Nearly three years before Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for more than 9 minutes, the former Minneapolis police officer allegedly knelt on the neck and back of a teen for almost 17 minutes.
Chauvin, who was convicted last month on state murder charges in Floyd’s death, has now been indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly using unreasonable force against the then 14-year-old boy in 2017.
A federal grand jury on Friday also indicted Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers in Floyd’s death, alleging the officers violated Floyd’s constitutional rights, according to court documents filed in federal court in Minnesota.
A separate, two-count indictment charged Chauvin with willfully depriving the Minneapolis teenager of the “constitutional right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a police officer,” according to a statement from the US Justice Department.
One count in the separate indictment alleged that on September 4, 2017, the former officer, without legal justification, “held Juvenile by the throat and struck Juvenile 1 multiple times in the head with a flashlight.”
“This offense included the use of a dangerous weapon – a flashlight – and resulted in bodily injury to Juvenile 1,” the indictment said.
The second count alleged that Chauvin “held his knee on the neck and the upper back of the teenager even after the teenager was lying prone, handcuffed, and unresisting, also resulting in bodily injury,” according to the statement.
Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson declined to comment on Friday.
Attorneys Ben Crump, Antonio Romanucci and L. Chris Stewart – who represent Floyd’s family – said in a statement “the additional indictment of Derek Chauvin shows a pattern and practice of behavior.”
Actions in Floyd arrest similar to those in 2017 incident
Bystander video showed Chauvin impassively kneeling on the neck and back of Floyd, handcuffed and lying prone on the street, for 9 minutes and 29 seconds on May 25, 2020. Under the officer’s knees, the 46-year-old Black man gasped for air, repeatedly exclaimed “I can’t breathe” and ultimately went silent.
Three years earlier, Chauvin was involved in a similar arrest involving a teen.
“Just like with Floyd, when the child was slow to comply … 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,” Minnesota’s attorney general wrote in a state court filing last November.
“And just like with Floyd, Chauvin ignored those pleas and refused to provide medical assistance,”Attorney General Keith Ellison wrote. “Instead, Chauvin held the child down with his knee on the child’s neck and back for nearly 17 minutes.”
Incident in 2017 started with domestic call
In the 2017 incident, Chauvin and his partner responded to a domestic assault call in Minneapolis, according to the court documents filed by state prosecutors.
The victim told officers she had been assaulted by her two minor children, a son and daughter, the documents said. The officers located the juvenile male on the floor in the back of the house.
The teen did not comply with commands and directions after he was told he was under arrest, the documents said.
Chauvin claimed the juvenile “displayed active resistance to efforts to take him into custody” by “flailing his arms around,” the documents said.
The officer described the teen as about 6’2” and 200 pounds and said the boy backed himself into a corner and “stretched his legs forward,” according to the state court documents.
Chauvin said he struck the teen on the shoulders after he continued to struggle and resist, the documents said. Another officer got one handcuff on the boy.
Chauvin said he “applied a neck restraint” and then managed “to roll [the juvenile male] onto his stomach and grab his left wrist so that cuffing could be completed,” according to the documents. Chauvin then “used body weight to pin [the juvenile male] to the floor.”
The teen’s mother came into the room and yelled at the officers, the documents said. The boy, with blood coming from his left ear, was later taken to a hospital for stitches.
“The child began repeatedly telling the officers that he could not breathe, and his mother told Chauvin to take his knee off her son,” the documents said.
At some point the teen lost consciousness, according to court documents filed by state prosecutors.
The boy and his sister were charged with domestic assault – and he also faced obstruction charges – but their mother declined to press charges, according to a police report.
The teens told police that their mother was drunk and assaulted the girl with a hot curling iron, the police report said.
Federal charges in connection with Floyd case
Another federal indictment announced on Friday said Chauvin deprived Floyd of the right to be free from “unreasonable seizure, which includes the right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a police officer.”
Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng were also charged in connection with their failure to intervene in Chauvin’s use of unreasonable force, per the indictment. Chauvin, Thao, Kueng and the fourth officer, Thomas Lane, all face a charge for failing to give Floyd medical aid.
Thao, Kueng and Lane also face state charges, including aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. They have pleaded not guilty, and their joint trial is expected to this summer.