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Officer in Floyd Death Has Record of Medals for Valor, and Complaints

The Minneapolis police officer who was the first to be charged last week for the death of George Floyd was the most experienced of the four officers who were involved in the arrest.

Derek Chauvin’s record included medals for bravery, as well as 17 complaints against him. That includes one for pulling a woman out of her car during a speeding stop.

The details emerged as prosecutors upgraded Chauvin’s charge to second-degree murder on Wednesday, while charging the other officers with aiding and abetting in the case.

Redacted personnel files show that Chauvin, who was a 19-year veteran of the force, was initially trained as a cook and later served in the Army as a military police officer.

Meanwhile, 11-year veteran Tou Thao began as a community service officer, and had received six complaints. The other two officers were Thomas Lane, a former juvenile detention guard who did volunteer work with Somali refugees, and J. Alexander Kueng, who started in law enforcement by patrolling his college campus and a department store.

One of the 17 complaints against Chauvin was detailed in the files, while none of the six against Thao were mentioned. In addition, no further detail was provided about a 2017 excessive force lawsuit against Thao.

However, records show that 44-year-old Chauvin studied cooking before taking courses in law enforcement. He also served twice in the Army as a military police officer in the late 1990s.

He became a Minneapolis police officer in 2001. The only reprimand in his employee file involves a 2007 incident in which he was accused of pulling a woman from her car for going 10 mph over the speed limit. Investigators later found that it was not necessary for Chauvin to do so. Additionally, they noted that his squad car video had been turned off during the traffic stop.

The files also show that he won two medals of valor, one in 2006 for being among a group of officers who shot a stabbing suspect who pointed a shotgun at them, and another two years later for a domestic violence incident in which Chauvin shot the suspect in the stomach after breaking down a bathroom door.

He also won medals of commendation in 2008 for his part in tackling a fleeing suspect who had a pistol in his hand. The following year, Chauvin apprehended a group of gang members while working as an off-duty security guard at a Minneapolis nightclub.

Cellphone video of Floyd’s May 25 arrest showed Chauvin putting his left knee on Floyd’s neck while Lane held the man’s legs. Kueng was seen holding Floyd’s back as Thao stood between the officers and onlookers, according to the charging documents.

Floyd could be heard repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe.”