Derek Chauvin settlements approved, bodycam videos released for pair of 2017 complaints

The City of Minneapolis has approved two settlements over the use of force by former Minneapolis Police Department Officer Derek Chauvin, setting the stage for bodycam footage to be released by the victims.

The Minneapolis City Council entered a closed session Thursday to receive briefings on two cases involving Chauvin – Pope v. Chauvin, et al. and Code v. Chauvin, et al. – before unanimously agreeing to two settlements. Both lawsuits are based on allegedly excessive use of force instances that occurred in 2017.

Plaintiff John Pope will receive $7.5 million, while Zoya Code will receive $1.375 million via the settlements for two different incidents.

In the complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Pope said that on Sept. 4, 2017, Chauvin and other MPD officers responded to the report of domestic abuse after an altercation about phone chargers.

Nearly 30 minutes later, Chauvin allegedly struck Pope at least twice on the head with a large metal flashlight, then "applied a neck restraint to John Pope that rendered John Pope unconscious."

During the time Pope pleaded with officers that he couldn’t breathe and repeatedly asked that Chauvin’s knee be taken off his neck, according to the complaint. 

At least seven officers responded to the house throughout the incident and observed Chauvin with his knee across John Pope’s neck and back, according to court documents. 

Many of the officers who responded to the scene eventually testified before a federal grand jury that indicted Chauvin based on this incident. On December 15, 2021, Chauvin plead guilty in federal court to felony charges based on the incident.

In another instance, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court by Code, on June 25, 2017, Chauvin and another MPD officer were dispatched to a residence on Oakland Avenue South after Code’s mother had alleged an assault with an extension cord.

A brief struggle ensued between Code and the two officers, and Chauvin proceeded to apply "upward force" to Code’s handcuffed arms, moving them up toward the back of her head, later carrying her out of the residence by her arms.

Once outside, Chauvin slammed Code’s head into the ground, and then kneeled on the back of her neck. He remained in this position for several minutes, according to court records. 

An MPD sergeant responded to the scene and "reviewed and approved" and Code was brought to Hennepin County Jail and booked.

Code was charged with domestic assault arising from the incident, but the charge was later dropped.

The City of Minneapolis has not released the body worn camera footage for either of the incidents as the footage is considered private data under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. However, as the plaintiffs, they may choose to release the video as soon as a settlement is reached.

"If the plaintiffs choose to release the body-worn camera video, the City will support their decisions to do so. The footage may be difficult for many to watch, and it’s likely it will be triggering or traumatizing to community members. As the plaintiffs allege, Chauvin used excessive force against them," said a statement provided by the city.

"This was not a Chauvin problem, but an institution problem," said council member Elliott Payne. "Perhaps this measure can help bring some closure to this era and a reminder of the work we have ahead."

In April 2021, the 12-member Hennepin County jury convicted Chauvin of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the May 25, 2020, death of Floyd.

City leaders respond

Following the settlement agreement by the Minneapolis City Council, leaders for the city held a press conference to discuss its resolution.

"Derek Chauvin is exactly where he could be – in federal prison. He should have been held accountable in 2017. If his supervisors would have done the right thing, George Floyd would not have been murdered," Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said Thursday. "That is where we have been, but not where we are going. The actions we have taken in the last several years are taking us in the right direction. Where we were six years ago is not where we are today."

Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara spoke on the systemic department shift the Minneapolis Police Department has tried to implement since Floyd's death, calling Chauvin an embarrassment to the profession of policing.

"Nearly six years after these two incidents occurred we’re forced to reckon with the acts of someone who has been an embarrassment to the national policing profession. I’m appalled at the repetitive behavior of this coward and disgusted by the repetitive behaviors of this agency," O’Hara said Thursday. "It’s not enough to condemn the actions of the past, these incidents show a systemic failure."

O’Hara said a "zero tolerance" policy will be implemented for Minneapolis Police Department Officers that "dehumanize or brutalize anyone regardless of who they are or what they’re accused of doing."

O’Hara also said that Chauvin’s MPD badge number will also be permanently destroyed, so no future officers will have to wear it.

Frey called the gesture a "symbolic but important one."