Minneapolis, MN. – On behalf of its clients John Pope and Zoya Code, Robins Kaplan LLP announced today two settlements, totaling $8,875,000, with the City of Minneapolis. John Pope will receive $7,500,000 and Zoya Code will receive $1,375,000 of that settlement total.
In the plaintiffs’ lawsuits against the City, former police officer Derek Chauvin, and several additional Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officers, the complaints alleged police misconduct, use of excessive force, and racial discrimination from incidents dating back to 2017, three years before Chauvin murdered George Floyd.
In these incidents, body-worn camera recordings from Chauvin and the other named officers showed that Chauvin employed many of the same unchecked excessive force tactics he later used in his murder of George Floyd, for which he was sentenced to 22 ½ years in prison in 2021. Chauvin was never disciplined for these incidents by the MPD, which had possession of the video evidence of his misconduct. Nor were any of the other involved officers disciplined.
In 2017, John Pope was 14 years old when MPD was called to his house for a domestic disturbance. Chauvin entered Pope’s bedroom, where he was lying quietly on the floor using his cell phone. As Pope explained what had happened, the officers became increasingly aggressive in their demands. Though Pope posed no threat to the officers or anyone else, Chauvin rushed Pope and struck him multiple times on the head with a large metal flashlight. He then choked Pope around his neck before pinning Pope to the floor with his knee—the same tactic he used on George Floyd—and held him in the prone position for 15 minutes while Pope repeatedly cried that he could not breathe. At least eight other MPD officers witnessed the scene, yet none stepped in to intervene, nor did any report the event as they were required to do. Worse yet, the defendant Sergeant Lucas Peterson approved Chauvin’s excessive force and tried to explain the approval to John while his wounds were being sutured at Hennepin County Medical Center.
In a strikingly similar 2017 incident, Chauvin used excessive force on Zoya Code despite her not posing a threat to MPD officers or anyone else. While she was in handcuffs and not resisting arrest, Chauvin repeatedly used excessive force, torquing her handcuffed wrists and arms upward and behind her head, all while she was face down. Chauvin also slammed Code’s head on the ground and pinned his knee on the back of her neck, like in the Pope and Floyd incidents, and then placed her in a “hobble” restraint for no reason. Code remained in the hobbled, prone position with Chauvin pressing his knee and body weight on her neck for 4 minutes and 41 seconds. A second MPD officer on the scene failed to intervene, and the responding supervisory Sergeant approved the force. No discipline was levied on Chauvin.
Robins Kaplan partner Bob Bennett, who represented Pope and Code, issued the following statement:
“Beware the ease of blaming Chauvin alone. While he is a blunt instrument of police brutality and racism, he could never flourish in a police agency that lived up to its mission statement. Focus instead on the MPD rank and file who supported Chauvin with their unquestioning obedience, failure to intervene to stop his heinous acts, and their failure to report them per policy and human conscience. Focus instead on the command and control of the MPD who, while possessing all the damning evidence, allowed Chauvin to field train and indoctrinate dozens of young MPD officers to his ways without fear of discipline or negative sanction and to continue his predatory ways for years.”