In August 2007, Melissa Borton was returning to her Minneapolis home to unpack groceries after a trip to Rainbow Foods with her 2-month-old child and 5-year-old German shepherd.
As the then-30-year-old turned her green minivan left into an intersection, she saw flashing blue and red lights behind her. She was confused. She didn’t think she had disobeyed any laws.
Borton stopped her van and rolled down her window in anticipation of interacting with the two approaching policemen. One was Derek Chauvin, the officer who would be charged this month with manslaughter and second-degree murder for the killing of George Floyd, which sparked national outrage and protests against systemic racism.
Chauvin and an unnamed officer “without a word” reached inside her car, unlocked the door and began pulling her out while she was still strapped in, Borton recalled in an interview with The Times.
“They fumbled with my seat belt and dragged me away,” Borton said. “They didn’t say anything to me this entire time.”
An attorney for Chauvin did not respond to a request for comment. The Minneapolis Police Department would not provide the name of the second officer.
As Borton was being pulled from her vehicle, she remembers hearing her “hysterical” crying newborn and barking dog. The officers put her in the back seat of their squad car. While there, she asked the officers why she was being detained. She recalls one saying her van “matched a description.”
As she sat there, the front of her gray T-shirt began to get soaked with breast milk.
“You probably have postpartum depression,” she recalled an officer saying. “You should get help for that.”
After about 15 minutes, they let her go without further explanation.
The next day, Borton lodged a formal complaint with the Minneapolis Police Department.
Weeks went by, but she never heard back.
More than six months later, she took it upon herself to call the department to ask about the status of the complaint. They confirmed that an officer had been disciplined but declined to provide further details, according to Borton.
“They kept that secret,” Borton said. “I assumed he would get a slap on the wrist, but that was just my assumption.”
The repercussions of Chauvin’s actions are unclear. Records released by the department Tuesday show that Chauvin had received a letter of reprimand for the incident, the details of which were redacted.
Records show that investigators found that Chauvin “did not have to remove complainant from car” and that he “could’ve conducted interview outside the vehicle.” Further investigation showed that the squad car’s camera was turned off during the course of the stop.
A spokesman for Minneapolis police declined to speak specifically on the investigation launched by Borton but said it is not the department’s current practice to cease contact with complainants nor to refuse to provide details on their case.
The incident “tainted every experience I’ve had with the police since then,” Borton said.
Borton, who is white, said the episode gave her a very small glimpse into how many black Americans feel about police.
“I’m not a black person,” Borton said. “But on a very minuscule level, I get that you can’t trust police.”
Borton, now 43 and still a Minneapolis resident, said she tells the story of this interaction to people whenever the topic of Minneapolis police comes up.
“There’s something wrong with the police around here,” she said. Borton said her story shows a “long history of an officer who’s unhinged and probably shouldn’t have been on the force.”
Borton is grateful to have not been physically harmed the day she was pulled over, but the emotional trauma is very real and remains with her to this day, she said.
“I lived to complain,” Borton said. “George Floyd didn’t.”
Borton only recently learned that Chauvin was involved in her detainment. After watching the video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck, she suspected he was one of the officers who pulled her over. “There was something that registered in my brain” when I saw Chauvin, Borton said. “I told my partner, ‘I think that’s the guy.'”
She wasn’t certain until she read an article published this week by the Los Angeles Times, nearly 13 years later, detailing the incident. It was there she learned the reason she had been stopped — going 10 miles over the speed limit.