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

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

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

Shakir was filming a line of skirmishes between officers when he recognized his uncle, an LAPD officer, who was standing among the formation and confronted him, shouting, “Our ancestors are turning in their graves right now. ! Moments later, according to Shakir, his uncle, Eric Anderson, ordered other officers to fire a hard foam projectile at him.

“As with everything, brother, money talks,” longtime civil rights attorney Carl Douglas said, adding that he hopes the big award signals to departmental and city leaders that acts Similar police brutality cannot be tolerated. The price still needs to be approved by the city council, which is usually a formality.

“I hope the city realizes that the compensation is fair and decides to pay the verdict because this young man deserves it,” said Douglas, who filed the lawsuit on Shakir’s behalf.

An Internal Affairs investigation found there were 11 police officers within 20 feet of Shakir when he was struck, but each of them “denied knowing, seeing or shooting anyone filming, or shoot someone twice”.

The department’s investigation found 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 a live broadcast on Instagram. Based on their analysis, they concluded that LAPD officer Robert Bechtol fired at least one of the less lethal bullets that hit Shakir.

“Unfortunately, there is still a prevailing code of silence among most law enforcement agencies, including the LAPD, and I say this is the biggest obstacle to justice because police officers are afraid to expose misconduct that they or their heirs commit,” Douglas said.

He said he believed the $3.75 million payout was the largest so far related to the LAPD’s response to mass protests rocking in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Karen Richardson, spokeswoman 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 Friday.

On the day of the incident, Shakir had joined a group of protesters demonstrating in the city center. He carried two cellphones and recorded himself as he approached every black officer he saw, urging them to get rid of their uniforms and join his cause.

In his Instagram live stream, Shakir can be heard trying to engage his uncle and shouting questions at other police officers nearby as they continued to walk towards him. According to her complaint, Anderson can be heard on body camera video saying, “He’s my nephew” and “I’m going to put him on his ass if he doesn’t get out of here,” before apparently waving in the direction of Shakir. and ordered an officer to shoot him.

Shakir was hit first and then a second time as he bent down to pick up a phone that had been ripped from his hands by the first projectile, his suit shows.

Shakir, his lawyer said, had to undergo physical therapy for a year because of his hand injury. The lawsuit alleges he is still in pain and had to give up two of his favorite hobbies: boxing and filming music videos. , because he can no longer hold a camera. In addition to the physical injuries, Douglas said, the encounter also left Shakir emotionally bruised.

Douglas said his client arrived late at the protest and therefore did not hear the department issue a dispersal order.

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

The city still faces a broad class action lawsuit brought by Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles and other groups over its handling of the 2020 protests. Several other lawsuits have already been settled, including that of a protester who received 1, $25 million for being struck down by a projectile while backing up with his hands above his head.

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

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

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