MINNEAPOLIS — A former Minneapolis club owner has said that both George Floyd and the fired police officer in whose custody Floyd died Monday used to work security at her club, opening up the question of whether the two men knew one another.
Maya Santamaria told KSTP in Minneapolis that Floyd and Derek Chauvin worked security at El Nuevo Rodeo up to the end of last year. Santamaria said she sold the building, which she owned for 20 years, a few months ago.
"Chauvin was our off-duty police for almost the entirety of the 17 years that we were open," Santamaria told the news station. "They were working together at the same time, it's just that Chauvin worked outside and the security guards were inside."
Andrea Jenkins, vice president of the Minneapolis City Council, confirmed the men's employment at El Nuevo Rodeo in an interview with MSNBC.
“They were co-workers for a very long time,” Jenkins said.
Santamaria said she was unsure if the men knew one another because there were often more than a dozen security officers working at the same time on busy nights.
The former club owner, who operates La Raza 95.7 FM radio, said she initially did not recognize either Chauvin or Floyd in the now-infamous video that shows Chauvin holding Floyd to the pavement with a knee to the black man’s neck.
"My friend sent me (the video) and said, 'This is your guy who used to work for you,' and I said, 'It's not him.' And then they did the close-up, and that's when I said, 'Oh my God, that's him,'" Santamaria said. "I didn't recognize George as one of our security guys because he looked really different lying there like that."
The video shows Chauvin holding his knee to Floyd’s neck for more than five minutes as Floyd and bystanders beg him to stop. Floyd, 46, became unresponsive and died.
Law enforcement officials, including the FBI, are investigating Floyd’s death.
Chauvin and the three other officers involved in detaining Floyd, who had been accused of forgery, were subsequently fired.
Floyd's death has provoked days of fires and violent protest in Minneapolis and beyond as activists demand the former officers be charged with murder. One person was shot and killed near the protest site Wednesday night and on Thursday night, protesters set fire to a Minneapolis police precinct.
Those calling for an arrest in the case include Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who on Wednesday urged the Hennepin County Attorney's Office to charge Chauvin.
"I've wrestled with, more than anything else over the last 36 hours, one fundamental question: Why is the man who killed George Floyd not in jail?" Frey said in a news conference. "If you had done it, or I had, we would be behind bars right now."