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Amid reports that the wife of the white officer charged with murder in the death of George Floyd filed for divorce, false social media posts emerged claiming her brother was among the officers involved in the arrest.
“THE PLOT THICKENS!” shouted a Facebook post Saturday claiming that Derek Chauvin's wife, Kellie Chauvin, was the sister of an officer captured on video standing by as the 46-year-old black man cried out for help.
But Kellie Chauvin is not the sister of Tou Thao, one of the officers on the scene.
“Tou Thao is NOT Ms. Chauvin’s brother. I would GREATLY appreciate help putting that rumor to rest,” Amanda Mason-Sekula, her divorce lawyer, said in an email. “Her family has been harassed and threatened based on multiple incorrect reports.”
Kellie Chauvin, who competed for the title of Mrs. Minnesota in 2018 with the hope of becoming the first Hmong winner, does have a brother, but it’s not Thao. Her brother is a police officer in St. Paul, said Mason-Sekula, adding he was not involved in any aspect of Floyd’s death.
Both Kellie Chauvin and Thao are Asian. Kellie Chauvin was born in Laos in 1974. Her family fled to Thailand in 1977 following the war.
Posts making the false claim spread across Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, with the rumor swirling in Minneapolis’ Hmong community. The widely shared posts included side-by-side photos of Thao, Chauvin and Kellie Chauvin. Derek Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of the Floyd, which has lead to days of protests in the U.S. and violence. All four officers involved in the arrest were fired.
“Kellie Chauvin is the wife of Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao is Kellie Chauvin's brother," said one post on Instagram with more than 3,000 likes.
False information surrounding Floyd's death has snowballed on social media amid protests calling for justice in the killing of Floyd who had recently moved to Minneapolis to start a new life for himself.
Charges have not been filed against Thao and the other officers at the scene. Thao was sued in federal court in 2017 for alleged excessive force, according to online records obtained by The Associated Press. According to the lawsuit, Lamar Ferguson claimed that in 2014 Thao and his partner stopped him and beat him up while he was on his way to his girlfriend’s house. The lawsuit was settled for $25,000.
Associated Press writer Michael R. Sisak contributed to this report.