Two federal lawsuits filed against Derek Chauvin and the city of Minneapolis allege excessive force stemming from 2017 incidents


The plaintiffs, Zoya Code and John Pope, both Black, say in their lawsuits that Chauvin restrained them on the ground with his knee on their necks, which their attorneys call Chauvin’s “signature move.”

Chauvin was sentenced to more than 22 years in prison for Floyd’s 2020 murder, during which the then-officer kneeled on the 46-year-old Black man’s neck for more than nine minutes as Floyd gasped for air and said, “I can’t breathe.”

Floyd’s killing ignited global and national protests against social injustices and police brutality, particularly those experienced by unarmed Black people during interactions with law enforcement officers.

The city of Minneapolis is also named as a defendant in each lawsuit. Both lawsuits say that “Chauvin was a serial predator who was never stopped by the City — a walking Monell violation — and who fully embraced the City’s training on dangerous restraint techniques.”

Monell is US Supreme Court ruling decided in 1978 that determined a city government can be held liable if a policy or custom results in a constitutional violation by an employee.

The US Department of Justice launched a federal civil investigation into policing practices in Minneapolis in April 2021.
State probe after George Floyd's killing finds a decade of 'discriminatory, race-based policing' in Minneapolis

The lawsuits filed Tuesday collectively name seven additional defendants who were Minneapolis police officers present for the arrests of Code and Pope.

Attorneys for Chauvin did not respond to CNN’s request for comment Tuesday.

Minneapolis interim city attorney Peter Ginder said in a written statement Tuesday that the incidents involving Code and Pope “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.”

Lawsuits claim pattern of excessive force

The lawsuits argue that failure by the Minneapolis Police Department to stop a pattern of excessive force by Chauvin in those cases ultimately led to Floyd’s killing.

Code’s encounter with Chauvin came June 25, 2017, when he and another officer responded to a call in which Code’s mother reported her daughter assaulted her, Code’s lawsuit states. (pg. 21, graf 124)

During the interaction, the officers forced Code to the ground and handcuffed her “without incident,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also said Chauvin carried Code out of the house by her arms, which were handcuffed behind her back.

“Outside the residence, Defendant Chauvin gratuitously slammed Zoya’s unprotected head on the ground. Then he immediately took his signature pose, kneeing on the back of Zoya’s neck,” the lawsuit states.

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Code “never presented an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others” during her arrest, her lawsuit says.

“I asked Chauvin, ‘What happens the next time you do this? Are you just going to kill a Black man in the street like a dog?’ And that’s what happened,” Code said during a news conference Tuesday. “So we have a long road ahead of us. This is just a starting point.”

In his lawsuit, Pope said Chauvin repeatedly hit him in the head with a metal flashlight during an interaction that unfolded while Chauvin was responding to domestic dispute call on September 4, 2017.

Pope, who was 14 at the time, was held to the floor with Chauvin’s knee on his upper back and neck for more than 15 minutes, the lawsuit states. That encounter led to a federal civil rights indictment against Chauvin, who pleaded guilty to all charges in December, admitting to using “unreasonable and excessive force.”

“They tried to hide it, and they didn’t want to come forward with it until it took the (Department of Justice) to come and look at it and say that wasn’t right,” Pope said during the news conference Tuesday, referring to Minneapolis city officials. “It took George Floyd dying for somebody to look into it.”

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