Derek Chauvin’s trial begins on Monday 29 March
Three weeks before they were involved in the killing of George Floyd, three of the same Minneapaolis police officers reportedly roughly detained another Black man as a crowd of onlookers begged for mercy.
On 3 May 2020, officers Derek Chauvin, who would later kneel on Floyd’s neck, and Thomas Lane and J Alexander Kueng, who would help pin Mr Floyd down, arrived at an apartment building in South Minneapolis, responding to a call that a woman was being held hostage, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
As they headed into the building, a Black man named Adrian Drakeford walked out. Mistakenly believing Mr Drakeford had a knife, the officers wordlessly tackled the man and pinned him to the ground, where he struggled to breathe, just as Mr Floyd did.
Mr Drakeford’s brother Lee began recording the incident, while girlfriend Kamaria Layton can be heard pleading, “He didn’t do nothing!” Lee asks for the police officers’ badge numbers.
As an angry crowd forms around the officers, Luis Realivasquez, another office responding to the call, who wasn’t involved in killing Mr Floyd, begins shaking a can of chemical irritant from his weapons belt and yells, “Back up!” at the crowd.
Adrian Drakeford was detained but released with no charges. One of his brothers, Terrance, who came on the scene and protested his arrest, was charged with obstructing the legal process before the city dropped the case “in the interest of justice,” and police also tried to detain his other brother Lee, who fled the scene.
A police report later found that Mr Drakeford, 27, was unrelated to the call, and was carrying a knife sharpener, not a knife. Minneapolis police never located the source of the 911 call they’d been sent to investigate.
“After further investigation it was determined that Adrian Drakeford was not involved in this call,” they wrote in a police report. “This whole call was unfounded because everyone on scene at this address was uncooperative.”
Just a few weeks after the incident at the apartment, where new hires Officers Kueng and Lane were still in field training, the trio were called to investigate reports that a man named George Floyd had used a counterfeit $20 (£14.50) bill to buy cigarettes at a store, and ended up violently detaining him, with Mr Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for minutes on end until he died.
All three were fired, and Mr Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter, while Mr Kueng, Mr Lane, and a fourth officer on scene, Tou Thao, were charged with aiding and abetting second degree murder and manslaughter.
The Minneapolis Police Department did not respond to a request for comment
Video of Mr Floyd’s death helped inspire nationwide protests against police brutality toward Black people.
In December 2020, the city of Minneapolis voted to divert nearly $8m (£5.8m) from its proposed police budget to other city services, including a violence prevention unit and a team to respond to mental health incidents without involving police officers, falling short of earlier promises from local leaders to dismantle and defund the city’s police department.
Mr Chauvin’s trial begins on 29 March, while the other officers are not expected to stand trial until the summer due to concerns over the ability to adhere to coronavirus guidelines in the courtroom.