In November 2013, Minneapolis police pulled over LaSean Braddock shortly after midnight as he was driving home after a double shift as a mental health worker at Hennepin County Medical Center.
Braddock, 48, said he had gotten a little used to being detained by police because his identity had been stolen and he was sometimes mistaken for the man who had been using his name. He carried paperwork from the Minnesota Office of Criminal Detention with him as evidence, he said, so the stops were usually brief: he showed the paperwork to officers; they would check it out and let it go. But the officer at the driver’s side window that day pocketed the documents without looking at them, Braddock said.
When he hesitated to get out of the car, the officer aggressively hit the driver’s side window with a flashlight, Braddock said. Two officers then tried to get him out of the car before he got out alone.
“Then they tried to throw me to the ground, but I weighed about 240 pounds,” Braddock said, adding that while he was still not sure why they stopped him, he obeyed to avoid injury. “Then they jumped on my head, my neck and my back. I was lying on the ground.”
More than six years later, Braddock saw one of those officers again while watching a harrowing video of George Floyd’s final moments. Derek Chauvin, Braddock said, was one of the officers who had treated him rudely. A police report from that night confirms that Chauvin was one of the officers who arrested him.
Floyd, who was black, died on May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against his neck for several minutes while yelling for help with handcuffs and saying he couldn’t breathe. His death sparked months of racial justice protests in dozens of cities around the world.
Chauvin, who is charged with second-degree murder in Floyd’s death, will stand trial Monday.
Braddock said he believes Floyd could still be alive if the complaint he filed alleging excessive force by Chauvin the day after their encounter had been taken seriously and not dismissed.
“It’s unfortunate that they didn’t do anything to Derek Chauvin,” Braddock said in a recent interview. “If they had done something about it, it might not have gotten that far.”
Several people who had clashes with Chauvin before the deadly encounter accused him in media interviews and official complaints of excessive use of force.
Chauvin, who was a 19-year veteran of the department before he was fired, was named in at least a dozen complaints of police conduct that resulted in no disciplinary action and one that resulted in a “letter of reprimand.”
The Minneapolis Police Department declined to comment on the previous complaints against Chauvin.
The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, which is prosecuting Chauvin’s case, tried to introduce several Chauvin-related arrests dating back to 2014, claiming they showed a history of excessive use of force.
Jurors may hear about one such case, the arrest of Zoya Code in 2017.
‘Do not kill me’
According to court documents, Chauvin went to Code’s home on June 25, 2017, in a report of a domestic dispute. A relative had accused Code, 38, of trying to strangle her with an extension cord, but Code denied doing so. Code, who declined an interview request, told The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization that covers the criminal justice system, that the relative was moving the wire and that she had grabbed it. Code said he had left the house to freshen up after the dispute and that when he returned, he encountered Chauvin and another officer.
As Code passed, Chauvin grabbed her arm and told her she was arrested, prosecutors said in court documents. When she pulled away, Chauvin pulled her to the ground in a prone position and knelt over her, they said. After she was handcuffed, she refused to stand, so Chauvin carried her out of the house in a prone position and placed her face down on the sidewalk.
Code told The Marshall Project that she began to beg, “Don’t kill me.”
According to prosecutors’ account, at the time, Chauvin told his partner to hold Code’s ankles, “even though she was not offering any physical resistance.”
Code told The Marshall Project that while tying her up, she told the officer, “You’re learning from an animal. That man, that’s evil.”
Code was charged with the misdemeanor of domestic assault and disorderly conduct. The charges were dismissed on March 12, 2018.
Code is listed as a possible state witness in Chauvin’s trial. Prosecutors will juxtapose Code’s treatment with Chauvin’s actions in another case to show that Chauvin knew how to use reasonable force to immobilize a person.
In that incident, Chauvin assisted a suicidal, intoxicated and mentally disturbed man. “The defendant observed other officers fighting and attacking the man,” prosecutors wrote in a court file. “The defendant then observed that other officers were placing the man in a lateral recovery position, according to the training.”
Chauvin headed to the hospital with the man, according to prosecutors. The police department praised him and the other officers for their efforts.
‘He drowned me on the ground’
Other people who encountered Chauvin said his actions were much less measured.
Julián Hernández, a carpenter, said he was on a road trip to Minneapolis in February 2015 with about 20 of his co-workers to see a band at the El Nuevo Rodeo nightclub, where Chauvin worked as a security officer outside of service for almost 17 years. Hernández said that he had been drinking and went to the bar to try to buy cigarettes but that they were too expensive. Hernández said that as he was walking away from the bar, he heard someone say, “It’s time to go.” He turned around and ran into Chauvin, who said she forced him out.
“The whole club continued to function,” said Hernandez, 38. “And he chose me among all of them and told me I had to go because they were going to close.
He said he tried to tell Chauvin that he needed to get his jacket back from the wardrobe and even showed him his ticket.
“I’m like, ‘Dude, let me go get my jacket at least. It’s winter,'” Hernandez said. “And he wouldn’t let me.”
Once they got out, “things got physical,” Hernandez said.
“He tried to grab me by the neck and of course I reacted,” Hernandez said. “And then after that, he drowned me on the ground.”
Chauvin restrained Hernandez by “pressing” his lingual artery under his chin and “pressing” him against a wall, according to prosecutors. He then threw Hernández to the ground, placed him in a prone position, handcuffed him and waited for other officers to arrive, they said.
He said he clearly remembered that Chauvin was drowning him. Hernandez said that at the time, he had been clean for about six years after serving a prison sentence in California when he was in his early 20s for selling drugs.
Hernández said he filed a formal complaint the day after the incident, which was later dismissed, and that he tried to sue the police department, but that no attorney would take his case. He was not trying to sue for financial reasons, he said. “I just wanted them to know what kind of police they have in their squad,” he said.
Hernández was charged with a misdemeanor offense of disorderly conduct. He pleaded guilty a couple of months later, and after he was out of trouble for a year, the court overturned the plea and dismissed the case, records show. Hernández’s case was one that prosecutors tried to present as evidence, but a judge denied the request.
“What he did to me was nothing compared to what he did to that poor black man,” Hernandez said, referring to Floyd. “You cannot take the law into your own hands.”
In a court file, Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, said he acted appropriately. The record says that the encounter with Hernández involved Chauvin “in the bar, near Valentine’s Day, in the dark, in the early hours of the morning, dealing with an aggressive and resistant arrestee.”
“Chauvin found out and reported that the arrested person was actively resisting,” the file says. “Under the Minneapolis Police Department’s use of force policy in effect at the time, a neck restraint could be ‘used against an actively resisting subject.”
Nelson did not return a request for comment on the allegations.
Hernandez said he believes that if Chauvin’s superiors had “further investigated” the complaints about “his aggressiveness” and reprimanded him, “he would still be a cop and George Floyd would be alive.”
Braddock, a former St. Paul resident who now lives in Chicago, said that the night he was arrested, he asked Chauvin and the other officer why they had detained him, but that they never gave him an answer.
He was booked into the Hennepin County Jail on charges of noncompliance with police orders and obstruction of legal process, according to a public information report, which said that “a routine check of the license plate” of his vehicle showed that the owner had a serious crime. order.
The case was dismissed in January 2014. Braddock’s attorney at the time, Jordan Deckenbach, said prosecutors dismissed the case after the City Attorney’s Office reviewed the video of the trooper. The City Attorney’s Office said it no longer had a record of why the case was dismissed.
The formal complaint Braddock filed against Chauvin the day after his arrest was also dismissed, he and his attorney said.
“The fact that Mr. Braddock’s complaint was dismissed without being contacted and interviewed is proof that the complaint was not taken seriously,” Deckenbach said. “If Officer Chauvin had been disciplined for physically abusing Mr. Braddock, to include kneeling on Mr. Braddock’s neck, perhaps Officer Chauvin would have taken a different approach with George Floyd, which would have resulted in George Floyd is still alive today. “