Derek Chauvin, the white Minneapolis cop accused of killing George Floyd by kneeling on his neck during an arrest last spring, allegedly used similarly dangerous and suffocating force in confrontations with at least six other people years earlier.
Chauvin is facing charges of unintentional second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after he pressed his knee into the neck of Floyd, a black man, for eight minutes during an arrest on May 25.
Prosecutors are now seeking to present details at his trial from six other arrests of people who Chauvin allegedly restrained with similar excessive force – holding them by their necks or kneeling on top of them.
Three of those people, along with a fourth person who witnessed one of the arrests, shared their accounts with The Marshall Project in an article published Tuesday.
One of them was Zoya Code, whose experience with Chauvin in 2017 bears a disturbing resemblance to what happened with Floyd three years later.
Like Floyd, Code said she was handcuffed and pinned to the ground by Chauvin’s knee when he arrested her.
‘He just stayed on my neck,’ she said. When he ignored her pleas for him to get off, Code said she got frustrated and challenged him to push harder. ‘He did. Just to shut me up,’ she said.
Derek Chauvin (left), the white Minneapolis cop accused of killing George Floyd (right) by kneeling on his neck during an arrest last spring, allegedly used similarly dangerous and suffocating force in confrontations with at least six other people
Chauvin is facing charges of unintentional second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after he pressed his knee into the neck of Floyd, a black man, for eight minutes during an arrest on May 25
Last week a judge agreed to allow attorneys prosecuting Chauvin to introduce Code’s case as evidence of the officer’s pattern of using excessive force – but not the other five.
Chauvin’s attorneys have insisted that he used appropriate force in the encounter with Floyd, who had been accused of using a counterfeit bill at a convenience store.
Police records showed that Chauvin had been the subject of at least 22 complaints over the course of the course of his 19 years with the Minneapolis Police Department, from which he was fired after Floyd’s death.
Only one of those complaints resulted in disciplinary action.
Chauvin was never reprimanded for any of the six prior incidents brought forward by the prosecution, despite two of the people filing formal complaints.
Four of the incidents involved people of color – two black, one Latino and one Native American – while the race of the other two people was not specified.
All three of the people who spoke to The Marshall Project, which coordinated its article with the New York Times, had a history of brushes with law enforcement, but most stemmed from traffic violations and nonviolent offenses.
Zoya Code – June 2017
Code’s arrest took place on June 25, 2017, after her mother accused her of trying to choke her with an extension cord, according to a police report. Code denied the allegation, saying she merely grabbed the cord that her mother was swinging around during a fight at their home.
Code briefly left the house and returned to find Chauvin and another officer who had responded to the mother’s call.
In a court filing prosecutors wrote that Chauvin grabbed Code by the arm and told her she was under arrest.
When Code pulled away, Chauvin pushed her to the ground and knelt on top of her before carrying her out of the house, according to prosecutors and body-camera footage.
Once outside, Code was again pinned on the ground in handcuffs as Chauvin dug his knee into her back – ‘even though she was offering no physical resistance at all,’ prosecutors wrote.
In an interview Code recalled pleading: ‘Don’t kill me.’
Chauvin responded by telling his partner to restrain Code’s ankles, even though she was still ‘not being physically aggressive’, prosecutors wrote.
The partner complied, and Code remembered telling him: ‘You’re learning from an animal. That man’ – Chauvin – ‘that’s evilness right there.’
In a court filing responding to prosecutor’s account of Code’s arrest, Chauvin’s lawyer said he acted properly while responding to ‘a violent crime in a volatile situation’.
Code was initially charged with misdemeanor domestic assault and disorderly conduct, but those charges were ultimately dropped.
Chauvin is seen in a court sketch from a hearing in the Floyd case last June
Jimmy Bostic – April 2016
A second case that prosecutors tried to enter as evidence of Chauvin’s excessive use of force involved Jimmy Bostic, who said he ended up in the hospital after his encounter with the cop in April 2016.
Bostic was waiting for a ride outside of the Midtown Global Market when private security guards approached him to leave, after another shop owner accused him of panhandling.
An argument ensued and Chauvin was dispatched to the scene, according to an arrest report.
Chauvin escorted Bostic out of the store and the security guards were attempting to put him in handcuffs when he yanked his arms away.
In the report, Chauvin wrote: ‘I closed distance with [Bostic] and secured his neck/head area with my hands.’
But as Bostic remembers it, Chauvin choked him.
‘The next thing I felt was arms just wrapped around my neck,’ Bostic said.
‘I started telling him, “Let go, I’m having trouble breathing. I have asthma. I can’t breathe.”‘
‘I can’t breathe’ is the same phrase Floyd repeated over and over while being pinned by Chauvin until he died.
‘Looking back on Mr Floyd, that could have been me,’ Bostic told The Marshall Project. ‘And I would no longer be alive right now to even tell my story.’
Bostic said he was released from police custody at the scene and was transported to a hospital, where he stayed for a day while suffering from an asthma attack.
He was charged with disorderly conduct, but that charge was later dropped.
Julian Hernandez – February 2015
The earliest case that prosecutors tried to enter as evidence of Chauvin’s excessive use of force took place in February 2015, when Julian Hernandez was arrested at the El Nuevo Rodeo night club, where Chauvin worked as an off-duty security officer.
Hernandez, a carpenter who had traveled to Minneapolis to see a band perform at the club, told The Marshall Project the ordeal began when Chauvin confronted him for trying to leave through the wrong door.
He said that Chauvin then escorted him down a stairwell, and he felt like the officer was physically trying to push him down.
‘Things escalated’ when they got outside, Hernandez said, and Chauvin grabbed him by the throat to pin him against a wall.
Hernandez recalled Chauvin telling him: ‘You just need to leave,’ and thinking to himself: ‘I’m trying to leave and you won’t let me. You’re choking me.’
Hernandez was charged with disorderly conduct but reached an agreement with the court to avoid punishment by staying out of trouble for the next year.
As with Code’s case, Chauvin’s lawyer insisted in a court filing that the officer did nothing wrong in the arrest of Hernandez, who the lawyer described as ‘resistant and aggressive’.
A second case that prosecutors tried to enter as evidence of Chauvin’s excessive use of force took place in February 2015, when Julian Hernandez was arrested at the El Nuevo Rodeo night club (pictured), where Chauvin worked as an off-duty security officer
Sir Rilee Peet – March 2019
Sir Rilee Peet was arrested by Chauvin in March 2019, after a man called police about seeing his grandson’s stolen car at a gas station and Peet just happened to be nearby.
The caller, 74-year-old Monroe Skinaway, described the ordeal to The Marshall Project.
He said he was answering questions about the car when Peet walked by and asked the officers for a ride. Skinaway said Peet, then 26, seemed ‘off’ and followed one of the officers to his squad car.
The officer asked Peet to take his hands out of his pockets, he refused, and a scuffle ensued, according to a police report.
Chauvin intervened, spraying Peet with mace, restraining him by the neck and pinning him to the ground by kneeling on his lower back, prosecutors said.
Skinaway recalled seeing Peet’s face pressed into a rain puddle for two to three minutes as he pleaded: ‘I can’t breathe — can I just put my head up?’
‘They just held his face in the water, and I couldn’t see a purpose for that,’ Skinaway said.
He said when Peet tried to turn his head out of the water, the officer grabbed him by the hair and pushed his face back into the puddle.
Peet, who had a history of court-ordered treatment for mental illness, was charged with misdemeanor obstruction of the legal process and disorderly conduct.
In court filings, Chauvin’s lawyer said that the officer acted appropriately in Peet’s arrest, saying that the suspect had created concern for the officers’ safety.