Prosecutors say Chauvin kept his knee on teenager’s back for 17 minutes in 2017, while the boy said ‘I can’t breathe’

By: - November 17, 2020 9:34 am

Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes in May, killing him.

Prosecutors of the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd filed a memorandum on Monday to introduce body camera footage showing a similar incident in 2017.

They say the body cam video shows Derek Chauvin hitting a 14-year-old boy in the head with a flashlight twice before kneeling on his back for 17 minutes, despite the boy’s pleas that he couldn’t breathe.

Prosecutors previously filed motions to introduce seven other incidents involving Chauvin, one involving J. Alexander Kueng, and nine involving Tou Thao as evidence against them. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. Kueng and Thao, along with Thomas Lane, are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Prosecutors, led by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, aim to show Chauvin and the other three officers had a pattern of using excessive force that the Minneapolis Police Department failed to correct before Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes, killing him.

Prosecutors only recently obtained the body camera footage of Chauvin’s 2017 arrest of the 14-year-old body, which they say provides “a more honest account of the incident” than Chauvin’s report.

Prosecutors asked District Judge Peter Cahill not to decide on the admissibility of the incident until he views the footage.

Chauvin’s report said he was dispatched to a domestic assault call, where a woman said she had been assaulted by her daughter and son, who refused to comply when told he was under arrest. Chauvin said the boy — whom he described as about 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds — backed himself into a corner and struggled and flailed his arms around, so Chauvin “delivered a few strikes” to his shoulders, and then the other officer got one handcuff on him.

Then Chauvin said he “applied a neck restraint,” rolled the boy onto his stomach and grabbed his wrist to cuff it while using his body weight to pin the boy to the floor, while the victim yelled at the officers. Blood was coming from the boy’s ear, and the officers called for an ambulance; the boy required stitches and was transported to the Hennepin County Medical Center.

“The videos show Chauvin’s use of unreasonable force towards this child and complete disdain for his well-being,” prosecutors wrote.

According to the prosecution, the videos show that 33 seconds after telling the boy to come out of the room, both officers grabbed him. When he refused to get on his stomach, Chauvin hit him with his flashlight twice and grabbed his throat and applied a neck restraint causing him to lose consciousness.

The boy cried out to his mother that they were hurting him and to stop, and Chauvin told the other officer to Taser the boy, but the officer didn’t have a Taser, so Chauvin applied the neck restraint.

After the boy fell to the ground, the officers put him face down and handcuffed him while the boy’s mother pleaded with them not to kill her son.

Over the next several minutes, the boy repeatedly told the officers he couldn’t breathe and his mother begged Chauvin to take his knee off her son.

Chauvin replied that the boy was a “big guy” and did not move his knee, according to the court document.

“Although the child’s ear was actively bleeding and he repeatedly told the officers he was in pain, the officers continued to restrain him instead of administering medical treatment,” the filing says.

Seven minutes after applying the neck restraint and taking the boy to the ground, the boy asked to be put on his back because his neck hurt. He began crying, and asked again.

Chauvin asked if he would be “flopping around at all,” and the boy said “no.”

“Better not,” Chauvin replied, without taking his knee off the boy’s upper back, according to the court filing.

About 15 minutes after Chauvin first restrained the boy, a paramedic arrived and asked what happened. The boy said the cop hit him with a flashlight and he “blacked out for a minute.”

As they tightened the handcuffs, Chauvin took his knee off the boy’s back, about 17 minutes after first kneeling on him, according to prosecutors.

The defense attorney for Chauvin objected to the prosecutors’ attempt to introduce such evidence, saying Minneapolis Police policy at the time allowed neck restraints on people resisting arrest and the video is inadmissible.

“The State makes a point of noting that the suspect was rolled onto his stomach and cuffed while Mr. Chauvin used his knee and body weight to pin the suspect to the floor. As noted previously, this is how MPD officers are trained to handcuff individuals — particularly suspects who are resisting,” attorney Eric Nelson wrote, noting Chauvin’s use of force was “reported to supervisors and cleared.”

John Stiles, deputy chief of staff for Ellison, declined to comment on the 2017 incident, saying “the thing itself will stand as our comment.”

The case is scheduled to go to trial in March. The prosecutors also filed a motion Monday asking the judge to reconsider his ruling allowing the trial to be recorded and broadcast live.

This story has been updated to include Chauvin’s attorney’s objection.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs.