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Amanuel Soquar stands outside the home of fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in Oakdale, Minn., on Wednesday, May 27, 2020.

Jeff Wheeler/The Associated Press

A white Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck opened fire on two people during his 19-year career and had nearly 20 complaints and two letters of reprimand filed against him.

Derek Chauvin, 44, became the focus of street protests and a federal investigation after he was seen in cellphone video kneeling on the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old a black man, for almost eight minutes Monday night during his arrest on a suspicion of passing a counterfeit bill. Floyd, who was handcuffed and heard saying he couldn’t breathe, was pronounced dead later that night.

Chauvin, whose driveway was splattered with red paint and the graffiti “murderer,” has not spoken publicly since Floyd’s death and his attorney did not respond to calls seeking comment. He and the other three officers involved in Floyd’s arrest were fired Tuesday.

In 2008, Chauvin shot Ira Latrell Toles as he was responding to a domestic dispute.

According to a Pioneer Press account of the incident, a 911 operator received a call from an apartment and heard a woman yelling for someone to stop hitting her. Chauvin and another officer arrived just as Toles locked himself in the bathroom. Chauvin forced his way into the bathroom. Toles went for Chauvin’s gun and Chauvin shot him twice in the stomach. Toles survived and was charged with two counts of felony obstruction.

Toles told the Daily Beast that the mother of his child called police that night and he fled into the bathroom after officers broke down the apartment door. Chauvin then broke down the bathroom door and started to hit him without warning. He said he fought back in self-defence and was too disoriented to go for Chauvin’s gun.

Toles said he ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour charge and still feels pain from the shooting.

“He tried to kill me in that bathroom,” Toles said.

Minneapolis City Council records show that Chauvin also moonlighted as a bouncer at a downtown Latin nightclub. He was among a group of six officers who opened fire on a stabbing suspect in 2006 after a chase that ended when the suspect pointed a sawed-off shotgun at them. The suspect, Wayne Reyes, was hit multiple times and died. A grand jury decided the use of force was justified.

It has also emerged that Chauvin and Floyd both worked at the nightclub as recently as last year, but its former owner says she’s not sure if they knew each other.

What she is certain of is how aggressive Officer Derek Chauvin became when the club hosted events that drew a mainly black clientele, responding to fights by taking out his mace and spraying the crowd, a tactic she told him was unjustified “overkill.”

“He would mace everyone instead of apprehending the people who were fighting,” said Maya Santamaria, former owner of El Nuevo Rodeo club in Minneapolis. “He would call backup. The next thing you would know, there would five or six squad cars.”

While Chauvin’s off-duty job at the El Nuevo Rodeo club stretched over 17 years until a few months ago, Floyd only started working there recently as a bouncer and only worked about a dozen events put on by “African American promoters.”

Santamaria, who sold the venue within the past two months, said she doesn’t believe the two men knew each other prior to their fateful encounter Monday night. If Chauvin had recognized Floyd, she said, “he might have given him a little more mercy.”

She said Chauvin got along well with the club’s Latino regulars, but his tactics toward unruly customers on what she referred to as “African American” nights led her to speak to him about it.

“I told him I thought this is unnecessary to be pepper-sprayed. The knee-jerk reaction of being afraid, it seemed overkill,” Santamaria said. “It was a concern and I did voice my opinion, but police officers have a way of justifying what they do.”

Thomas Kelly, a lawyer for Chauvin, didn’t immediately reply to messages left Friday seeking comment.

Online city records also show that 17 complaints have been filed against Chauvin. Sixteen complaints were closed with no discipline. The remaining complaint generated two letters of reprimand, with one apparently related to the use of a squad car dashboard camera. The records don’t include any details on the substance of the complaints.

Chauvin also was among a group of five officers in 2011 who chased down a man named Leroy Martinez in a housing complex after they spotted him running with a pistol. One of the officers, Terry Nutter, shot Martinez in the torso. Martinez survived. All the officers were placed on leave but absolved of any wrongdoing, with Police Chief Timothy Dolan saying they acted “appropriately and courageously.”

Less is known about the other three officers involved in Floyd’s arrest.

Online court records indicate that the officer who stood guard at the scene, Tou Thao, was sued in federal court in 2017 for alleged excessive force. According to the lawsuit, Lamar Ferguson claimed Thao and his partner stopped him as he was walking to his girlfriend’s house in 2014 for no reason and beat him up. The city ultimately settled the lawsuit for $25,000.

City records show six complaints have been filed against Thao. Five were closed with no discipline. One remains open. The records didn’t include any further details.

Thomas Lane joined the force as a cadet in March 2019, according to online city records. No information about J. Alexander Kueng’s service history was immediately available. City records show no complaints against either of them. Attorneys for Thao and Kueng didn’t return messages. Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, declined to comment.

On Friday, protesters gathered in front of another Chauvin home in Windermere, Florida, which he has owned since 2011 with his wife, Kellie, a Laotian refugee, realtor and former Mrs. Minnesota pageant winner.

Both Chauvin and his wife have registered to vote there, rather than in Minnesota, records show. Chauvin last cast a ballot in Florida in November 2018. His wife’s registration is listed as inactive. Both are Republicans.

“I don’t mind peaceful protests at all,” said Oscar Reyes who lives across the street in the quiet neighbourhood near Orlando. “I hope everything stays safe.”

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