Two Minnesota residents filed new federal lawsuits Tuesday against Derek Chauvin and the city of Minneapolis alleging the same police officer who murdered George Floyd in May 2020 used his “signature move” on them years earlier and “history could have been stopped from repeating itself.”
“This kneeing maneuver was Defendant Chauvin’s calling card,” according to the complaint filed on behalf of John Pope Jr., who was just 14 in September 2017 when he says Chauvin subjected him to gratuitous force by hitting him in the head with a metal flashlight while responding to a domestic assault report.
The second lawsuit alleges Chauvin used excessive force against Zoya Code in June 2017 after she allegedly tried to strangle her mother with an extension cord.
Both lawsuits claim racism; Pope and Code are Black, and Chauvin is White.
The plaintiffs claim their Fourth and Fourteenth amendment rights were violated and allege the city knew Chauvin had a record of misconduct but let him “run amok” and allowed him to stay on the job long enough to kill Floyd on May 25, 2020, a case that led to a national reckoning on racial injustice.
Both lawsuits seek unspecified damages and name other officers involved. The Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office indicated it is considering settlements.
Criminal charges against Pope and Code were eventually dropped.
“The incidents involving John Pope and Zoya Code are disturbing,” Interim City Attorney Peter Ginder said in a statement. “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.”
Pope and Code are represented by Minneapolis civil rights attorney Robert Bennett, who negotiated a $20 million settlement for the family of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, an Australian woman who was fatally shot by a Minneapolis police officer in 2017. Bennett also negotiated a nearly $3 million settlement for the family of Philando Castile, a Black motorist killed by a suburban officer in 2016.
The city paid out $27 million to the family of George Floyd. Bennett was not involved in that settlement.
Chauvin admitted to many of Pope’s allegations when he pleaded guilty in December to federal civil rights charges in Floyd’s death, a deal that also included a guilty plea for his actions against Pope. Chauvin is awaiting sentencing on the federal charges.
He was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in state court last year for murdering Floyd by pressing his knee to the Black man’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes as he pleaded that he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin asked a state appeals court in April to toss his conviction or send the case back to Hennepin County.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.