The city of Minneapolis has agreed to pay nearly nine million dollars (£7.1 million)to settle lawsuits filed by two people who said former police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into their necks years before he used the same move to kill George Floyd.
John Pope Jr will receive 7.5 million dollars (£5.9 million)and Zoya Code will receive 1.37 million dollars (£1.04 million). The settlements were announced during a meeting of the Minneapolis City Council.
Both lawsuits stemmed from arrests in 2017 — three years before Chauvin killed Mr Floyd during an arrest captured on video that sparked protests worldwide, prompted a national reckoning on racial injustice and compelled a Minneapolis Police Department overhaul.
At a news conference on Thursday, Mayor Jacob Frey apologised to all victims of Chauvin and said that if police supervisors “had done the right thing, George Floyd would not have been murdered”.
“He should have been fired in 2017. He should have been held accountable in 2017,” Mr Frey told reporters.
Both lawsuits named Chauvin and several other officers. The lawsuits alleged police misconduct, excessive force, and racism — Mr Pope and Ms Code are black, Chauvin is white.
They also said the city knew that Chauvin had a record of misconduct but did not stop him. Criminal charges in both cases were eventually dropped, but Chauvin is in prison for Mr Floyd’s murder.
Bob Bennett, an attorney for Mr Pope and Ms Code, noted that other officers failed to intervene or report Chauvin, and police leaders allowed Chauvin to keep working even though they had video evidence from body cameras of his wrongdoing. He said the video is expected to be released soon.
Police Chief Brian O’Hara said the department is “forced to reckon once again with the deplorable acts of someone who has proven to be a national embarrassment.” But he also cited “systemic failure” within the police department.
“I am appalled at the repetitive behavior of this coward and disgusted by the inaction and acceptance of that behavior by members of this department. Such conduct is a disgrace to the badge and an embarrassment to what is truly a very noble profession,” Mr O’Hara said in a statement.
Ms Code, who has a history of homelessness and mental health problems, was arrested in June 2017 after she allegedly tried to strangle her mother with an extension cord.
Mr Pope was 14 in September 2017 when, according to his lawsuit, Chauvin subjected him to excessive force while responding to a domestic assault report.
City Council member Elliott Payne said he hoped the settlements “bring some closure to this era and is a stark reminder of the work we have lying ahead.”
The lawsuits said body camera recordings showed Chauvin used many of the same tactics on Mr Pope and Ms Code that he used on Mr Floyd.
Chauvin was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison on a state murder charge in 2021 for killing Mr Floyd by pressing his knee to Mr Floyd’s neck for 9 and a half minutes as he pleaded that he could not breathe. The city also paid 27 million dollars (£21.5 million) to Mr Floyd’s family.
Ms Code’s lawsuit said she was in handcuffs when Chauvin slammed her head to the ground and pinned his knee on the back of her neck for 4 minutes and 41 seconds. A second officer did not intervene and a responding police sergeant approved the force, the lawsuit stated.
Mr Pope’s lawsuit said his mother was drunk when she called police because she was upset that he and his 16-year-old sister left their cellphone chargers plugged in, leading to a physical confrontation.
It alleged Chauvin struck Mr Pope in the head with a large metal flashlight at least four times. It says he then put Mr Pope in a chokehold before pinning him to the floor and putting his knee on Mr Pope’s neck.
“Chauvin would proceed to hold John in this prone position for more than fifteen minutes, all while John was completely subdued and not resisting,” the complaint alleged. “Over those minutes, John repeatedly cried out that he could not breathe.”
The complaint alleged that at least eight other officers did nothing to intervene.
Chauvin admitted to many of Mr Pope’s allegations when he pleaded guilty in December 2021 to federal charges for violating the civil rights of both Mr Floyd and Mr Pope. He was sentenced in July to 21 years on those charges.