Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd, has returned to prison from the hospital after he wasstabbed 22 times by a fellow inmate, according to his attorney.
In a statement, Chauvin’s attorney Gregory Erickson said he spoke with Chauvin’s family on Saturday about his condition.
“His family is very concerned about the facility’s capacity to protect Derek from further harm,” said Erickson. “They remain unassured that any changes have been made to the faulty procedures that allowed Derek’s attack to occur in the first place.”
John Turscak, a former gang leader, was charged with attempted murder after stabbing Chauvin from behind with an “improvised knife” in the law library at the Federal Correctional Institution in Tucson, Arizona, federal prosecutors said.
Turscak, 52, told correctional officers he would've killed Chauvin had they not responded so quickly, according to prosecutors.
But Chauvin’s family wants to know how the inmate was able to get the materials used to make an improvised knife, and why a guard didn’t respond to the attack sooner, according to his attorney.
“Why was Derek allowed into the law library without a guard in close enough proximity to stop a possible attack?” said Erickson.
Turscak, who is serving a 30-year sentence for crimes he committed while he was a member of the Mexican Mafia prison gang, reportedly told FBI agents that he’d been thinking about assaulting Chauvin for about a month because he is a high-profile inmate.
Turscak also told the agents that he attacked Chauvin on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, as a symbolic connection to the Black Lives Matter movement and the “Black Hand” symbol associated with the Mexican Mafia gang, prosecutors said.
He has been charged with assault with intent to commit murder, assault with a dangerous weapon and assault resulting in serious bodily injury.
Chauvin, 47, was sent to FCI Tucson from a maximum-security Minnesota state prison in August 2022 to simultaneously serve a 21-year federal sentence for violating Floyd’s civil rights and a 22 1/2-year state sentence for second-degree murder.
Chauvin’s lawyer at the time, Eric Nelson, had advocated for keeping him out of the general population and away from other inmates, anticipating he would be a target. In Minnesota, Chauvin was mainly kept in solitary confinement “largely for his own protection,” Nelson wrote in court papers last year.
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Chauvin’s appeal of his murder conviction. Separately, Chauvin is making a longshot bid to overturn his federal guilty plea, claiming new evidence shows he didn’t cause Floyd’s death.
Floyd, who was Black, died on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin, who is white, pressed a knee on his neck for 9 1/2 minutes on the street outside a convenience store where Floyd was suspected of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill.
Bystander video captured Floyd’s fading cries of “I can’t breathe.” His death touched off protests worldwide, some of which turned violent, and forced a national reckoning with police brutality and racism.
Three other former officers who were at the scene received lesser state and federal sentences for their roles in Floyd’s death.
Chauvin’s stabbing comes as the federal Bureau of Prisons has faced increased scrutiny in recent years following the beating death of James “Whitey" Bulger in 2018 and wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein’s jail suicide in 2019.
The attack on Chauvin was the third incident involving a high-profile federal prison inmate in the last six months. Disgraced former sports doctor Larry Nassar was stabbed in July at a federal penitentiary in Florida and “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski killed himself at a federal medical center in June.
An ongoing Associated Press investigation has uncovered deep, previously unreported flaws within the Bureau of Prisons, the Justice Department’s largest law enforcement agency with more than 30,000 employees, 158,000 inmates and an annual budget of about $8 billion.
AP reporting has revealed rampant sexual abuse and other criminal conduct by staff, dozens of escapes, chronic violence, deaths and severe staffing shortages that have hampered responses to emergencies, including inmate assaults and suicides.
Turscak led a faction of the Mexican Mafia in the Los Angeles area in the late 1990s and went by the nickname “Stranger," according to court records. He became an FBI informant in 1997, providing information about the gang and recordings of conversations he had with its members and associates. The Mexican Mafia, a prevalent U.S. prison gang, was involved in a fatal 2022 altercation at a federal penitentiary in Texas.
The investigation Turscak was aiding led to more than 40 indictments. But about midway through, the FBI dropped Turscak as an informant because he was still dealing drugs, extorting money and authorizing assaults. According to court papers, Turscak plotted attacks on rival gang members and was accused of attempting to kill a leader of a rival Mexican Mafia faction while also being targeted himself.
Turscak pleaded guilty in 2001 to racketeering and conspiring to kill a gang rival. He said he thought his cooperation with the FBI would have earned a lighter sentence.
“I didn’t commit those crimes for kicks,” Turscak said, according to news reports about his sentencing. “I did them because I had to if I wanted to stay alive. I told that to the FBI agents and they just said, ‘Do what you have to do.”’
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