The Slatest

Update: Nightclub Co-Worker Retracts Story That Chauvin and Floyd Clashed

People with umbrellas look at memorial for George Floyd in front of a Cup Foods store Minneapolis.
A memorial for George Floyd in Minneapolis. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Update, June 11, 2020, at 9 a.m.: Since the publication of CBS Evening News’ interview with David Pinney, the man who worked at El Nuevo Rodeo nightclub with both George Floyd and Derek Chauvin in late 2015 and early 2016, Pinney has changed his story that Floyd and Chauvin not only knew each other but had “bumped heads” over Chauvin’s sometimes-rough treatment of customers. In an email to CBS News Wednesday, Pinney now says he had mistaken Floyd for another black club employee during his 50-minute taped interview with the network. “There has been a mix up between George and another fellow co-worker,” he wrote. “I apologize for not doing my due diligence and placing you in a very uncomfortable situation.”

The reversal is a significant one, considering its implications for the potential case against Chauvin as well as the specificity with which Pinney previously spoke about his relationship with Floyd, particularly in relation to Chauvin. “It’s a difference when you work side by side with somebody. Like, I see him like a brother,” Pinney said of his relationship with Floyd during the CBS interview. He also described detailed conversations with Floyd about Chauvin’s behavior. “[Chauvin] 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,” Pinney had told CBS. “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.” Pinney did not give any other explanation for the reversal. CBS has not clarified if Pinney stands by the other statements he made during the interview.

Original post: Since the death of George Floyd, the four officers involved in the incident have been arrested and charged. Former officer Derek Chauvin was initially charged with third-degree murder but has since had that charge elevated to a second-degree murder charge. The three other officers on the scene were charged with aiding and abetting the killing of Floyd; all of the officers currently face up to 40 years in prison. One of the lingering questions that has hung over the tragic incident is: Did Chauvin and Floyd know each other? In the immediate aftermath of Floyd’s death, there were initial reports that the two both worked at the same Minneapolis night club, though it was unclear whether that meant they had interacted or had a relationship of any kind.

The owner of El Nuevo Rodeo nightclub, Maya Santamaria, confirmed that she employed both men to provide security. Chauvin, Santamaria said, had provided off-duty security for nearly two decades and was paid to sit in his police car outside the club and assist with removing patrons when necessary. Floyd began working security on a regular basis inside the club in the past year; on Tuesday nights, Santamaria says, both men worked during the club’s weekly dance competition. Another worker at the club, David Pinney, told CBS Evening News that Chauvin and Floyd not only were familiar with one another, they had a history. “They bumped heads,” Pinney said. “It has a lot to do with Derek being extremely aggressive within the club with some of the patrons, which was an issue.” Santamaria says that she never received complaints from her other workers about Chauvin but that customers would sometimes complain about how the off-duty officer treated them. Floyd, on the other hand, was “beloved in the Latin community because he worked at another Latin club too,” according to Santamaria.

“Is there any doubt in your mind that Derek Chauvin knew George Floyd?” CBS News asked Pinney. “No. He knew him,” Pinney said. “How well did he know him?” CBS News asked. “I would say pretty well,” Pinney responded. If that’s true, it could prove significant in whether Chauvin ultimately faces stiffer, first-degree murder charges, which would imply some intent on the part of the officer. It could also dramatically change the context in which the fatal arrest was made, potentially recasting it as an officer settling a grudge.

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