Editors’s note, June 3: Attorney General Keith Ellison's office upgraded charges against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, and charged the other three officers at the scene with aiding and abetting murder.
As the Twin Cities enter an anxious and uncertain weekend, fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is in custody and accused of murder, while the three other ex-officers present at George Floyd’s fatal arrest are keeping an extremely low profile.
Tou Thao, videotaped watching as Chauvin continued to press on Floyd’s neck with his knee, has left Minnesota, his lawyer confirmed Friday. Criminal defense attorney Robert Paule said Thao is “safely elsewhere” and that he couldn’t comment further.
J Alexander Kueng, one of the two first officers at the scene who helped pin Floyd down, is believed to be staying with family in Minneapolis. Thomas K. Lane has left and didn’t tell anyone where he was going, a relative said Friday.
Protests continued to erupt across the Twin Cities after Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced murder and manslaughter charges against Chauvin and said he anticipated charges against Thao, Kueng and Lane but declined to speculate what they would be.
With social media pages scrubbed, phones turned off or disconnected, and people now fearing violence, details on the men are getting hard to come by.
Chauvin, 44, the man at the center of the crisis, is married, but his wife Kellie issued a statement through her attorney Friday saying that she is filing for divorce.
“She is devastated by Mr. Floyd’s death and her utmost sympathy lies with his family, with his loved ones and with everyone who is grieving this tragedy,” said the statement from Sekula Family Law Offices of Minneapolis. “While Ms. Chauvin has no children from her current marriage, she respectfully requests that her children, her elder parents, and her extended family be given safety and privacy during this difficult time.”
Both Derek and Kellie Chauvin have worked in real estate. Kellie Chauvin holds an active real estate license and has worked at ReMax Results in Woodbury. Derek Chauvin, too, has a real estate license, records show, listing an Apple Valley business address with Realty Group. The license is currently inactive. Realty Group spokeswoman Stacy Bettison said Chauvin worked as an independent contractor there for about six months in late 2018 and early 2019.
He worked uniformed off-duty security for years at El Nuevo Rodeo, a large E. Lake Street dance club in Minneapolis. A block from the Third Precinct, it’s the neighborhood that has experienced some of the heaviest rioting.
According to the former owner Maya Santamaria, Chauvin worked the club most weekends for about 16 years and “really became my main guy here.”
For about a year, George Floyd also worked security at the club, but she said she doesn’t think Floyd and Chauvin crossed paths.
She and Chauvin were friends, she said. But customers did complain about him, she said. Chauvin was quick to get hard core, Santamaria said, and was uneasy with the crowds on “Twerk Fest Tuesdays” when the club catered to more black patrons.
“I’ve seen him in action and I’ve seen him lose it and I’ve called him out on it before,” she said. “I’ve told him it’s unnecessary and unjustified some of the ways that he behaves. He just loses it.”
Chauvin’s work history at the Minneapolis Police Department includes more than 15 conduct complaints over his 19 years with the department.
Almost all the complaints were closed without discipline, police internal affairs records show, suggesting the allegations weren’t sustained. The nature of the complaints wasn’t made public.
In 2011, he was among the officers at the scene when Minneapolis officer Terry Nutter shot and wounded Leroy Martinez near the Little Earth community. According to police, Nutter fired after Martinez, suspected in a different shooting, raised his gun and wouldn’t drop it. Martinez recovered and was charged in the earlier shooting.
In 2008, Chauvin shot and wounded Ira Latrell Toles during a domestic assault call. When Chauvin and his partner arrived at the south Minneapolis apartment, Toles holed up in the bathroom. Chauvin forced his way in and during a struggle Toles allegedly grabbed for Chauvin’s gun and Chauvin fired, hitting him in the abdomen.
In 2006, Chauvin and five other officers responded to a 911 call about a stabbing in south Minneapolis. The suspect, Wayne Reyes, tried to drive away in his truck, then pulled over. Police said he got out and swung the barrel of a sawed-off shotgun toward them, and several officers fired shots, killing Reyes.
Lane’s relative, who asked not to be named out of fear of retaliation, cried as he described Lane and how he feels he has been misrepresented. Lane, who is detailed in charges as pointing a gun at Floyd before handcuffing him, later asked whether the officers should roll Floyd on his side as he was restrained.
“We’re devastated,” the relative of Lane said. “Our whole family feels terrible. This isn’t him. This isn’t what he worked all his life for.”
He described Lane, a 37-year-old Twin Cities native, as a “compassionate and amusing and insightful” person. He got married in 2018, and was excited about continuing the family legacy in law enforcement, he said. Lane’s grandfather Donald M. Mealey was a Minneapolis police detective who died in 2008 at 92. Other relatives, too, worked for the Minneapolis police, he said. He called Lane “a legacy officer” who received his law enforcement license last August.
“He doesn’t have a bad bone in his body,” he said of Lane. “This is just a terrible event and I feel bad for the lives lost and the Floyd family.”
“Not all cops are bad,” he added. “[He] is being categorized now and he shouldn’t be.”
Like Lane, J Alexander Kueng, 26, was also just licensed last August. Neither Lane nor Kueng was the subject of any conduct complaints, Minneapolis police records show.
Reached by phone, a local relative of Kueng’s said: “There’s no way to comment, so don’t start.”
Thao, 34, had six unspecified police conduct complaints filed against him, records show. Five were closed without discipline, but one was open at the time of his firing.
Thao, along with another officer, was also the subject 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.
Staff writer Andy Mannix contributed to this report.