Before former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, he displayed obvious warning signs and a propensity for violence over and over and over again.
The Minneapolis Police Department chose to ignore it.
During his nearly two decades with the MPD, Chauvin received at least 17 complaints against him. Of the 17 known complaints, Chauvin was only disciplined twice with a mere letter of reprimand. A letter.
Although police misconduct reports are closed to the public, we are aware of the circumstances surrounding a few of the complaints — and they all included violence.
In 2006, Chauvin was one of six officers who shot and killed a man at the scene of a stabbing. Despite an investigation that found the situation to be “unclear,” no further action was taken by the police department to get to the bottom of the incident.
Two years later, Chauvin responded to a domestic assault 911 call and shot the perpetrator twice in the stomach.
And then, in 2020, he kneeled on a man’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, ultimately killing him.
Of all the complaints against Chauvin, only one victim has decided to come forward since Floyd’s murder: Kristopher Bergh, a 24-year-old white male who recalled getting accosted by Chauvin and another officer in a “terrifying” incident in 2013.
The then-17-year-old and his friends were shooting each other with Nerf guns as part of an end-of-school-year tradition when one of them shot a Nerf dart from a vehicle that may have struck a passerby. In response, Bergh and his friends were confronted by the officers, who had their guns drawn.
Bergh recounted that the officers escalated the situation by aiming their guns at the teens while shouting expletives like “get back in the fucking car” and “put your hands in the fucking air.” When one of the teens confessed to shooting a Nerf dart, they detained that teen in their squad car, where they “verbally berated” him.
Afterward, Bergh filed a complaint against the officers citing “inappropriate language and attitude.” Two months later, he received a response that apologized for the negative interaction he had with the officers but informed him that any discipline that the officers may have received is not disclosed to the public.
But one thing is clear: Chauvin never lost his job. He was never in any danger of losing his job. In fact, in 2008, he was awarded a medal of valor and was recognized again two years later. Yet, when Bergh heard the news of Floyd’s brutal murder, he was not surprised.
“I think Derek Chauvin intentionally escalated incidents because he enjoyed having that power over people.”
“I am white, as was everybody in the vehicle. I had been thinking about this incident in relation to George Floyd’s death before even realizing that it was the same officer… My initial conclusion was that our white privilege likely saved our lives that day.”
This article was originally published in May 2020.
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Michelle Vincent is a project manager and freelance writer. She enjoys traveling, is worried she won’t love her future children as much as she loves her dogs, and is actively recruiting podcast recommendations.