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Personnel records shed light on officers charged in Floyd’s death, show Derek Chauvin was an Army MP

Fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on George Floyd's neck, has been arrested on May 29, 2020 and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, prosecutors said. (Darnella Frazier/Facebook/Zuma Press/TNS) |The booking photos for Derek Chauvin released to the media by the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office on June 1, 2020. (Hennepin County Sheriff's Office via Sipa USA)

Derek Chauvin, the now-fired Minneapolis police officer charged with second degree murder in the death of George Floyd, worked in military police in the U.S. Army during his two years of active service, including a stint in Germany.

Chauvin’s military background is among the details in a cache of personnel records the Minneapolis Police Department released late Tuesday.

The heavily redacted files shed light on the four fired officers’ varied work lives. The records were released just hours after Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office upgraded Chauvin’s charge to second-degree murder and formally charged the other three officers who failed to intervene with aiding and abetting murder.

All four men remain jailed.

Chauvin, 44, who was caught on camera with his knee on Floyd’s neck, grew up in the St. Paul area. He attended Park High School in Cottage Grove, but did not graduate. After getting his GED he attended Dakota County Technical College, Inver Hills Community College and Metropolitan State University. Previous jobs include working security, and food service including at a McDonalds.

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Chauvin’s work record includes two periods of active service in the U.S. Army. From Sept. 1996 to Feb. 1997 he was stationed in Rochester, Minn. with a job in military police. He served again from Sept. 1999 to May, 2000 in military police, at Hohenfels, Germany. He described his job duties as including criminal investigations, traffic enforcement and proactive patrol.

Chauvin’s 19-year career with the Minneapolis Police Department, where he was involved with several police shootings, includes both commendations and more than 15 conducts complaints. Almost all the complaints were closed without discipline, records show, suggesting the allegations weren’t sustained. The nature of the complaints wasn’t made public.

The file includes the 2008 letter of reprimand Chauvin received for the two violations involving “discretion” and a squad car camera. “This case will remain a B violation and can be used as progressive discipline for three years,” the letter notes.

The letter doesn’t give any details of the incident. However, there is a complaint in the file from August, 2007 from a woman who accused Chauvin and another officer of pulling her from her car, frisking her and putting her in the squad car for going 10 mph over the speed limit. “Further investigation showed (redacted) did not have the audio on and the squad MVR tape had been turned off during course of stop.”

The file also shows a positive side to Chauvin’s work. It includes two letters from women commending him on his handling of domestic violence calls in 2008 and 2013.

Chauvin received a Medal of Commendation in 2008 for disarming a man outside the El Nuevo Rodeo club on E. Lake Street while working security off-duty in his uniform.

He was also recommended for a Medal of Valor in 2006. That recognition was related to the shooting death of Wayne Reyes, a stabbing suspect who fled in his truck with officers in pursuit. When Reyes stopped and climbed out of the truck, police said he swung his sawed-off shotgun toward the six officers. All fired.

Laid off, rehired

Tou Thao, 34, was videotaped watching as Chauvin pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.

The 11-year veteran and native Hmong speaker from Coon Rapids first applied to the department as a community service officer following stints in food service and as a security guard for medical device maker Boston Scientific.

He was among those laid off three days before Christmas in 2009 as the police department faced a $13 million budget shortfall. In a termination letter, a supervisor assured him the action was not related to his job performance, records show. Officials recalled him back to work almost exactly two years later.

Thao’s work history includes six unspecified police conduct complaints. Five were closed without discipline, but one was open at the time of his firing. Thao’s police training records were not included in the personnel records released.

Thao and another officer were the subjects of a 2017 police brutality lawsuit. Lamar Ferguson alleged that in 2014 the two officers told him they were serving a warrant for his arrest, then beat him, breaking his teeth, while he was handcuffed. The city of Minneapolis paid $25,000 to settle the civil rights case.

Rookie officers

The two rookie officers were first on the scene outside Cup Foods to arrest Floyd on Memorial Day. Neither have been the subject of any police conduct complaints, according to public records.

Thomas Lane, 37, of St. Paul, is detailed in charges as pointing a gun at Floyd before handcuffing him. Later, he can be heard on bystander videos questioning Chauvin’s restraint tactics twice during the encounter. He first suggests rolling Floyd on his side — a recommendation that goes unheeded. Lane also worries aloud about Floyd experiencing excited delirium. “That’s why we have him on his stomach,” Chauvin answered, according to the criminal complaint.

Despite his concerns, he did not act to forcibly remove Chauvin from Floyd’s neck.

According to his work file, Lane is a University of Minnesota graduate who worked with at-risk youth as a juvenile detention guard and probation officer in the Twin Cities before applying as a police recruit at age 35.

Application forms also list a litany of volunteer work mentoring Somali youth and school kids.

In an interview last week, a relative who asked not to be named out of fear of retaliation, cried as he described Lane as a “compassionate and amusing and insightful” person.

Lane, who was married in 2018, and was excited about continuing the family legacy in law enforcement, the relative said. His grandfather, Donald M. Mealey was a Minneapolis police detective who died in 2008 at 92. Other relatives also worked for the Minneapolis police.

The youngest of the four officers is J Alexander Kueng, a 26-year-old who, like Lane, received his law enforcement license last August. Kueng is of mixed race and identifies as African-American, according to someone close to him who asked not to be named.

Kueng was captain of the varsity soccer team at Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis where he graduated in 2012. He also played for the Cruz Azul Minnesota soccer club, according to a soccer recruiting website.

His file shows he attended the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis Community & Technical College and Monroe College, and is conversational in Russian.

Kueng’s work history includes a job as security monitor at the University of Minnesota, and working in loss prevention at Macy’s. He also worked at Target, and coached youth baseball and soccer at the Brooklyn Center Community Center.

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© 2020 the Star Tribune