The city of Minneapolis has agreed to settle the longstanding lawsuits of two people, including a 14-year-old teenager, who were brutalized by former police officer Derek Chauvin, the convicted murderer of George Floyd.
John Pope and Zoya Code sued Chauvin separately in 2022 for injuries resulting from encounters with the disgraced officer several years prior. During those confrontations, Chauvin exhibited the same behavior as on May 25, 2020, when he was filmed jamming his knee into Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes. Video of the incident showed bystanders pleading for Chauvin to stop as Floyd’s pleas fell silent. His death sparked months of protests around the world demanding accountability for police brutality against black people. Chauvin was convicted of murder in state court and pleaded guilty to two federal charges of violating Floyd’s civil rights and was sentenced to decades behind bars.
Now, the town where Chauvin once served as a police officer has agreed to settle Pope and Code’s civil cases against him totaling nearly $9 million. The plaintiffs in both cases, like Floyd, are black and were unarmed when Chauvin, who is white, pinned them to the ground by pressing his knee on their necks.
On September 4, 2017, MPD officers responded to a domestic assault call at Pope’s home, where he lived with his mother and sister. Chauvin was one of two officers who initially responded to the call; the second officer was a Chauvin trainee at the time.
According to the complaint, the house was “quiet and peaceful” when officers arrived around 8.45pm. Pope’s mother, described as “clearly and obviously drunk”, answered the door and let the officers in, telling them she wanted her. son and daughter removed from home after an argument over telephone charges. Pope’s mother allegedly told officers that her son had “grabbed” her and tried to “fight her or whatever”, and that Pope’s sister had also had physical contact with her.
More than 30 minutes after arriving, Chauvin and the other officer, Alexander Walls, found Pope, then 14, in his bedroom. According to an official summary of the case, the boy was “lying on the floor inside, quietly using his mobile phone”. A confrontation ensued after Walls told Pope to get out of the room and Pope did not comply quickly enough. Chauvin entered the room after Walls grabbed Pope’s wrist and hit him over the head at least twice with a large metal flashlight.
“Chauvin strangled John Pope with his left hand as he grabbed John Pope’s throat and pushed him against the wall,” City said in its summary of the incident. “Chauvin applied a neck restraint to John Pope which rendered John Pope unconscious. After John Pope regained consciousness, for over fifteen minutes, Chauvin held John Pope in a prone position, handcuffed, while Chauvin knelt on John Pope’s neck and upper back.
Pope could be heard pleading with the officers, telling them he couldn’t breathe and repeatedly asking Chauvin to remove his knee from his neck.
According to the complaint, at least eight officers responded to the incident and saw Chauvin kneeling on Pope’s neck and back.
“Many important details in the officers’ reports do not match what happened,” the city’s case summary reads. Chauvin pleaded guilty in 2021 to federal criminal charges related to the incident.
Months before the incident at Pope’s home, Chauvin and another officer responded to a call from a Minneapolis home on June 25, 2017. Code’s mother had called police, alleging Code had “assaulted her and strangled with an extension cord,” according to the city summary.
Code had left the house but returned after the police arrived. A struggle ensued as she walked past the officers in the living room; Code was thrown to the ground and handcuffed.
“Chauvin then applied an ‘upward force’ to Zoya Code’s handcuffed arms, moving them to the back of his head,” City’s summary reads. Chauvin and the other officer took Code out of the house.
“Once outside, Chauvin banged Zoya Code’s head on the ground and then knelt on the back of his neck,” City said. “He stayed in that position for several minutes.”
Chauvin kept his knee on Code’s neck until other officers retrieved a device – no longer used by the MPD – called an “entrap”, which limits mobility by “tying down the legs of one person together and securing them at the person’s waist”.
Officers hobbled Code “while she remained limp,” the city said.
“Chauvin remained on Zoya Code’s neck for over a minute after the device was on her,” City added.
Code was charged with domestic assault in connection with the incident, but that charge was later dropped.
Chauvin was deemed to have “lied in the report and omitted critical information about the interaction,” City said.
On Thursday, Minneapolis officials announced that the two cases would be settled for a total of nearly $9 million: Pope will receive $7.5 million and Code will receive $1.375 million.
Lawyers for the victims have warned that while Chauvin is rightly held accountable for his actions, he is part of a larger system that has spent years looking the other way.
“Beware of the ease of blaming Chauvin alone,” attorney Bob Bennett, of Robins Kaplan, said in a press release Thursday. “Although he is a blunt instrument of police brutality and racism, he could never thrive in a police department that lived up to his mission statement.”
Bennett said police chiefs must also be held accountable.
“Focus instead on the base of the MPD who backed Chauvin with their unquestioning obedience, their failure to intervene to stop their heinous acts and their failure to report them in accordance with politics and human conscience,” he said. stated in the press release. “Focus instead on the command and control of the MPD which, while possessing all the damning evidence, allowed Chauvin to train and indoctrinate dozens of young MPD officers in his ways without fear of discipline or punishment. negative and continue its predatory ways for years. .”
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