Sources have told ABC News that the Biden DOJ is considering charging former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for an incident that occurred in 2017 involving excessive force. There are remarkable similarities between Chauvin’s arrest of a suspect in 2017 and the arrest of George Floyd which led to his death.
Bear in mind as you read this account that it was written by a Minnesota state prosecutor whose interest in the 2017 incident was to present it to the jury at the Chauvin murder trial.
Last fall, as they prepped for the Chauvin trial, prosecutors received a series of videos, recorded on the officer’s body cameras, of an arrest made (or attempted) by Chauvin on September 4, 2017.
According to an ABC News report, “the videos allegedly showed Chauvin striking a Black teenager in the head so hard that the boy needed stitches, then allegedly holding the boy down with his knee for nearly 17 minutes, and allegedly ignoring complaints from the boy that he couldn’t breathe.”
State prosecutor Matthew Frank wrote, “Those videos show far more violent and forceful treatment of this child than Chauvin describes in his report [of the incident]. … [they] show Chauvin’s use of unreasonable force towards this child and complete disdain for his well-being.”
In February, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that federal prosecutors had convened a grand jury to interview witnesses to the 2017 incident. On Friday, ABC reported they had been informed that “the investigation is still underway, with the Justice Department still weighing whether to bring federal charges against Chauvin for both the 2017 incident and George Floyd’s death.”
ABC was told that state prosecutors had hoped to show the videos to the jury in the Chauvin trial, however, the judge would not allow it.
Chauvin and another Minneapolis police officer were dispatched to a home where a woman claimed she had been attacked by her 14-year-old son and young daughter.
After officers entered the home and spoke to the woman, they ordered the son to lie on the ground, but he refused. Within seconds, Chauvin hit the teenager with his flashlight, grabbed the teenager’s throat, hit him again with the flashlight, and then “applied a neck restraint, causing the child to lose consciousness and go to the ground.”
“Chauvin and [the other officer] placed [the teenager] in the prone position and handcuffed him behind his back while the teenager’s mother pleaded with them not to kill her son and told her son to stop resisting. … About a minute after going to the ground, the child began repeatedly telling the officers that he could not breathe, and his mother told Chauvin to take his knee off her son.”
About eight minutes in, Chauvin moved his knee to the teenager’s upper back and left it there for nine more minutes.
Eventually, Chauvin told the teenager he was under arrest for domestic assault and obstruction with force. The two officers then helped the teenager to an ambulance, which took him to a hospital to receive stitches.
Frank said Chauvin’s handling of the 14-year-old boy mirrored Chauvin’s actions with Floyd, when Chauvin pinned Floyd’s neck under his knee for more than eight minutes.
“As was true with the conduct with George Floyd, Chauvin rapidly escalated his use of force for a relatively minor offense. Just like with Floyd, Chauvin used an unreasonable amount of force without regard for the need for that level of force or the victim’s well-being. Just like with Floyd, when the child was slow to comply with Chauvin and [the other officer’s] instructions, Chauvin grabbed the child by the throat, forced him to the ground in the prone position, and placed his knee on the child’s neck with so much force that the child began to cry out in pain and tell Chauvin he could not breathe.”
The ABC report said that Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, filed an objection to the use of these videos in the trial. He wrote, “[T]here is no marked similarity between [the 2017 incident] and the George Floyd incident. … A mother had been physically assaulted by her children.”
Nelson also argued that the use of a neck restraint against an individual who was “actively resisting arrest” was allowed by the MPD at the time. “It was reasonable and authorized under the law as well as MPD policy.” Finally, Nelson pointed out that the incident had been “reported to supervisors” and it was “cleared.”
The judge sided with Nelson.
On Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the Justice Department was launching a civil investigation — not a criminal probe — to determine if the Minneapolis Police Department “engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing,” including whether Minneapolis police routinely use excessive force and engage in discriminatory conduct.
The wide-ranging civil investigation “is separate from and independent of the federal criminal investigation into the death of George Floyd that the Justice Department has previously announced,” Garland said.
At this point, I think the DOJ ‘s time would best be spent on other pursuits. Keeping this story in the news will only serve to inflame tensions. But perhaps that’s the Biden Administration’s objective.