Prosecutors of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin want to include at his upcoming trial body camera footage from a 2017 arrest that shows him kneeling on the back of a 14-year-old boy who says he couldn't breathe.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree unintentional murder and manslaughter in connection to George Floyd's May 25 death. Video of the moments before Floyd died showed Chauvin kneeling on him for several minutes, during which Floyd said multiple times he couldn't breathe.
Prosecutors filed a memorandum of law Monday in Hennepin County District Court in hopes of getting the 2017 bodycam footage from the separate alleged incident included at trial. They say the video rebuts the defense team's argument that Chauvin used reasonable force in his interaction with Floyd nearly three years later and helps show a pattern of excessive force by Chauvin.
"This incident shows that, when faced with a suspect who does not immediately comply with his demands, Chauvin intentionally uses a level of unreasonable force to accomplish subdual and restraint," assistant state Attorney General Matthew Frank wrote in the filing.
Prosecutors detail the Sept. 4, 2017, arrest in the court filing, saying Chauvin and another officer named Wells responded to a domestic assault call in which the mom said she'd been assaulted by her son and daughter.
After 33 seconds of talking to the boy, telling him he was being arrested, both officers grabbed him and when he resisted, Chauvin hit him with a flashlight twice, at which point the boy called out for his mom and said they were hurting him, prosecutors say.
Chauvin then asked the other officer to Taser the boy, but he didn't have one, so Chauvin applied a neck restraint that caused the boy to lose consciousness and go to the ground, prosecutors said. The officers handcuffed him behind his back while Chauvin knelt on him for about 17 minutes until after paramedics arrived and they put him in an ambulance.
During the time Chauvin's knee was on his back, the boy – whose ear was bleeding – repeatedly told officers he couldn't breathe and asked to be placed on his back, which didn't happen, prosecutors said.
The filing says:
"As was true with the conduct with George Floyd, Chauvin rapidly escalated his use of force for a relatively minor offense. Just like with Floyd, Chauvin used an unreasonable amount of force without regard for the need for that level of force or the victim’s well-being. Just like with Floyd, when the child was slow to comply with Chauvin and Walls’ instructions, Chauvin grabbed the child by the throat, forced him to the ground in the prone position, and placed his knee on the child’s neck with so much force that the child began to cry out in pain and tell Chauvin he could not breathe. And just like with Floyd, Chauvin ignored those pleas and refused to provide medical assistance. Instead, Chauvin held the child down with his knee on the child’s neck and back for nearly 17 minutes."
Chauvin's attorney Eric Nelson responded to the state's motion, arguing the video shouldn't be admissible because the force Chauvin used in the 2017 arrest was in line with the department's policy on dealing with uncooperative suspects, adding that Chauvin's use of force was "reported to supervisors and cleared."
“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,” Nelson wrote, adding that there is "no marked similarity" between this incident and the Floyd incident.
The Minneapolis Police Department has since changed its use of force policy. In June, after Floyd's death, it banned chokeholds and neck restraints.
Part of a pattern
Monday's filing comes after the state previously filed motions to introduce evidence (called Spreigl evidence) related to 18 different incidents involving the four officers charged in Floyd's death. Seven of the incidents – including the 2017 arrest – involved Chauvin, with prosecutors saying these prior incidents show the former officer's pattern of excessive force.
The bodycam footage from the 2017 arrest was not included in the previous Spreigl evidence filing because prosecutors said they only recently obtained the footage. Prosecutors want the video included at trial because the video is a "far more violent and forceful treatment of this child than Chauvin describes in his report. The videos show Chauvin's use of unreasonable force towards this child and complete disdain for his well-being."
Chauvin's report on the incident says the 14-year-old boy "displayed active resistance to efforts to take him into custody," noting he was "flailing his arms around," court documents state. Chauvin felt that if the boy wasn't arrested, the boy would "escalate his efforts to not be arrested." Due to his large size (6-foot-2 and 240 pounds), Chauvin struck him a few times and then applied a neck restraint, using his body weight to pin him to the floor while they waited for an ambulance.
Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill has not ruled on Monday's filings or the other motions related to the Spreigl evidence.
Chauvin's trial is set to start on March 8. He'll be tried with his co-defendants, former officers Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, who are each charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.