: MPD)
derek chauvin code arrest 2017
Body camera image shows Chauvin with his knee on Code's neck. (credit: MPD)

Code's arrest occurred on June 25, 2017 and Pope's arrest occurred on Sept. 5, 2017.

Interim City Attorney Peter Ginder released this statement about the lawsuits: "The incidents involving John Pope and Zoya Code are disturbing. We intend to move forward in negotiations with the Plaintiffs on these two matters and hope we can reach a reasonable settlement. If a settlement cannot be reached on one or both lawsuits, the disputes will have to be resolved through the normal course of litigation."

Selwyn Jones, George Floyd's uncle, says he understands the trauma.

"With all the evidence that they've got against Chauvin, I reckon they might as well just set a court date … and ask them how much they want," Jones said.

The City of Minneapolis settled with Floyd's family for $27 million.

Three of the seven other officers named in the lawsuits still work for MPD.

Mayor Jacob Frey told WCCO that he directed Interim Chief Amelia Huffman to reopen the investigation into Pope's case. He says an investigation into Code's is ongoing.

In late April, Chauvin appealed his state conviction for murder in the killing of Floyd, arguing that jurors were intimidated by protests and prejudiced by pretrial publicity.

Floyd died on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin pinned the Black man to the ground with his knee on his neck for 9 minutes, 29 seconds. Floyd had been accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store. Two other fired officers face state trial this summer after being convicted in federal court earlier this year of violating Floyd's civil rights. Thomas Lane pleaded guilty in his state trial earlier this month.

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