A white Minneapolis police officer accused of killing a black suspect by kneeling on his neck is a 19-year veteran of the force with a service record that includes three shooting incidents, one of them fatal, and nearly 20 complaints.
Derek Chauvin became the focus of angry street protests and a federal investigation after he was seen in cellphone video kneeling on the neck of 46-year-old George Floyd for almost eight minutes Monday night during his arrest on a suspicion of passing a counterfeit bill charge. Floyd, who was heard complaining that he couldn’t breathe, was pronounced dead later that night.
A much different side of the 44-year-old officer was portrayed in a 2018 newspaper profile of his wife, Kellie, a Laotian refugee who was seeking to become the first Hmong Mrs. Minnesota. She told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that they met when he dropped off a suspect at a Minneapolis hospital where she worked.
“Under that uniform, he’s just a softie,” she said. “He’s such a gentleman. He still opens the door for me, still puts my coat on for me. After my divorce, I had a list of must-haves if I were ever to be in a relationship, and he fit all of them.”
Minneapolis City Council records show that Chauvin moonlighted as a bouncer at a downtown Latin nightclub. He was among a group of six officers who opened fire on a stabbing suspect in 2006 after a chase that ended when the suspect pointed a sawed-off shotgun at them. The suspect, Wayne Reyes, was hit multiple times and died. A grand jury decided the use of force was justified.
Two years later, Chauvin shot Ira Latrell Toles as he was responding to a domestic dispute.
According to a Pioneer Press account of the incident, a 911 operator received a call from an apartment and heard a woman yelling for someone to stop hitting her. Chauvin and another officer arrived just as Toles locked himself in the bathroom. Chauvin forced his way into the bathroom. Toles went for Chauvin’s gun and Chauvin shot him twice in the stomach. Toles survived and was charged with two counts of obstruction.
Chauvin was among a group of five officers in 2011 who chased down an American Indian, Leroy Martinez, in a housing complex after they spotted him running with a pistol. One of the officers, Terry Nutter, shot Martinez in the torso. Martinez survived. All the officers were placed on leave but absolved of any wrongdoing, with Police Chief Timothy Dolan saying they acted “appropriately and courageously.”
Online city records also show that 17 complaints have been filed against Chauvin, who was fired Tuesday along with the three other officers who were involved in Floyd’s arrest. Sixteen complaints were closed with no discipline. The remaining complaint generated two letters of reprimand. The records don’t include any details on the substance of the complaints.
Less is known about the other three officers involved in Floyd’s arrest.
Online court records indicate that the officer who stood guard at the scene, Tou Thao, was sued in federal court in 2017 for alleged excessive force. According to the lawsuit, Lamar Ferguson claimed Thao and his partner stopped him as he was walking to his girlfriend’s house in 2014 for no reason and beat him up. The city ultimately settled the lawsuit for $25,000.
City records show six complaints have been filed against Thao. Five were closed with no discipline. One remains open. The records didn’t include any further details.
Thomas Lane joined the force as a cadet in March 2019, according to online city records. No information about J. Alexander Kueng’s service history was immediately available. City records show no complaints against either of them.
Attorneys for Chauvin, Thao and Kueng didn’t return messages. Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, declined comment.