The West Australian

Frightenin­g insight into the bullying loner who thought he was a sheriff out of the Wild West

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Warning signs should have flashed around Derek Chauvin years before he murdered George Floyd.

A Minneapoli­s Police veteran of 19 years, he acted more like a ruthless Wild West sheriff than a modernday lawman.

He once pulled a gun on some teenagers who shot a toy dart out of their car window. He was a bully who belittled a breastfeed­ing new mother. And, in chilling echoes of what was to come, he held his knee on a black woman suspect as she begged: “Don’t kill me.”

Chauvin, 45, worked in one of the city’s busiest divisions, the Third Precinct, and on its toughest shift.

His desire to work the 4pm to 2am beat gained him admiration from some colleagues but saw him rack up at least 22 complaints, four times the norm.

He earned two medals of valour, but other officers said just being around him made them feel uncomforta­ble.

They recalled how he would leave work in uniform with his trousers pulled up higher than most people wore them. His boots were always polished, as if he expected to be inspected by the chief at any minute. He didn’t fit in with the other cops, rarely socialisin­g and not drinking. One former colleague told the New York Times: “In a group setting he would never connect and stood there like a small child.”

Chauvin grew up in the Minneapoli­s suburb of West St Paul. His parents divorced when he was seven and his father asked for a paternity test on his sister — it turned out he was not the father. He moved in with his accountant dad and attended four different elementary schools in five years.

After working as a US military cop in Germany he joined the Minneapoli­s Police Force in 2000 aged 24. On nights off he worked as a security guard at the city’s El Nuevo Rodeo nightclub.

Maya Santa maria, the club’s former owner, said that Chauvin was “nice but

he would overreact and lash out quickly”, especially on nights popular with blacks and Latinos. Also working there, though it seems they did not know each other, was George Floyd.

Chauvin’s bad attitude was on display for those unfortunat­e enough to have come across him years before. Zoya Code, who is black, claims that in 2017 Chauvin put his knee on her even though she was handcuffed. A terrified Miss Code said that she pleaded: “Don’t kill me.” She added: “He just stayed on my neck.” Frustrated and upset, she challenged him to press harder, he did. “Just to shut me up,” she said.

She told Chauvin’s fellow officers: “You’re learning from an animal. That’s evilness right there.” In 2013 he pulled his gun on four teenagers who shot a Nerf gun dart out of their car window.

Chauvin was formally discipline­d for pulling a young mother out of her car and ridiculing her when he saw wet patches on her chest from breastfeed­ing.

According to Melissa Borton, Chauvin, or his colleague, told her: “You probably have postpartum depression, and you need help.” Chauvin was married to 46-year-old Kellie Xiong, right, a former radiologis­t and beauty queen who won the Mrs Minnesota title in 2018.

She once described her husband as “a softie”. She said: “He’s such a gentleman. He still opens the door for me, still puts my coat on for me.”

Her view has now changed. She filed for divorce two days after Chauvin killed Mr Floyd.

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