The city of Minneapolis agreed Thursday to pay nearly $9 million to settle lawsuits filed by two people who said former police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into their necks years before he used the same move to kill George Floyd, reports the Associated Press. John Pope Jr. will receive $7.5 million and Zoya Code will receive $1.375 million. Both lawsuits stemmed from arrests in 2017, three years before Chauvin killed Floyd during an arrest captured on video that sparked protests worldwide, prompted a national reckoning on racial injustice, and led to a Minneapolis Police Department overhaul. At a news conference Thursday, Mayor Jacob Frey apologized to all victims of Chauvin and said that if police supervisors “had done the right thing, George Floyd would not have been murdered.” Both lawsuits named Chauvin and several other officers. The lawsuits alleged police misconduct, excessive force, and racism — Pope and Code are Black; Chauvin is white. They also said the city knew that Chauvin had a record of misconduct but didn’t stop him. “He should have been fired in 2017. He should have been held accountable in 2017,” Frey said.
Bob Bennett, an attorney for Pope and Code, noted that other officers failed to intervene or report Chauvin, and police leaders allowed Chauvin to keep working even though they had video evidence from body cameras of his wrongdoing. In edited body camera footage released by Bennett’s law firm, Pope is heard crying while lying on his stomach, his hands cuffed behind his back and Chauvin’s knee on his neck. “My neck really hurts,” he says more than once. At one point, the videos show the other officers in the room walking out after Pope began crying. Police Chief Brian O’Hara said the department is “forced to reckon once again with the deplorable acts of someone who has proven to be a national embarrassment.” He cited “systemic failure” within the Minneapolis Police Department. Code, who has a history of homelessness and mental health problems, was arrested in June 2017 after she allegedly tried to strangle her mother with an extension cord. Code’s lawsuit said she was in handcuffs when Chauvin slammed her head to the ground and pinned his knee on the back of her neck for 4 minutes and 41 seconds. Pope was 14 in September 2017 when, according to his lawsuit, Chauvin subjected him to excessive force while responding to a domestic assault report. The lawsuits said body camera recordings showed Chauvin used many of the same tactics on Pope and Code that he used on Floyd. In 2021, Chauvin was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison on a state murder charge for killing Floyd by pressing his knee to Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes as he pleaded that he couldn’t breathe.