Who is Derek Chauvin, the officer charged with murdering George Floyd?

He was on the Minneapolis police force for nearly 20 years and had previously documented incidents of using force with arrestees

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Tuesday 20 April 2021 13:08
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Inside the courtroom where Derek Chauvin will be tried for George Floyd death

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The jury is out in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, last May, renewing a nationwide reckoning around racism, policing, and civil rights.

Here are some key details about the officer at the centre of the case, his past record at the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), and his personal background.

What is he charged with?

At the trial, held in downtown Minneapolis’s Hennepin County District Court, Mr Chauvin faces three charges: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter. The murder charges could carry 40 and 25 year sentences, respectively. Mr Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to all three.

The charges stem from a 25 May arrest, where four officers were called to the scene on reports that George Floyd was using a counterfeit $20 bill. Eventually, as Mr Chauvin tried to detain Mr Floyd, he was captured on video kneeling on the man’s neck for nearly nine minutes while Mr Floyd pleaded for air and eventually lost consciousness.

What is his record on the Minneapolis police?

Mr Chauvin worked for the MPD for nearly 20 years before being fired shortly after Mr Floyd’s death.

While he was with the MPD, Mr Chauvin won commendations for bravery and rendering life-saving medical aid to a suspect. He also was the subject of at least 22 complaints or internal investigations into his performance as an officer, some of which will be discussed during the trial.

During his time on the force, he was involved in two deadly encounters with civilians, as well as two nonfatal shootings. 

He was disciplined once after a 2007 traffic stop, where a woman said she was pulled over for driving 10mph above the limit. Mr Chauvin allegedly frisked her and put her in a squad car. He got a letter of reprimand for how he handled the stop and not turning on his recording equipment.

Others who came into contact with him have said that while he was an officer, he was quick to use force and unnecessarily rough.

Zoya Code said Mr Chauvin choked her and hog-tied her after he responded to a police call about a fight between her and her mother, despite not resisting once she had been handcuffed and taken outside.

“He just stayed on my neck,” she told The Marshall Project. Frustrated with Mr Chauvin’s alleged conduct, she dared him to press harder. “Then he did. Just to shut me up,”

In 2008, he shot Ira Latrell Toles in the stomach during another domestic call, telling an internal review panel the man wasn’t complying with commands to get on the ground and was reaching for a gun. Mr Toles’s ex-girlfriend says he fired his gun “about two seconds” after arriving to the room where he was standing.

Mr Chauvin’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

What do friends and former associates say about him?

One of Mr Chauvin’s family members told the Minneapolis StarTribune they were horrified when they saw the widely shared video of him detaining Mr Floyd.

“The number one question I had was, ‘Why didn’t you just get up?’ ” said the relative.

Others have said he was a quiet, focused police officer.

“He’s not the devil that he’s made out to be,” Sgt. Joey Sandberg, a retired Minneapolis officer told the paper.

What is Mr Chauvin’s background?

The former officer grew up in St Paul, Minnesota, just across the river from Minneapolis. He served in the US military police in Minnesota and Germany before joining the MPD in 2001.

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