Two Minneapolis residents file lawsuits against ex-officer who killed Floyd

FILE PHOTO: Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is sentenced after being found guilty of the murder of George Floyd
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By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) - Two Black Minneapolis residents on Tuesday filed federal civil rights lawsuits against Derek Chauvin, the white former police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd, alleging he had dealt with them similarly in the past.

John Pope Jr and Zoya Code claimed racism and civil rights violations in the lawsuits, lawyers representing them told reporters. The lawsuits stem from incidents that go back to 2017.

Floyd, a Black man suspected of passing a counterfeit bill, was killed in May 2020 when Chauvin knelt on his neck as three other officers watched. The incident triggered a wave of protests over racial injustice across the world.

Chauvin was sentenced to 22-1/2 years in prison last year after his conviction on murder charges. He pleaded guilty in federal court to charges he violated Floyd's civil rights.

Pope was 14 years old in 2017 when officers were called to his home for a reported domestic disturbance. Chauvin was one of the officers who responded, and he entered Pope’s bedroom, where Pope was on his cell phone and lying face down on the floor, the lawyers said on Tuesday.

"Chauvin rushed Pope and struck him multiple times on the head with a large flashlight" and "pinned Pope to the floor with his knee, the same tactic he used on George Floyd," they said.

In the case of Code, attorneys alleged Chauvin also used excessive force, adding he slammed her head on the ground and put his knee on the back of her neck.

Chauvin’s attorneys were not immediately available for comment.

Criminal charges against both Pope and Code were eventually dropped. Joining their lawyers in Tuesday's press briefing, the plaintiffs said they were left traumatized after Chauvin's actions. Their lawsuits also name the city of Minneapolis as a defendant.

"The incidents involving John Pope and Zoya Code are disturbing. We intend to move forward in negotiations with the Plaintiffs on these two matters and hope we can reach a reasonable settlement," the Minneapolis City Attorney's Office said.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Frank McGurty and Matthew Lewis)