George Floyd and Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged with killing Floyd, worked security at the same local club for much of the year before their fatal encounter on a Minneapolis street last week. The owner of El Nuevo Rodeo said the two were in close proximity once a week for their Tuesday night shifts, though she did not know if they ever actually met while working at the club.
Maya Santamaria said she had been paying Chauvin, when he was off-duty, to sit in his squad car outside El Nuevo Rodeo for 17 years. She said Floyd worked as a security guard inside the club frequently in the last year. In particular, they both worked on Tuesday nights, when the club had a popular weekly dance competition.
Santamaria reflected Friday evening on how her business suddenly became central to a death that sparked anguished waves of protest, first in Minneapolis and then in cities across America. Chauvin was fired from the police department last week and charged with third-degree murder for pinning Floyd by the neck.
She said Floyd was well known and liked by her patrons. He was "beloved in the Latin community because he worked at another Latin club too."
When she'd check in during work, she said Floyd would ask her, "How are you?" or cheerily, "How you doing, boss lady?"
"We would wrap up at the end of the night and do a review," Santamaria said. They'd discuss the times Chauvin was called in to the club to remove a patron, or dealt with someone outside the club.
She said employees never complained about Chauvin, but sometimes patrons would complain about how he handled them.
Santamaria said Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has contacted her to discuss Floyd's and Chauvin's employment. She has also reached out to Floyd's family, whose attorney Benjamin Crump said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation" that he believes Chauvin and Floyd's El Nuevo Rodeo connection means Chauvin should face tougher charges than the third-degree murder and manslaughter counts that led to his arrest on May 29.
"That is going to be an interesting aspect to this case and hopefully upgrading these charges to first-degree murder because we believe he knew who George Floyd was," Crump said. "We think that he had intent."
Video taken by bystanders on May 25 showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes while Floyd pleaded, "I can't breathe." The criminal complaint against Chauvin said Floyd was "non-responsive" for the final two minutes and 53 seconds of time Chauvin was on top of him.
Santamaria said she wants her former employee punished.
"We have to make Derek Chauvin an example so that police around the country realize that it's not OK, and they're not going to get away with it and there will be repercussions. Otherwise it's going to continue to happen," Santamaria said.