George Floyd's family files lawsuit against city of Minneapolis, four police officers involved in his arrest

George Floyd's family files lawsuit against city of Minneapolis, four police officers involved in his arrest
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Attorneys representing the family of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died earlier this year in Minneapolis police custody, have filed a civil suit against the city of Minneapolis and the four officers involved in his arrest.

The civil suit filed on Wednesday seeks compensatory and special damages for Floyd's family and accused the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) of training its officers to use deadly force in nondeadly circumstances. The file also claimed the city has “frequently” failed “to terminate or discipline officers who demonstrate patterns of misconduct.”

The complaint said the MPD “observed unlawful or otherwise improper conduct” carried out by former officer Derek Chauvin, "but has tolerated it and refused to remedy or mitigate it.”

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“Upon information and belief, Chauvin was the subject of 17 citizen complaints from 2006 to 2015, only one of which resulted in discipline, in the form of a letter of reprimand,” the lawsuit stated. The suit claimed Chauvin had previously “engaged in a reckless police chase resulting in the deaths of three individuals” in 2005 but was not discharged from the local department. 

Chauvin was recorded in bystander footage pinning Floyd down behind a police car with his knee on the detainee's neck. The officer held his knee there despite Floyd's pleas that he could not breathe, and several minutes later, Floyd was unresponsive. 

Chauvin was fired from his job the same week and was later arrested on charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter. 

The lawsuit claimed the department also observed unlawful or improper conduct by Tou Thao, another former Minneapolis police officer who was involved in Floyd’s arrest who is now facing charges. However, throughout his career, the attorneys argue, the department “tolerated it and refused to remedy or mitigate it.”

“Upon information and belief, Thao was the subject of six citizen complaints from 2013 to 2017, none of which have resulted in discipline,” the suit stated. “In 2017, Thao was the subject of a lawsuit for his use of excessive force, which the City of Minneapolis paid money to settle on his behalf.”

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Thao and former officers J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane — who were both involved in Floyd's arrest — have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

The suit pointed to current investigations underway into the department’s “unlawful race-based policing," which attorneys said "deprives people of color, particularly Black community members, of their civil rights," and noted allegations brought against MPD Lieutenant Bob Kroll, who also heads the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis. 

“Kroll has been accused by fellow officers, including now-Chief [Medaria] Arradondo, of publicly wearing a jacket with a patch depicting a racist ‘white power’ logo. In recent years, Kroll, as president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, has publicly referred to the Black Lives Matter movement as a ‘terrorist organization,’” the suit states.

The lawsuit goes on to accuse the MPD of ratifying a “culture of systemic racism and disparate treatment of the Black Community, by failing to remove" or discipline Kroll, whom attorneys for Floyd’s family also accused of encouraging officers to “behave aggressively.” 

The attorneys argue that the police department did not provide adequate training on prone restraint, despite “the well-known risk of death associated with placing a subject in prolonged prone restraint." The lawyers said Floyd was kept by officers in a “prone position” for nearly nine minutes during his arrest. 

The complaint seeks a money judgement against all four officers for damages as well as the city, which it notes is responsible for the police department's actions, and calls for the “appointment of a receiver or similar authority” to ensure that the city properly trains and supervises its officers.

Erik Nilsson, interim city attorney for Minneapolis, said in a statement to The Hill on Wednesday that the city “is reviewing the civil lawsuit filed by his family and will be responding to it.”

“Criminal charges are pending against four Minneapolis police officers and it’s very important that the criminal case proceed without interference,” he added.

--Updated on July 16 at 11:07 a.m.