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$1.455 Million Settlement for Discrimination Against Black Minnesota Jail Guards Barred from Watching Floyd Killer

by David M. Reutter

On August 9, 2022, the Board of Commissioners (BOC) of Minnesota’s Ramsey County approved a payment of $1.445 million to settle a lawsuit alleging Black guards at the county lockup were segregated from the area where Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was being held after his arrest for the murder of George Floyd.

Chauvin, the white former cop who killed Floyd on May 25, 2020, was arrested and processed into the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center (ADC) four days later. ADC Superintendent Steve Lydon was informed by Sheriff Bob Fletcher ten minutes before Chauvin arrived that he was being transported to ADC.

Lydon then issued a directive to Lt. Renaldo Walker that prohibited minority officers from working with Chauvin. According to the complaint they later filed, Lydon said something to the effect of “let’s not have officers of color working with [Chauvin] on the 5th floor.” Walker objected and asked what he should do if the order were questioned, the complaint recalled. Lydon said to refer any such questions to him. Walker then contacted the scheduling sergeant and relayed the order so changes could be made to scheduled guard postings.

Acting Sgt. Devin Sullivan, who is Black, had worked at ACD for over a decade. He was responsible for supervising transport of detainees with behavioral issues as well as high-risk and high-profile detainees. When Chauvin arrived, Sullivan was in the process of admitting him. But Lydon, in an unusual move, was present during the process. As Sullivan began a search of Chauvin, Lydon questioned why the guard was involved and said he did not want Sullivan doing anything he would normally do. Lydon then instructed two white officers to finish the booking and transport Chauvin to the fifth floor where high-profile detainees were held in single cells. All of the minority officers who normally worked the fifth floor were no longer on that post.

A little while later, the “A-Team Response” was called to the first floor to handle an uncooperative detainee. But Black guards on that team were prohibited from transporting the detainee to the fifth floor. After they made several requests, Lydon agreed to meet and admitted giving the order to segregate non-white guards from Chauvin and the fifth floor. But Lydon insisted he was not a racist and defended the order; then he said he changed his mind about it.

The next week Sheriff Fletcher met with about 50 jail guards and employees to discuss the order. Meanwhile Ramsey County denied any claims that guards of color were prohibited from being on the same floor as Chauvin, who was ultimately convicted of Floyd’s murder and sentenced to a 252-month federal prison term on July 7, 2022.

Sullivan and fellow guards Mohamud Salad, Timothy Ivory, Anabel Herrera, Stanley Hafoka, Nathaniel Gomez-Haustein, Cedric Dodds, and Chelsea Cox sued Ramsey County in state court on May 12, 2022, alleging a violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act for race and color discrimination, as well as a hostile work environment, plus reprisal against Sullivan, Hafoka, and Gomez-Haustein.

When BOC approved the settlement, no breakdown was provided to show its division among Plaintiffs. Chair Trista MatasCastillo told them, “No one ever should have questioned your ability to perform your job based on the color of your skin.” Plaintiffs were represented by Minneapolis attorneys Lucas J. Kaster and Matthew H. Morgan. See: Sullivan v. Ramsey County, Minn. 2nd Jud. Cir. (Ramsey Cty.), Case No. 62-cv-21-651. 

Additional source: Washington Post

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