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Chauvin transferred from state to federal prison facility

The Minnesota Department of Corrections confirms Chauvin was picked up from Oak Park Heights Prison near Stillwater. Public records say he is now in Tucson, AZ.

OAK PARK HEIGHTS, Minn. — Editor's note: The video above first aired on KARE 11 in July of 2022.

Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer found guilty of murdering George Floyd in May of 2020, was moved by U.S. Marshals to a federal facility Wednesday morning.

A spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Corrections confirmed Chauvin was picked up from Oak Park Heights Prison near Stillwater around 8 a.m. The spokesperson declined to provide information about Chauvin's destination, deferring additional inquiries to the U.S. Marshals Service. But early Thursday, a federal inmate locator website listed Chauvin as an inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Tucson, AZ. 

The Tucson facility houses 266 inmates, both male and female, as part of a larger complex that includes a high-security penitentiary and a minimum-security satellite camp.

Federal Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Randilee Giamusso declined to detail the circumstances of Chauvin's confinement, citing privacy, safety and security concerns.

Chauvin is serving 22-year and 21-year sentences concurrently, the first involving his conviction on state charges and the latter involving federal charges. Judge Peter Cahill handed down the longer sentence in April 2021 after a jury found Chauvin guilty of second-degree manslaughter, second-degree murder and third-degree murder in Floyd’s death.

Chauvin later pleaded guilty to the federal charges filed against him, admitting for the first time that he kept his knee on Floyd’s neck — even after he became unresponsive — resulting in Floyd's death.

The deal agreed upon by both parties said Chauvin would serve his sentences at the same time, and eventually be transferred from a state prison to a federal prison facility. Judge Paul Magnuson handed down the 21-year sentence in July, telling Chauvin he must be "substantially punished" for his conduct toward Floyd.

The other officers involved in Floyd's death, Thomas Lane, J Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao were each convicted of civil rights charges, accusing them of neglecting to allow Floyd access to medical care as he was held under Chauvin's knee.

Lane was recently moved to a low-security federal prison in Colorado where he's serving a 2 1/2-year sentence for violating Floyd's rights. Lane pleaded guilty to state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in May, which he's set to be sentenced for in September.

Thao and Kueng are serving 3 years and 3/12 years, respectively, for their failure to intervene, and are expected to go to state court in October for separate charges of aiding and abetting both murder and manslaughter.

Experts say the move will likely make prison safer for Chauvin as some fellow inmates in Minnesota are people Chauvin was involved in arresting. He spent his time at Oak Park Heights in solitary confinement, but may be held under less restrictive conditions in the Tucson facility.

“It’s dangerous to be an officer in any prison,” former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger said after Chauvin was sentenced last month. “It’s even more dangerous in state prison because of the nature of the inmate population. There are gangs, for example. And police officers just don’t do well there. Those risks are reduced in a federal prison.”

The federal prison system does house many high-profile inmates, but it is also plagued by gangs and chronic violence. The entire federal prison system was put on a nationwide lockdown in January after two inmates were killed and two others were injured during a gang altercation at a federal penitentiary in Texas.

The Bureau of Prisons has also faced increasing scrutiny of violent incidents and serious misconduct in its ranks. Associated Press investigations have uncovered abuse, neglect and leadership missteps, including rampant sexual abuse by workers, severe staffing shortages, inmate escapes and the mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chauvin, who is white, killed Floyd by pinning the unarmed Black man to the pavement with his knee for 9 1/2 minutes as bystander video captured Floyd struggling to breathe and crying out for help. Floyd was suspected of passing a counterfeit bill at a nearby grocery store.

Floyd's death on May 25, 2020, touched off a firestorm of protests around the world and refocused attention on police brutality and racism.

U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson suggested when sentencing Chauvin that he be placed near family who live between Iowa and Minnesota. But federal officials are not bound by judicial requests.

The three former officers were on trial at the same time three men were in court in Georgia, facing federal hate crime charges in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, who was Black. They were eventually convicted.

Two of the men agreed to plead guilty in the case in exchange for serving their sentences in federal prison, saying they feared for their safety in state prison. The judge rejected the deal in part because Arbery's family strongly opposed it.

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