The gunshots destroyed the truck and severely damaged the facade of a building just blocks from where the younger Reyes now lives on the city’s south side, the brick wall still marked by bullet holes.
Reyes and her relatives were horrified to see the name of one of those officers show up in the news all these years later: Derek Chauvin, the now-former Minneapolis officer filmed with his knee on Floyd’s throat.
Chauvin was arrested Friday on murder and manslaughter charges. In the 2006 case, he was put on administrative leave for a week during the investigation, though police never publicly specified which officers fired their guns.
“I already knew what kind of monster that man is,” Reyes said. “And all I could feel was heartbreak that this had happened again.”
Minneapolis has raged and mourned since video emerged this week of Floyd, pinned for several minutes as he gasped for breath. This city has endured the painful sequence before: Someone encounters the police and dies. Outrage, protests and promises to do better follow. And then it happens all over again.
“There’s a cycle,” said Michelle Phelps, an associate sociology professor at the University of Minnesota who has studied community views on policing and reform in Minneapolis. “There’s an episode of violence, there’s an uprising, people demand change, and change starts to happen. But in a big, cumbersome bureaucracy with 800 line officers, those shifts move really slowly.”
The previous cases did not set off unrest on the scale seen this week in Minneapolis, which included multiple buildings set on fire. But they engulfed the region in other ways. Demonstrators responded to shootings by police by camping out around a police precinct for weeks, blocking streets and calling for officers and city officials to lose their jobs.
Minneapolis police have made some changes in recent years. The department became “one of the national leaders of police reform,” Phelps said, instituting extensive training on use of force and emphasizing the sanctity of life as part of its policies.
“And yet,” Phelps said, “George Floyd is still dead.”
The department made changes during Harteau’s tenure and under Medaria Arradondo, her successor, including pushing officers to more proactively listen to the community and improving training, said Teresa Nelson, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota.
“There has been a long and deep history of racially biased policing in Minneapolis,” she said. “Maybe [the reform] was too little, too late. It takes a lot to get a department turned around.”
An ACLU study of low-level arrests between 2012 and 2014 concluded that black people — who make up a fifth of the city’s population — were 8.7 times as likely to be arrested for such offenses as white people, which “contributes to longstanding mistrust.”
The mistrust extended into the department’s own ranks.
In 2017, Arradondo became the city’s first black police chief, pledging to shift the culture and restore a positive relationship with the community. A decade earlier, he and four other veteran officers sued the department and accused it of systematically discriminating against people of color, including black police officers.
In the 2007 lawsuit, filed in federal court, the officers assailed the department, saying that they were subjected “to harassment, discrimination and retaliation based on their race and color.” (Spokesmen for the police did not respond Friday to a request to interview Arradondo.)
In court documents, city officials denied the allegations. The lawsuit was settled in 2009 for more than $800,000, said John Klassen, a civil rights attorney who represented the officers.
Klassen said the department has gotten better, recruiting a more diverse force, but still struggles to jettison troubled officers. Experts and activists blame the powerful police union.
Harteau said that while unions are necessary to push for benefits, the police union in Minneapolis fought her on things such as imposing discipline and terminating officers.
“It really deflates your authority,” Harteau said. “And you can’t have the responsibility unless you have full authority.”
Critics said the issue was one of the city’s own making. City and police officials “constantly bemoan what they can’t do because their hands are tied by the [police union] contract,” said Dave Bicking, vice president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, a Twin Cities police watchdog group. “But every three years when the contract comes up, they rubber-stamp it.”
Union officials did not respond to messages and calls seeking comment.
Police in Minneapolis and the Twin Cities region have struggled with public anger over how police use force in recent years, as the issue was rippling across the country in places such as Baltimore, Chicago, New York and Ferguson, Mo.
In November 2015, after a Minneapolis police officer shot and killed Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old black man, demonstrators responded by occupying the area around the 4th Precinct police station for 18 days. A Justice Department review said the outrage over Clark’s death reflected a “fractured relationship and history of mistrust” among black residents in north Minneapolis, the police and city officials.
Just weeks after that Justice Department announcement, the Twin Cities region was seized by another fatal shooting.
While charges are rare, convictions are even less common. Yanez was acquitted in 2017, spurring a large protest that shut down Interstate 94.
A few weeks later, Justine Damond, an Australian woman, called 911 to report a possible sexual assault near her home. When police arrived and she approached, Mohamed Noor, one of the officers, shot and killed her, setting off an international outcry. Noor became one of the rare officers charged and convicted for an on-duty shooting.
Harteau, who was forced out after Damond’s death, said Floyd’s death was disheartening after all the efforts at reform.
“Before this, I would have liked to have said there’s been change,” Harteau said. “Clearly, it’s not enough. Because I look at that video and I say to myself, how could this happen?”
Phelps, the professor, interviewed residents of north Minneapolis in 2017 and 2018 to ask about their experiences with police and views of reform.
“What we found was that people were largely very aware of police violence both locally and nationally, and most of the folks we interviewed saw it as a deep, systemic and structural problem,” Phelps said, one that was disproportionately impacting black people. “But when you got to the reform section, people largely did not know what [the police] were doing,” she said.
Even when told about the changes, she said, residents supported them but were not sure much would change.
Before Chauvin was filmed kneeling on Floyd, he was involved in at least two shootings, according to media reports. Police have released a brief summary of his disciplinary record, showing he had 17 complaints filed against him — most closed without discipline and one closed with two letters of reprimand.
The department did not respond to questions about the shootings or further details about his disciplinary record; an attorney for Chauvin did not respond to calls seeking comment about the Floyd case or Wayne Reyes’s death in 2006.
Reyes was a big, gregarious man who grew up as part of a large extended family with deep roots on the city’s south side. He’d had run-ins with the law over the years, including a misdemeanor charge in July 2006 for carrying a gun without a license. At the time of death, he’d been trying to get sober, his family said, but the explosive relationship he had with his girlfriend wasn’t helping.
“My father was a little rough around the edges, but he was a good man and a lot of people loved him,” his daughter said.
His younger brother, Jack, rushed to the scene after hearing about the 2006 shooting, finding Reyes’s body in a pool of blood, surrounded by evidence markers showing where all the bullets had landed.
The officers were placed on administrative leave. It was nearly nine months before the department showed Reyes’s relatives footage from the shooting, his family said.
While the department said Reyes had exited the car with his gun, Leanne Reyes says the blurry video she watched, apparently captured from a dashboard camera of a responding officer’s car, did not show her father outside the vehicle until he had been shot.
In 2007, a grand jury opted against charges in the case. The family considered a wrongful-death suit, they said, but could not find a lawyer to take the case.
And then it was over — until this week, when Reyes’s home has vibrated with the booms of flash bangs thrown at the protests not far from her home.
“You can’t escape it,” she said. “It’s just here.”
Mark Berman reported from Washington. Kim Bellware, Julie Tate and Derek Hawkins contributed to this report.