Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is expected to survive after being stabbed by a fellow inmate at an Arizona federal prison, according to a spokesman for Minnesota's attorney general.
Chauvin has been an inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Tucson where he is serving federal and state prison terms for the murder of George Floyd. The Federal Bureau of Prisons has confirmed that "an incarcerated individual was assaulted" at about 12:30 p.m. on Friday, but as of Saturday had still not officially confirmed it was Chauvin.
"I am sad to hear that Derek Chauvin was the target of violence," Attorney General Keith Ellison told the Star Tribune on Friday night. "He was duly convicted of his crimes and, like any incarcerated individual, he should be able to serve his sentence without fear of retaliation or violence."
The inmate was transported to a local hospital for further treatment and evaluation, according to a prepared statement released Friday night by the Bureau of Prisons.
"I have not heard from the Bureau of Prisons at all," Chauvin's current attorney, William Mohrman, said on Saturday. He said his office has attempted to the contact the bureau "regarding the media reports of an attack on Mr. Chauvin, and we have not heard anything back."
A spokesman for the Minneapolis Police Department told the Star Tribune on Friday night that Chief Brian O'Hara had been briefed on the assault but offered no other details.
Chauvin, 47, has been serving a 21-year federal sentence for violating Floyd's civil rights and a 22 ½-year state sentence for second-degree murder. Floyd's death while pinned under Chauvin's knee at the corner of Chicago Avenue and 38th Street in south Minneapolis in May 2020 triggered days of massive protests locally and drew international outrage. Chauvin was convicted of the state murder charge in April 2021.
Chauvin was transferred to the medium-security prison in Arizona in August 2022. The facility has 382 inmates, according to its website. Ahead of the transfer, the time, Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson, who issued the federal sentence, said he intended to request that Chauvin be placed at a location close to family in Iowa and Minnesota, but also acknowledged it was not his decision.
Chauvin's attorney long advocated for separating him from the general population to protect his safety. He was kept in solitary confinement for more than six months while incarcerated at Oak Park Heights prison, Minnesota's high-security prison, where he awaited sentencing. It's not clear how long Chauvin remained in solitary after being transferred to federal facilities out of state.
"Violence is barbaric and tragic, and should never be cause for celebration," O'Hara said in a statement after being briefed on the assault. "Today's news is cause for quiet reflection while the world continues to process the trauma of George Floyd's murder. It is clear that this still reverberates with the people of Minneapolis and their police."
A staffer at the office of attorney Eric Nelson, who represented Chauvin at trial, declined to comment.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected Chauvin's latest attempt to vacate his murder conviction by declining to hear the case. Last week, Chauvin separately argued in court filings that he would not have pleaded guilty in his federal case if Nelson, his then-attorney, had informed him that a pathologist offered to testify that Chauvin didn't cause Floyd's death.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner ruled Floyd's death a homicide after he had cardiac arrest likely caused by the restraint. Doctors hired by Floyd's family said they believe he died of asphyxia. Chauvin's defense argued at trial that Floyd died of natural causes related to drug use.
The Associated Press reported that the Friday attack happened at a prison that has been plagued by security lapses and staffing shortages.
The stabbing of Chauvin is the latest assault on a high-profile inmate in the federal prison system. In July, convicted sex offender and former Michigan State University doctor Larry Nasser was stabbed repeatedly at a federal prison in Florida. In 2018, former Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger was killed shortly after being transferred to a federal prison in West Virginia. A U.S. Justice Department report last year excoriated the West Virginia prison's management for Bulger's death.
Star Tribune staff writer Mike Hughlett contributed to this story.