Only white police officers were allowed to guard Derek Michael Chauvin, 44, at the Ramsey County Jail in Ramsey County, Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States, according to a discrimination lawsuit. The former Minneapolis Police Department is accused of murdering George Floyd.
On May 25, 2020, Floyd died while in the custody of Chauvin and his former colleagues Tou Thao, 34, Thomas K. Lane, 37, and J. Alexander Kueng, 26. Lane, Thao and Kueng were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder while committing a felony and with aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter with culpable negligence.
Originally, Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter only. A new charge of second-degree murder was eventually added.
When Chauvin was arrested on May 29, 2020, he was detained at the fifth floor of the Ramsey County Jail. Eight correctional officers working there claimed that their superintendent segregated them so only white cops were allowed to guard the former Minnesota Police Department officer that day.
The eight correctional officers are African-American, Hispanic and Pacific-Islander-American. The superintendent named Steve Lydon, who is white, explained in a statement obtained by KARE 11, “Shortly after making the decision, Corrections staff expressed concern with the change and within 45 minutes I realized my error and reversed the order.”
“I then met with the individuals that were working at the time and explained to them what my thought process was at the time and assured them that the decision was made out of concern for them and was in no way related to a concern regarding their professionalism or Chauvin’s safety,” Lydon continued. “I realized that I had erred in judgement and issued an apology to the affected employees.”
Ramsey County public information officer Roy Magnuson said in a statement obtained by the publication that Ramsey County sheriff Bob Fletcher received a verbal complaint from a union steward on May 30, 2020. On June 19, 2020, the eight correctional officers filed discrimination charges with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights against Ramsey County through their lawyer Bonnie Smith.
“My clients came to work that day fully prepared to do their work,” Smith told NBC News. “They are highly trained, experienced professionals in dangerous and volatile situations and were just as well equipped as their white counterparts to perform their work duties on May 29. The fact that they weren’t allowed to do so has devastated them.”
From the Ramsey County Jail, Chauvin was transferred to the Hennepin County Jail in Hennepin County, Minnesota on May 31, 2020. On the same day, he was released to the Minnesota Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in Oak Park Heights, Minnesota.