Derek Chauvin Kneeled on a Black Teen in 2017 and May Now Face Federal Charges for It

Video of the incident allegedly shows Chauvin striking the boy with a flashlight, then grabbing him by the throat before kneeling on his back.
Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin listens as the verdict is read in his trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn.

Derek Chauvin has been convicted in the murder of George Floyd, but his legal troubles are far from over. He’s facing possible federal charges for kneeling on the back of a 14-year-old Black teenager for 17 minutes in 2017.

The U.S. Department of Justice is still conducting their investigation into the brutal arrest, a source familiar with the ongoing investigation told ABC News this week. Now the feds are weighing whether to bring civil rights charges against Chauvin for abusing his power as a government officer the day he arrested and killed George Floyd. If he is charged by the federal government and convicted, he could theoretically face a life sentence, which would be added on top of the state convictions, which carry up to 40 years in prison.

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Minnesota state prosecutors came into possession of the video as they prepared their case against Chauvin, as first reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune last November. The incident with the teen occurred on Sept. 4, 2017, according to court documents filed by prosecutors. Police were responding to a 911 call about a domestic assault involving a mother being assaulted by her son and daughter. When the woman’s son was slow to comply with Chauvin's commands, he quickly resorted to force.

Video of the incident allegedly shows Chauvin striking the boy with a flashlight, then grabbing him by the throat before striking him with the flashlight once more. During Chauvin’s flurry of attacks, the boy allegedly called out to his mom, telling her that the officer was hurting him.

“At 9:14 p.m. Chauvin applied a neck restraint, causing the child to lose consciousness and go to the ground,” court documents say. “Chauvin and Walls placed him in the prone position and handcuffed him behind his back while the child’s mother pleaded with them not to kill her son and told her son to stop resisting.”

Chauvin then allegedly used his body weight to pin the boy to the floor, in a manner similar to Floyd’s fatal arrest.

“The child began repeatedly telling the officers that he could not breathe, and his mother told Chauvin to take his knee off her son,” the court documents recount. But Chauvin allegedly refused. “About one minute later, the child’s mother pointed out that her son had said he could not breathe, and told Chauvin again to take his knee off the child as he was already handcuffed. Chauvin replied that he was a big guy and did not move.”

The boy’s mother pleaded with Chauvin a total of four times, and Chauvin refused to remove his knee from the child’s neck. He kept the 14-year-old under his knee for a total of 17 minutes. It wasn’t until the boy told his panicked mother that he was going to be OK that she stopped asking Chauvin to let up.

Prosecutors tried to introduce the video as evidence, but Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill denied the motion in January, according to the Star Tribune. In that decision, Cahill also ruled that Chauvin’s defense would not be allowed to introduce evidence of Floyd’s prior convictions either.

The 2017 incident wouldn’t be the only time Chauvin used force against people of color. At least three others have come forward to tell their story of being roughed up and in some cases restrained in the same manner that led to George Floyd’s death last year.

At the time of his arrest and termination from the Minneapolis Police Department last May, the 19-year veteran had at least 22 civilian complaints filed against him. Only one of these cases resulted in disciplinary action, according to the New York Times.

The Minneapolis Police Department didn’t comment directly on the Justice Department’s investigation into Chauvin, but did say they’ll work with them if needed.

“The Minneapolis Police Department will absolutely and completely cooperate with any external investigations into the department and its members,” department spokesperson John Elder told VICE News.

Chauvin was convicted of second and third-degree murder and second degree manslaughter on Tuesday. His sentencing is scheduled for mid-June. The other three officers who were involved in Floyd’s fatal arrest also face 40 years in prison when their trial begins in late August.