Corrections officers of color file lawsuit, claim they weren't allowed to guard Chauvin

Eight corrections officers at Ramsey County jail filed the lawsuit on Tuesday.
Author:
Publish date:

Eight corrections officers who allege they were ordered to avoid Derek Chauvin while he was in jail because they're not white have filed a lawsuit against Ramsey County.

The corrections officers, who identify as Black, Hispanic, Pacific-Islander and mixed-race, work at the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center (ADC), where Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with the murder George Floyd, was being held after he was charged.

The eight jail workers say ADC Superintendent Steve Lydon gave verbal orders prohibiting them from interacting with and guarding Chauvin, as well as being ordered not to go anywhere near the fifth floor where he was being held, the 30-page lawsuit filed in Ramsey County District Court on Tuesday says.

Meanwhile, Lt. Lugene Werner, who is white, was seen on jail cameras by two of the corrections officers being granted "special access" to Chauvin on May 30, 2020, the lawsuit says, adding she sat on his bed, patted his back and appeared to comfort him, while also letting Chauvin use a cell phone. 

The lawsuit alleges violations of the Minnesota Human Rights Act, including race and color discrimination and a hostile work environment. 

The officers claim Ramsey County singled them out, segregated them and prevented them from doing their jobs solely because of their skin color, adding that the county didn't trust them to be professional around Chauvin because they aren't white.

The corrections officers in June 2020 filed discrimination charges with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, making similar claims.

Minneapolis attorney Lucas Kaster, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the officers, said during a news conference Tuesday morning they made the decision to move forward with legal action in court instead and asked the Department of Human Rights to close the case before it started its investigation. 

This is the next step in their pursuit of justice, Kaster said, adding that the officers filed the lawsuit to hold Lydon, Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher and Ramsey County responsible "for the discrimination that occurred under their watch."

The corrections officers are seeking an unspecified amount of monetary compensation, and also aims to change workplace culture at the jail, Kaster said.

The lawsuit says Lydon's orders related to Chauvin were "the most overtly discriminatory act" that's occurred during the officers' time with the county, but it's not an isolated incident, adding "the leadership and culture at Ramsey County have chronically failed to promote the interests of employees of color."

Lydon and the sheriff's office explained after the claims were filed with the state Department of Human Rights that he issued the order to protect and support workers of color. However, Kaster said in Tuesday's news conference that was never discussed or communicated with corrections officers at the time and was only offered as an after-the-fact explanation. 

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are: 

  • Devin Sullivan, a Black man who has worked at the ADC for more than a decade. He's currently the acting sergeant at the jail and is also a major in the U.S. Army Reserve. 
  • Mohamud Salad, an African-American man and corrections officer who has worked at the ADC for about 2.5 years.
  • Timothy Ivory, an African-American man and corrections officer who has been at the ADC since April 2020, but has worked for about three years with the county.
  • Anabel Herrera, a Hispanic woman and corrections officer who has worked at the ADC since 2017.
  • Stanley Hafoka, a Pacific Islander American man and an acting sergeant who has worked at Ramsey County for about 10 years. 
  • Nathaniel Gomez-Haustein, a Hispanic man and corrections officer at the ADC, where he's worked since late 2017.
  • Cedric Dodds, an African-American man who is a corrections officer at the ADC, where he's worked for about three years. 
  • Chelsea Cox, a mixed-race woman who works as a corrections officer at the ADC, where she's worked for about four years. 

Next Up

ambulance

Pedestrian killed in hit-and-run in St. Paul Sunday evening

The incident occurred near the intersection of Phalen Boulevard and Atlantic Street.

ambulance

Farmington man killed in rear-end crash

The man was stopped waiting to turn left when he was hit from behind.

vaccine, covid

More than half of Minnesota's 65+ population has received a vaccine dose

Gov. Tim Walz has stated that 70% of seniors will need to have received at least one vaccine does before the state can expand eligibility.

dan dulhane crop

Twin Cities radio personality Dan Culhane has died

He was battling multiple myeloma when he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

police tape, crime scene

Man found dead in Minneapolis from 'act of violence'

A woman was also fatally shot Sunday morning.

police lights

AMBER Alert: Missing 2-year-old found safe

The alert was issued Sunday evening.

Irv Cross

NFL Pro-Bowler, Twin Cities broadcaster Irv Cross dies at 81

Cross was a Pro Bowl cornerback, but his biggest impact was made after his career.

snow

Here's how much snow fell in Minnesota on Sunday

Some localized areas saw more than expected.

Lindsay Guentzel

For The Week: What's harder than making a meal plan? Sticking to it!

Lindsay Guentzel says you shouldn't give up on your meal planning routines.

Related

derek chauvin

CO's of color say they weren't allowed to guard Derek Chauvin

They've filed discrimination complaints against Ramsey County.

derek chauvin

Citing the possibility of fraud, Judge rejects Chauvin divorce agreement

The proposed agreement transferred the majority of the couple's assets to Chauvin's estranged wife.

derek chauvin

Ex-officer Derek Chauvin posts bond, is released from prison months after Floyd's death

Chauvin is one of four former MPD officers charged in George Floyd's death. The others had already posted bond and were out of custody.

derek chauvin

Former officer Derek Chauvin, his wife charged with multiple tax crimes

They're accused of not reporting all of their income and not filing Minnesota taxes for a few years, despite being residents.

Derek Chauvin

A look at the differences in the charges filed against Derek Chauvin

Attorney General Keith Ellison and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman's complaints described some things differently.

hockey

Parents file federal lawsuit against Gov. Walz over pause on youth sports

Let Them Play MN filed the lawsuit on behalf of several unnamed youth players and coaches.

Lane kueng thao chauvin

Chauvin will be tried separately in George Floyd's death

Chauvin's trial will begin March 8. The trial of the other former offices will begin in August.