Breaking News

Jury awards $3.75 million to protester hit by hard-foam police projectiles



A jury awarded $3.75 million in damages this week to a protester shot twice by hard-foam projectiles fired by Los Angeles police, in what is thought to be the biggest settlement yet in lawsuits stemming from the department’s response to anti-police demonstrations in 2020.

After deliberating for 13 hours, jurors on Wednesday ruled that the department was negligent when one or more of its officers fired the so-called less-lethal devices at Asim Jamal Shakir Jr. during a protest at a downtown intersection.

Shakir had been filming a skirmish line of officers when he recognized his LAPD officer uncle standing among the formation and confronted him, shouting, “Our ancestors are turning over in their grave right now!” Moments later, Shakir alleges, his uncle, Eric Anderson, directed other officers to fire a hard-foam projectile at him.

“As with anything, brother, money talks,” said longtime civil rights attorney Carl Douglas, adding he hoped the large award will signal to department and city leaders that similar acts of police violence cannot be tolerated. The award must still be approved by the City Council, which is usually a formality.

“Hopefully, the city will realize that the compensation is fair and will decide to pay the verdict because this young man is deserving,” said Douglas, who filed the suit on Shakir’s behalf.

An internal affairs investigation found that there were 11 officers within 20 feet of Shakir when he was struck, but every one of them “denied knowing or seeing or shooting anyone who was filming, or shooting anyone twice.”

The department’s investigation revealed that the less-lethal force that injured Shakir was never reported, Douglas said, but his defense team sought to reconstruct the events of that day with video from a body camera and an Instagram livestream. Based on their analysis, they concluded that LAPD officer Robert Bechtol fired at least one of the less-lethal rounds that struck Shakir.

“Regrettably there is still a code of silence that flourishes among most law enforcement agencies including the LAPD, and I say it’s the greatest impediment to justice because police officers are afraid to expose misconduct that they or heir fellow officers commit,” Douglas said.

He said he believed that the $3.75-million payout is the largest so far related to the LAPD’s response to mass protests that rocked in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis.

Karen Richardson, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles city attorney’s office, said the office had no comment on the jury’s decision, and the LAPD did not respond to an email on Friday.

On the day of the incident, Shakir had joined a group of protesters marching in downtown. He was carrying two cellphones and recording himself as he approached every Black officer he saw, urging them to shed their uniforms and join his cause.

In his Instagram livestream, Shakir can be heard trying to engage his uncle and yelling questions at other officers nearby as they continued to walk toward him. According to his suit, Anderson can be heard on a body camera video saying, “That’s my nephew,” and “I’m going to be on his ass if he doesn’t get out of here,” before apparently motioning in Shakir’s direction and directing an officer to shoot him.

Shakir was struck once, then a second time while he was bending down to pick up a phone that had been knocked out of his hand by the first projectile, his suit said.

Shakir, his attorney said, had to go to physical therapy for a year because of the injury to his hand, and the lawsuit alleged that he still suffers pain and has had to let go of two of his favorite pasttimes: boxing and shooting music videos, because he can no longer grip a camera. In addition to the physical injuries, Douglas said, the encounter left Shakir emotionally bruised as well.

Douglas said his client got to the protest late and so didn’t hear the department issuing a dispersal order.

Several reports on the Floyd protests in L.A. pointed to tactical and operational missteps in the department’s response, as well as past failure to adequately train and prepare for such large demonstrations. A federal judge also ordered temporary restrictions on the department’s use of projectile weapons.

The city is still facing a large class-action lawsuit by Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles and other groups over its handling of the 2020 protests. Several other suits have already been settled, including one by a protester who was was awarded $1.25 million for being shot with a projectile while he was backing away with his hands above his head.

Earlier this year, the Los Angeles City Council approved an $860,000 settlement to Deon Jones, a protester who was shot with a projectile and badly wounded by a city police officer during another Floyd-related protest. Jones claimed his constitutional rights were violated by LAPD Officer Peter Bueno when the officer shot him.

Times staff writers Kevin Rector and Faith E. Pinho contributed to this report.



Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button