MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - A white Minneapolis police officer and the black man he’s charged with killing both worked as security guards at the same Latin nightclub as recently as last year, but its former owner says she’s not sure if they knew each other.
Officer Derek Chauvin worked at the El Nuevo Rodeo club as off-duty security for nearly two decades. Maya Santamaria told The Associated Press that George Floyd had worked there only more recently for about a dozen events that featured African American music.
Santamaria said she doesn’t believe the two knew each other before their encounter Monday night when the officer was seen on cellphone video kneeling on Floyd's neck. Santamaria says that if the officer had recognized Floyd, “He might have given him a little more mercy.”
Chauvin was seen in a video kneeling on Floyd’s neck as Floyd repeatedly said “I can’t breathe.” The officer continued to press his knee onto Floyd’s neck even after he lost consciousness. None of the other officers at the scene attempted to check on Floyd until after the ambulance arrived, despite bystanders’ pleas.Floyd later died at the hospital.
Santamaria sold the venue within the past two months. She says Chauvin got along well with the regular Latino customers, but didn’t like to work the African American nights. When he did, and there was a fight, he would spray people with mace and call for police backup. She says a half dozen squad cars would soon show up, something she felt was unjustified “overkill."
Chauvin was fired Tuesday and arrested Friday on charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter. The three other officers who took part in the arrest were also fired, and they remain under investigation.
Police nationwide, in unequivocal and unprecedented language, condemned the actions of Minneapolis police in the custody death of a handcuffed black man who cried for help as an officer knelt on his neck, pinning him to the pavement for at least eight minutes.
“There is no need to see more video,” Chattanooga, Tennessee, Police Chief David Roddy tweeted Wednesday. “There no need to wait to see how ‘it plays out’. There is no need to put a knee on someone’s neck for NINE minutes. There IS a need to DO something. If you wear a badge and you don’t have an issue with this ... turn it in.”
The reaction from some law enforcement stands in stark contrast to their muted response or support for police after other in-custody fatalities. Sheriffs and police chiefs have strongly criticized the Minneapolis officer on social media and praised the city’s police chief for his quick dismissal of four officers at the scene. Some even called for them to be criminally charged.
“I am deeply disturbed by the video of Mr. Floyd being murdered in the street with other officers there letting it go on,” Polk County, Georgia, Sheriff Johnny Moats wrote on Facebook. “I can assure everyone, me or any of my deputies will never treat anyone like that as long as I’m Sheriff. This kind of brutality is terrible and it needs to stop. All Officers involved need to be arrested and charged immediately. Praying for the family.”
Typically, police call for patience and calm in the wake of a use of force. They are reluctant to weigh in on episodes involving another agency, often citing ongoing investigations or due process.
“Not going hide behind ‘not being there,’" tweeted San Jose Police, California, Chief Eddie Garcia. "I’d be one of the first to condemn anyone had I seen similar happen to one of my brother/ sister officers. What I saw happen to George Floyd disturbed me and is not consistent with the goal of our mission. The act of one, impacts us all.”
KMSP contributed to this report.