The family of George Floyd on Wednesday filed a 40-page federal civil lawsuit against the City of Minneapolis and the four officers already accused criminally of murdering Floyd on May 25.
The officers—Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng—are sued in their individual capacities as former police officers. The plaintiff is listed as Kaarin Nelson Schaffer, a Minneapolis-area attorney who is serving as a trustee for Floyd’s next of kin.
The civil lawsuit accuses the officers and the city of three counts for allegedly violating Floyd’s rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a federal civil rights statute, and under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
It further accuses the Minneapolis Police Department of illegally training its officers to apply pressure to the necks of suspects. It even accuses the department of promoting a culture of killing suspects and accuses a top lieutenant and union official of wearing a “racist ‘white power'” logo attached to his jacket.
The lawsuit characterizes Floyd as cooperative and casts the officers as aggressors.
“Defendants Lane and Kueng placed Mr. Floyd under arrest and secured both of Mr. Floyd’s hands in handcuffs behind his back without incident,” the lawsuit says of the early interactions between Floyd and the four officers.
“Mr. Floyd did not physically resist arrest,” the lawsuit then states. “Mr. Floyd was unarmed and did not at any point physically or verbally threaten the officers, nor did he attempt to flee. After he was securely handcuffed, Mr. Floyd remained calm and complied with each of the officers’ commands as directed, including sitting down against a wall and walking with the officers across the street without incident.”
Later, it says, “Without provocation or justification, the Defendant Officers took Mr. Floyd to the ground and placed him face down in the street, with the left side of his face pressed against the pavement.”
The lawsuit eventually says then-officer Thomas Lane was the one who suggested taking Floyd to the ground and pinning him down.
“Despite Mr. Floyd expressing claustrophobia and distress, Lane suggested to the other officers they employ the “maximal restraint technique”- a technique in which an arrestee is restrained in a prone position,” the lawsuit alleges. “Without provocation or justification, the Defendant Officers took Mr. Floyd to the ground and placed him face down in the street, with the left side of his face pressed against the pavement.”
Ex-cop Tou Thao is said to have told a concerned onlooker, “Don’t do drugs, guys.”
The lawsuit also says Thao told an onlooker who identified herself as Minneapolis Fire Department health care worker to “get on the sidewalk.”
“The entire time Mr. Floyd was kept in that prone position, he remained handcuffed, compliant, and within the complete physical control of the three officers kneeling on top of him,” the lawsuit says. “While Mr. Floyd was kept in the prone position, he never resisted or attempted to flee.”
The lawsuit further argues that the Minneapolis Police Department illegally trained its officers to use “neck restraints” as “an authorized form of non-deadly force.”
Chokeholds were considered deadly force. However, “MPD trained its officers that a proper ‘neck restraint’ required the officer to ‘[c]ompress veins. arteries, nerves & muscles of the neck,'” the lawsuit says.
Therefore, contrary to the department’s pronouncements, “[s]erious bodily injury and/or death is reasonably likely to result from an officer ‘compress[ing] a person’s veins, arteries, nerves & muscles of the neck,’ regardless of whether direct pressure is applied to the front or back of the neck,” the lawsuit goes on to argue.
Legally, “[t]he Fourth Amendment prohibits the use of deadly force in non-deadly circumstances which do not pose an immediate threat of serious bodily injury and/or death,” the document reads. “It has long been known by the law enforcement community that the use of neck restraints on subjects can lead to death. However, from at least April 15, 2012 until June 8, 2020, Minneapolis Police Department Policy 5-311 defined a neck restraint as ‘non-deadly force’ and did not warn it can cause death.”
The document says the practice was common:
The City of Minneapolis possessed data indicating that since 2012, neck restraints/holds were used by its police officers on 428 people at an average rate of about one a week. Of those 428 people, 14% who were subjected to a neck restraint/hold lost consciousness.
[ . . . ]
Training offered by the City of Minneapolis in 2014 and received by Chauvin and Thao authorized and instructed on the use of neck restraints by officers, presented it to officers as a “non-deadly force” option, and included instruction on how to employ neck restraints in order to most efficiently render subjects unconscious.
[ . . . ]
At all times material hereto, MPD trained its officers that a “neck restraint” could be used in non-deadly situations despite the fact that it constituted deadly force as utilized by MPD.
The lawsuit accuses the MPD of using similar tactics in the officer-involved death of David Smith. It says the MPD promised as part of a settlement with Smith’s family to stop using such restraint techniques but ultimately never did so. Instead, the lawsuit alleges that the MPD continued internally to “promote a false narrative” that Smith’s death resulted from “‘excited delirium’ instead of asphyxiation.”
The lawsuit further accuses the MPD of ‘killology’ or ‘warrior style’ training, which played a role in the officer-involved killing of Philando Castile.
Up and until 2019, the City of Minneapolis permitted officers to receive “Killology” or “warrior style” training, which teaches officers to consider every person and every situation as a potential deadly threat and to kill “less hesitantly.”
[ . . . ]
High-ranking officers and agents of the MPD, including [Lieutenant Bob] Kroll, encouraged all officers to receive warrior-style police training. High-ranking officers and agents of the MPD, including Kroll, offered this training free of charge to all officers of the MPD who wanted to receive it
[ . . . ]
Kroll has further encouraged officers to behave aggressively, stating that MPD officers who do not receive citizen complaints are “low-level slugs” who “[don’t] get out and investigate anything. And that’s not what we’re paying our officers to do.” Kroll has stated that policing should be viewed like “a basketball game, in that if you’re not getting any fouls, you aren’t playing hard enough.” The City of Minneapolis and high-ranking members of the MPD are aware that Kroll is an influencer for rank-and-file officers, and that its officers follow his lead with regard to law enforcement beliefs and behaviors.
Kroll was accused of wearing a jacket with a “white power” logo attached to it via a patch, the lawsuit says. Among the accusers in that situation were current Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo.
The Floyd family’s lawsuit further says the city failed to terminate dangerous officers from MPD ranks and overlooked “racially biased” and “race-based” police tactics.
READ the lawsuit below:
[image via Attorney Ben Crump]
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