IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

George Floyd and officer who knelt on his neck had worked at same nightclub, former owner says

The club's former owner said it appeared to her that Chauvin, who worked off duty on security, “was always very nervous,” especially on the venue’s “urban nights.”
Get more newsLiveon

George Floyd worked at the same local nightclub as the Minneapolis police officer who was shown on video kneeling on Floyd's neck as he said, "I can't breathe."

Floyd, who died in police custody after his arrest on Monday, would occasionally provide security inside El Nuevo Rodeo club, according to former owner Maya Santamaria, who has since sold the club.

Former officer Derek Chauvin, who has been identified as the man who knelt on Floyd's neck, would provide security outside the venue. Chauvin was arrested and charged Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death.

Full coverage of George Floyd’s death and protests around the country

He was among four officers fired on Tuesday for their involvement in Floyd's detainment. Minneapolis police identified the other three officers as Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng.

Santamaria told NBC News in a phone interview on Friday that Floyd worked at the club until it was sold last year. She said Chauvin worked at the venue as an off-duty officer for the majority of the 17 years she owned it.

She said the building that housed the club was burned in the unrest over Floyd's death that has rocked the Twin Cities for three days straight.

Download the NBC News app for full coverage and alerts on this story

Although Floyd and Chauvin worked at the nightclub at the same time, Santamaria said she doesn't believe they knew each other since they worked in different areas.

Floyd was a sweet man with a big smile, she recalled.

Image: George Floyd
George Floyd.Courtesy photo

"He would say, 'Hi boss lady. How you doing tonight?' Real sweet guy, lots of charisma," she said. "He was very beloved in the Latino community and certainly in his community as well."

Juan Antonio Gaytan, a former sound engineer at the club, shared similar sentiments.

"He seemed very friendly. He was always the joking type," Gaytan said, adding that the video of Floyd being detained made him emotional.

"I couldn't finish it," he said. "I believe that the video speaks more than a million words."

A former server, Elizabeth Dominguez, said Floyd was a "friendly and respectful person."

"It's sad," she said, adding that she doesn't believe Chauvin had "that strong of a motive" to keep Floyd pinned to the ground.

"I think they are here to protect us, not to do things like that to us," Dominguez said.

Santamaria said that when she first saw the video, she kept yelling at her phone for Chauvin to let Floyd up.

"I just couldn't believe that he was continuing to do that," she said. "I just wanted him to stop and get up."

Floyd was not a member of the main security team and would typically help out on "urban nights," when African American music is played.

Santamaria said that it appeared to her that Chauvin "was always very nervous, especially on the urban nights," and that "a lot of people didn't like him."

An attorney for Chauvin could not immediately be reached on Friday.

Santamaria said she didn't mind working with Chauvin because it was "low maintenance with him."

"He was better than some of the other police in the 3rd precinct that were really bad," she added. The Minneapolis Police Department did not return a request for comment on Friday.

Chauvin, a 19-year department veteran, was the subject of at least a dozen prior police conduct complaints unrelated to Floyd's death. The complaints resulted in no disciplinary action, and one led to a "letter of reprimand." A longtime police training expert for the state of Minnesota told NBC News that a dozen complaints over a two-decade career would appear "a little bit higher than normal.”

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the FBI are both independently investigating Floyd's death, with the U.S. Attorney's Office's having assigned prosecutors to the probe. Minneapolis police said they are cooperating with the investigations.