Crime, Law and Justice

Minneapolis pays $9 million to settle Chauvin excessive force suits

Two men
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, left, discusses the city's nearly $9 million settlement with John Pope and Zoya Code, who sued the city and former officer Derek Chauvin over allegations of excessive force dating to 2017.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

Updated 4:05 p.m.

The Minneapolis City Council on Thursday approved settlements totaling nearly $9 million with two people who alleged that former police officer Derek Chauvin used excessive force against them.

John Pope, 20, and Zoya Code, 40, sued the city last year, alleging that Chauvin kneeled on their necks in separate incidents in 2017.

Chauvin killed George Floyd in 2020 by using a similar restraint. The former police officer is serving a prison sentence of 22 1/2 years for Floyd's murder and a concurrent federal sentence on related civil rights charges.

Pope, who was 14 at the time of his encounter with Chauvin, settled for $7.5 million. Code settled for $1.375 million.

According to court documents, Code’s mother called 911 and said that Code had tried to choke her with an extension cord. Code has said she merely tried to grab the cord as her mother was swinging it.

Two Minneapolis officers responded, including Chauvin. Inside the house, they grabbed Code and handcuffed her. Chauvin wrenched Code’s handcuffed arms up behind her head and carried her outside, as the other officer carried her feet.

Chauvin then slammed Code’s head to the ground and kneeled on her neck for nearly five minutes.

Two months later, Pope’s mother called 911 following an argument about phone chargers.

On edited body camera video that the plaintiffs’ attorney released Thursday, Pope is heard arguing with police, but he does not resist arrest. Chauvin struck Pope in the head with a flashlight multiple times before putting him in a chokehold, then pinned him to the floor for more than 15 minutes with his knee on Pope’s upper back and neck.

The force used against Code and Pope “is an example of the cancer that has infected this department,” Brian O’Hara, the Minneapolis police chief, said after the council’s vote.

O’Hara, who took over the department late last year, said Chauvin’s badge number has been “destroyed” and will not be reused.

Body camera footage shows that Chauvin had a practice of using excessive force, said Bob Bennett, the attorney who represented Pope and Code in their suits against the city.

The failure of other officers to intervene or report Chauvin’s actions is “evidence of a systemic failure and a department’s culture that totally lacked the ability to hold itself accountable to professional standards,” Bennett added.

City Council member Elliott Payne called Chauvin's actions a sign of the larger culture problem within the police department.

"These cases are a reminder that he got to exist that way as part of our institution,” Payne said. “And it's actually not a Derek Chauvin problem. It's an institution problem.”

On Thursday after the settlements were announced, Robins Kaplan released a Google Folder containing videos that include body-worn camera footage from each case. The two videos were edited by the law firm and contain graphic images depicting officers use of force.

A graphic showing payout amounts
Payouts stemming from officer misconduct that the city of Minneapolis has distributed from 2006 to 2022. The city paid $20 million to the family of Justine Ruszczyk in 2019 and $27 million to the family of George Floyd in 2021.
Courtesy of the City of Minneapolis