Protesters join class-action lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department alleging they were shot in the head or torso by projectiles

·3 min read
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Protesters march past LAPD officers during a demonstration over the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis Police custody, in downtown Los Angeles, California, June 6, 2020. - Demonstrations are being held across the US following the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, while being arrested in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Kyle Grillot/AFP

  • A class-action lawsuit accuses Los Angeles police of using excessive force against Black Lives Matter protesters.

  • An amended complaint filed this week details a number of cases where protesters say they were shot in the face or torso in violation of police training.

  • LAPD Capt. Gisselle Espinoza told the Los Angeles Times that the department was "fully committed to investigating every allegation of misconduct or excessive force related to the recent protests."

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

A lawsuit filed against the City of Los Angeles, its chief of police, and the department he leads alleges that peaceful protesters were shot in the head or torso with rubber bullets and other projectiles, causing lasting injury in defiance of the law. Thousands were also detained for hours in conditions conducive to the spread of COVID-19, according to the suit.

Noting that the vast majority of those arrested during recent protests were nonviolent, per the testimony of Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore, the lawsuit — filed on behalf of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and others alleging harm at the hands of law enforcement — accuses police of "unreasonable and excessive force" that deprived protesters of their right to free speech.

The class-action lawsuit, filed by a number of local civil rights attorneys earlier this month and amended with new details this week, describes a number of cases where nonviolent protesters were shot in the face with "non-lethal" projectiles of the sort that, since 1990, have left hundreds of people with permanent disabilities.

Tina Črnko, who attended a Black Lives Matter protest on May 30, was shot in the head with a rubber bullet soon after Chief Moore addressed the crowd while in riot gear. "She still suffers nerve damage in the area of the impact," the lawsuit states.

Abigail Rodas attended another rally that day to protest the killing of George Floyd. It was while leaving that protest that she was "struck in the face by a projectile and momentarily lost consciousness," the lawsuit states. The object fractured her jaw, requiring surgery and a 48-hour hospital stay; she now has screws in her gums, with rubber bands immobilizing her jaw while she heals, according to the complaint.

Steven Roe was walking backward away from a line of police when one officer "shot him in the stomach with a kinetic impact projectile," the lawsuit states. The resulting injury remains visible over two weeks later.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs believe there are many others like them: over 3,000 people were arrested and, the lawsuit notes, detained for hours in close quarters amid a pandemic. They are asking the court for compensatory damages for those harmed or improperly detained, and for the deletion of all arrest records for those who were engaged in nonviolent protest.

An LAPD spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment. But Capt. Gisselle Espinoza earlier told the Los Angeles Times that the department was "fully committed to investigating every allegation of misconduct or excessive force related to the recent protests."

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