By Nathan Layne
MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) – For some of those who encountered Derek Chauvin’s policing or witnessed his use of force as an officer there is no sympathy for the man convicted of killing George Floyd.
Chauvin was the subject of at least 17 complaints during his career, according to police records, but only one led to discipline. Prosecutors sought permission to introduce eight prior use-of-force incidents, but the judge would only allow two. In the end the jury heard none.
Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s lawyer, has defended his client’s use of force as appropriate in potentially dangerous situations.
“I don’t have no sympathy for him. I think he got what he deserved,” Julian Hernandez, 38, a carpenter now working in Pennsylvania, told Reuters.
Hernandez said he never heard anything from the Minneapolis police after submitting a complaint about Chauvin, who he said “choked him out” during an encounter in a Minneapolis night club in 2015. A spokesman for the Minneapolis Police Department declined to comment.
According to Chauvin’s police report, Hernandez failed to follow orders and resisted arrest when Chauvin, who was working as an off-duty security guard, tried to escort him out of a night club. Chauvin’s report said this prompted him to apply “pressure toward his Lingual Artery” to subdue Hernandez.
Hernandez said Chauvin picked him out of the crowd for no reason and quickly escalated to violence. He said Chauvin should have been removed from the police force.
As Monroe Skinaway, 75, took in news of Chauvin’s conviction, he flashed back to the night he witnessed Chauvin pin another man to the pavement with the same detached look as when he knelt on Floyd’s neck.
It was March 2019, 15 months before Floyd’s death would spark global protests against racism and police brutality.
But Skinaway still remembers what he deemed the indifference on Chauvin’s face that night as he pressed Sir Rilee Peet’s head into a puddle deep enough that he, like Floyd, struggled to breathe.
A jury on Tuesday found Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis police force, guilty of all three charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter, an outcome welcomed by activists as progress in holding law enforcement accountable for its treatment of Black Americans. Chauvin is white and Floyd was Black.
“We people of color very seldom get a good verdict,” said Skinaway, who is Native American. “I’m kind of amazed.”
‘I CAN’T BREATHE, MAN’
Skinaway says he did not know Chauvin at the time he and another officer arrested Sir Rilee Peet, a young Native American man with a history of mental illness. But Skinaway later recognized him as the officer charged in Floyd’s death.
Skinaway says he was speaking with the officers about the recovery of a stolen car when Peet approached and did not comply with requests to back away. A police report about the incident states that a struggle ensued and Chauvin maced Peet, applied a neck restraint and pinned him to the ground so he could be handcuffed.
The incident was one of the six prior use-of-force incidents that Judge Peter Cahill blocked prosecutors from presenting at trial, ruling they would be prejudicial.
In court filings, prosecutors said Chauvin restrained Peet in a manner that was beyond what was necessary or reasonable – an assertion also made by Skinaway in interviews with Reuters.
Skinaway says Chauvin grabbed Peet by the back of his hair and pressed his face into a rain puddle. That began a cycle where Peet would gasp for air and say “I can’t breathe, man” before Chauvin would force his head down again.
Skinaway said he saw similarities between Chauvin’s treatment of Peet and Floyd.
“He basically did the same thing to that Native kid,” Skinaway said. “I think the incident would have gone longer possibly if the ambulance didn’t show up.”
Peet, who was arrested for disorderly conduct and obstruction of the legal process, could not be reached for comment. Earlier this year Peet told the Marshall Project he did not recall the incident. It was not clear what happened to the charges against him.
Jimmy Bostic, who ended up in the hospital after a scuffle with Chauvin and other officers in April 2016, said he was “ecstatic” when he heard the verdict, seeing it as a sign that police officers, too, could be held accountable.
According to a police report, Bostic was refusing to leave a store and threatening to spit on its owner. As the situation escalated, Chauvin wrote in the report that he “closed distance with” Bostic and “secured his neck/head area with my hands.”
Bostic, who is currently in prison on an unrelated burglary conviction, said he struggled to breathe after the encounter and was taken to the hospital due to an asthma attack.
“George Floyd could have very well been Jimmy Bostic Jr,” the 23-year-old said in an interview after the verdict. “I’m just happy that there was an example set today.”