The city of Minneapolis agreed Thursday to pay nearly $9 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 and Zoya Code will receive $1.375 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 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. The lawsuits stated that if the city had acted sooner to discipline Chauvin, “history could have been stopped from repeating itself with George Floyd.”
Bob Bennett, the attorney for Pope and Code, noted in a statement that other officers failed to intervene or report Chauvin, and police leaders allowed Chauvin to “field train and indoctrinate dozens of young MPD officers to his ways without fear of discipline or negative sanction and to continue his predatory ways for years.”
Council member Elliott Payne said what happened to Code and Pope were reminders of what happened to Floyd and rekindled those emotions.
“And it’s actually not a Derek Chauvin problem. It’s an institution problem,” Payne said. He hoped the settlements “bring some closure to this era and are a stark reminder of the work we have lying ahead.”
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. Pope was 14 in September 2017 when, according to his lawsuit, Chauvin subjected him to excessive force while responding to a domestic assault report.
Both lawsuits named Chauvin and several other officers. The lawsuits alleged police misconduct, excessive force, and racism — Pope and Code are Black; Chauvin is white. They also said the city knew that Chauvin had a record of misconduct but didn’t stop him. Criminal charges in both cases were eventually dropped.
The lawsuits said body camera recordings showed Chauvin used many of the same tactics on Pope and Code that he used on Floyd. Chauvin was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison on a state murder charge in 2021 for killing Floyd by pressing his knee to Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes as he pleaded that he couldn’t breathe. The city also paid $27 million to Floyd’s family.
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 didn’t intervene and a responding police sergeant approved the force, the lawsuit stated.
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 Pope in the head with a large metal flashlight at least four times. It says he then put Pope in a chokehold before pinning him to the floor and putting his knee on 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. It said Chauvin did not mention in his report that he had hit Pope with his flashlight, nor did he mention pinning Pope for so long. Chauvin’s sergeant reviewed and approved his report and use of force, “despite having firsthand knowledge that the report was false and misleading,” the lawsuit alleged.
Chauvin admitted to many of Pope’s allegations when he pleaded guilty in December 2021 to federal charges for violating the civil rights of both Floyd and Pope. He was sentenced in July to 21 years on those charges.
Chauvin is serving his sentences in a federal prison in Arizona.
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