MINNEAPOLIS — A pair of lawsuits have been filed against former MPD police officer Derek Chauvin, a number of his fellow officers and the city of Minneapolis involving alleged incidents of misconduct and excessive force dating back to 2017.
The lawsuits were filed Tuesday by Minneapolis-based law firm Robins Kaplan on behalf of John Pope and Zoya Code in connection with a pair of incidents that took place three years before the death of George Floyd under Chauvin's knee. The plaintiffs allege that Chauvin used many of the same tactics on them that he did on Floyd, and that his use of force was approved by MPD and that Chauvin was not disciplined for the 2017 encounters, paving the way for Floyd's murder.
John Pope was 14 years old on the day Chauvin entered his family's home in an incident documented by KARE 11 Investigates. Police records show that Chauvin and his partner were dispatched on reports from a mother that she had been assaulted by her two teenage children.
Pope's lawsuit alleges that the boy was quietly laying on his bedroom floor and using his cellphone when Chauvin entered. The suit says as Pope explained to the officers what had happened they became "increasingly aggressive" in their demands, and Chauvin eventually attacked the teen and struck him multiple times on the head with a large flashlight. Attorneys for Pope say Chauvin then pinned the boy to the floor with his knee, the same tactic he used on Floyd, and held him prone for 15 minutes. Documents accessed by KARE Investigates says the boy lay under Chauvin's knee for closer to 17 minutes.
In Chauvin's report of the incident, he wrote that the 14-year-old boy – said to be “6-foot-2 and at least 240 pounds” – was “not complying with directions” and “displayed active resistance” when officers tried to place him under arrest.
Chauvin reported that he “applied a neck restraint” and then “used body weight to pin (him) to the floor.”
Prosecutors who viewed bodycam video of the incident while preparing for Chauvin's trial in Floyd's murder said the former officer "applied a neck restraint, causing the child to lose consciousness and go to the ground." That’s when officers reportedly handcuffed him in the prone position and Chauvin placed his knee on the boy’s back.
Court documents from prosecutors say the boy regained consciousness, complaining “he could not breathe” while his mother pleaded with Chauvin to get off him. He didn’t – even though prosecutors say the boy was already handcuffed and was “actively bleeding” on the floor.
Pope's attorneys say eight other MPD officers were on the scene witnessing the misconduct, yet none stepped in to intervene.
The lawsuit filed by Code says her encounter with Chauvin was strikingly similar to those endured by both Floyd and Pope. She alleges Chauvin used excessive force on her despite the fact she was handcuffed and not resisting arrest, torquing her arms upward and wrenching them behind her head while she was face down. Code's attorneys say the former officer also slammed Code’s head on the ground and pinned his knee on the back of her neck for 4 minutes and 41 seconds as she lay in a prone position.
Code says a second MPD officer on the scene failed to intervene.
The city of Minneapolis released a statement on the lawsuits early Tuesday afternoon indicating officials will attempt to reach a resolution before they reach trail.
"The incidents involving John Pope and Zoya Code are disturbing," said interim city attorney Peter Ginder. "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."
Attorneys for Pope and Code will appear with their clients at a press conference Tuesday at 2 p.m. to further detail their allegations against Chauvin, additional MPD officers and the city of Minneapolis. KARE 11 plans to cover it live on kare11.com and our YouTube channel.
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