This story has been updated.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), one of the women on presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s vice-presidential shortlist, reportedly refused to prosecute an excessive force case against the police officer who appears to have killed black man George Floyd, the man at the center of the latest Black Lives Matter controversy.
On Monday night, Derek Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis police department, knelt on 46-year-old Floyd’s neck for nine minutes as the black man pleaded for his life. Floyd died after the encounter. Video of the encounter went viral on Tuesday, and the police department fired Chauvin Tuesday.
Yet Chauvin saw at least 10 conduct complaints during his 19-year tenure before his firing, and Klobuchar — then the Hennepin County attorney — reportedly declined to press charges against Chauvin in 2006. Chauvin was one of six officers involved in the shooting death of Wayne Reyes, who stabbed his girlfriend and a friend before fleeing. Police chased him and shot him, claiming he had pulled a shotgun on them. She did not prosecute the case, which went to a grand jury that declined to charge the officers with wrongdoing in 2008, according to The Guardian.
The activist group Communities United Against Police Brutality highlighted the Reyes case in its report, “Stolen Lives in Minnesota: People Who Have Lost Their Lives Through Encounters with Law Enforcement Authorities.” Yet it seems this shooting may have been justified.
Between 1999 and 2007, Klobuchar declined to press charges against more than a dozen police officers accused of killing civilians.
Whether or not Klobuchar made the right call in refusing to prosecute Derek Chauvin or in refusing to prosecute other police officers in excessive force cases, it seems likely this connection will bump her off of Joe Biden’s shortlist. Especially after his infamous “You ain’t black” comments, Biden cannot afford to alienate black voters any more than he already has.
Update May 29, 2020, 8:45 a.m.:
Nathan Evans, a spokesman for Klobuchar, reached out to PJ Media with a comment on the case.
“Amy Klobuchar was not the prosecutor when this case was presented to the grand jury in 2007. She was in the U.S. Senate,” communications staffer Carlie Waibel tweeted.
Amy Klobuchar was not the prosecutor when this case was presented to the grand jury in 2007. She was in the U.S. Senate. https://t.co/M8zKLYF2JM
— Carlie Waibel (@carliewaibel) May 28, 2020
By the time the Chauvin case was presented to the grand jury in October 2007, Klobuchar had been in the U.S. Senate for nearly nine months.
Evans also directed PJ Media to this statement from the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office (HCAO). “A Hennepin County Grand Jury returned a no-bill (no charges) in the death of Wayne Reyes on Oct. 25, 2007. All prosecutorial decisions were made under the direction of Mike Freeman.” Freeman is the current Hennepin County attorney who succeeded Klobuchar.
Since the HCAO statement insisted that Freeman made “all prosecutorial decisions,” Evans insisted that “Klobuchar was not responsible for making those decisions” before the case went to the grand jury in October 2007.
The Guardian never claimed that Klobuchar prosecuted the case before the grand jury in 2007, only that she did not launch a prosecution in October 2006 when she was still the Hennepin County attorney. Evans did not tell PJ Media that Klobuchar did not make any decisions on the Chauvin case, he only cited the HCAO statement as supposed evidence that she did not. Yet the HCAO statement could very well have been referring only to the grand jury process itself, not to the days after the actual incident in October 2006.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.