Everything I know about police, criminals, etc does not come from Law and Order — which is actually a good thing, as it turns out. One thing I know from experience: most murders have a personal component. And it seems that may be the case with Derek Chauvin and his choice to murder George Floyd.
Chauvin worked as security for a bar in Minneapolis, El Nuevo Rodeo, where Floyd worked as a bouncer. The building owner, Maya Santamaria, recalled: “Chauvin was our off-duty police for almost the entirety of the 17 years that we were open. … They were working together at the same time — it’s just that Chauvin worked outside and the security guards were inside.” Interestingly, the bar employee who first spoke about Floyd and Chauvin “bump[ing] heads” during their time working together, David Pinney, has now changed his story, saying that Chauvin had a conflict with a different African-American employee, not Floyd. Pinney originally described himself as very close to Floyd: “Like, I see him like a brother.” He said: “I can relate to George, how he felt. And I think that’s what makes that personal bond between him and I, dealing with Derek.” Apparently that brotherly relatioship has changed in the last few days.
I’ll be curious as to what Pinney testifies to under oath.
Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s younger brother, agreed with Pinney’s earlier characterization. In testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, Floyd said: “[Chauvin] killed my brother just because he didn’t like him, and it has to be racist. It has to be something to do with racism.”
He went on to say:
He gave the little that he had to help others. He was our gentle giant. I was reminded of that when I watched the video of his murder. He was mild mannered; he didn’t fight back. He listened to the officers. He called them “sir.” The men who took his life, who suffocated him for eight minutes and 46 seconds. He still called them “sir” as he begged for his life.
A.J. Jaurequi, a club promoter in the area, wondered if Floyd and Chauvine “had some beef with each other, because it’s odd that you’d treat someone you knew like that.”
Originally, Pinney told CBS News that Floyd and Chauvin knew each other “pretty well,” a view somewhat corroborated by Santamaria. She steered CBS towards Pinney because, Pinney later told CBS, “she was unable to give detail information about George because she did not have a close relationship with him as I did.” That led to his supposed mistake in misidentifying Floyd.
Pinney stands by his characterization that Chauvin was “extremely aggressive within the club.”
On June 6, five days before Pinney made his retraction, he did a nearly hour-long interview with CBS, where he went into detail about the relationship between Floyd and Chauvin. “Is there any doubt in your mind that Derek Chauvin knew George Floyd?” the reporter asked. Pinney replied, “No. He knew him … I would say pretty well.” He added: “I knew George on a work basis. We were pretty close. When it came to our security positions, he was in charge and I worked directly below him as a security adviser.”
Pinney contrasted Floyd with Chauvin. Floyd, he said, “was good at talking with people and establishing himself. He never had to put his hands on anybody. Usually his presence would stop people from having any type of competition with one another. … Our job, in a security position, was to hold the peace in the club and separate the guests if there was an issue. And honestly, we had very few issues when we worked together in the club.”
Chauvin, on the other hand, was aggressive towards both Floyd and the clientele, to the point where Floyd avoided Chauvin: “[H]e always showed aggression to, you know, George. So George, to keep it professional, George had me intervene and — interface with him instead of himself, just to be — just to get away from the conflict and keep it professional.” Chauvin was paid to sit outside in a security vehicle and monitor customer behavior, while Floyd worked inside the bar. Chauvin, according to Santamaria, routinely escalated minor conflicts, in Santamaria’s words, “macing everyone instead of apprehending people who were fighting,” particularly at events that catered to predominantly black clientele. She called Floyd a “sweetheart.” In contrast, Chauvin “was nice but he would overreact and lash out quickly,” especially towards black patrons: “His face, attitude, posture would change when we did urban nights.” She says she asked him repeatedly to slow down on his propensity to pull out pepper spray to threaten unruly customers. “I’ve seen him in action and I’ve seen him lose it and I’ve called him out on it before,” she told a Minneapolis reporter. “I’ve told him it’s unnecessary and unjustified some of the ways that he behaves. He just loses it.”
In short: Floyd was a calm, easygoing presence who could defuse conflicts without violence. Chauvin was the exact opposite. I worked in a lockdown facility for years, where de-escalating conflicts was the top priority. The staff members who were most successful were calm, competent, committed to reducing conflict, and, perhaps most important, confident in themselves. From all descriptions, Chauvin is none of the above. Had he worked with us and displayed the behaviors he displayed at El Nuevo Rodeo, he would have been fired.
Chauvin is a coward who threatens and escalates, and in at least one instance, murders. This murder was personal, and it was fueled by hatred, fear, and yellow-bellied cowardice. He (almost) got away with it because, as he well knows, he operates in an environment where he is protected in almost any act of brutality and savagery he cares to perpetuate. In my view, Chauvin killed Floyd because he disliked and feared him, and, as a cop, he saw his chance to do it. As a cop, he felt protected in openly murdering the man. History is on his side in that assessment. But this was one time too many. It was too flagrant, too brutal, and, hopefully, the straw that broke this camel’s back.
Philonise Floyd told the Judiciary Committee:
George wasn’t hurting anyone that day. He didn’t deserve to die over twenty dollars. I am asking you, is that what a black man’s life is worth? Twenty dollars? This is 2020. Enough is enough.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.