USA News

Jury grants $14M to plaintiffs injured in Denver during George Floyd protests

Jurors in Colorado ordered Denver to pay $14 million to 12 plaintiffs after they concluded on Friday police used excessive force against the protesters and violated their constitutional rights during demonstrations over the police killing of George Floyd two years ago.

Lawyers who worked on the civil case in the U.S. District Court of Colorado believe it is the first trial in a lawsuit challenging police tactics during the 2020 protests that took place across the country in response to a Minneapolis police officer killing Floyd.

A top lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, which represented the plaintiffs, hailed the decision.

“The verdict is a message to the police department, to the highest echelons of the police department, but also a message to police departments all over the country,” said Mark Silverstein, legal director with the Colorado ACULU, according to the New York Times.

The jury that issued the verdict — coming following three weeks of testimony and disclosure of evidence, including police and protester video of incidents — was made up of two men and six women, mostly white and drawn from around Colorado. They returned their verdict Friday after about four hours of deliberations.

The protesters who sued were injured by police use of items like pepper spray and a Kevlar-bag filled with lead shot fired from a shotgun. Zach Packard — who was hit in the head by the shotgun blast and ended up in a hospital intensive care unit — received $3 million, the highest amount among the plaintiffs.

Denver Police Department officers clear a man who fell to the street after they used tear gas and rubber bullets, May 28, 2020.
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

One protestor, Dr. Stanford Smith, was talking with a group of protesters when an officer sprayed him in the face with pepper spray without warning, according to the complaint.

“I feared for my life, because I couldn’t see, I couldn’t breathe,” he told The Times.

“What the police did was wrong, and we wanted the facts to come out in court,” he reportedly added. “This was never about a monetary settlement. To me it was more so about trying to create a way and a system that police are actually held responsible for their actions.”

Denver police officers move during a protest outside the State Capitol over the death of George Floyd in Denver.
Denver police officers move during a protest outside the State Capitol over the death of George Floyd in Denver, May 30, 2020.
AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File

Elisabeth Epps, a lawyer and activist who was one of the protesters who sued, said she felt validated by the jury ruling in favor of the demonstrators

“It feels like being seen,” Epps said.

During closing arguments in the trial, Timothy Macdonald, one of the demonstrators’ lawyers, encouraged jurors to send a message to police in Denver and in the United States by finding the city liable.

“Hopefully, what police departments will take from this is a jury of regular citizens takes these rights very seriously,” he said following the verdict.

Denver Police use tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a protest outside the State Capitol over the death of George Floyd
Denver Police use tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a protest over the death of George Floyd, May 28, 2020.
AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File

The Denver Department of Public Safety, which includes the police department, acknowledged law enforcement wasn’t “fully prepared” for large protests.

“We were prepared for a worst-case scenario, but we weren’t fully prepared for what transpired,” the department said in a statement, according to The Times. “Unfortunately, Denver Police Department officers and other law enforcement officers responding to assist encountered extreme destructive behavior from some agitators among largely peaceful protesters.

“We recognize that some mistakes were made.”

The verdict comes after several days in late May and early June 2020, when protesters and police departments in hundreds of cities across America, including Denver.

During a May 28, 2020 protest, shots were fired at a demonstration in Denver, where one protester was filmed being run over after an altercation with a driver.

A day later, disturbing video emerged of a driver in Denver appearing to intentionally hit a man protesting. In early June, a Denver cop was fired for posting “let’s start a riot” on social media ahead of a night of Floyd protests.

In response to the Floyd death and 11 days of demonstrations, Denver police in June 2020 banned the use of chokeholds, along with other policy changes like mandatory reporting to a supervisor any time cops intentionally point a firearm at someone while on the job.

Denver Police fire tear gas canisters during a protest outside the State Capitol over the death of George Floyd
Denver Police fire tear gas canisters during a protest outside the State Capitol over the death of George Floyd, May 30, 2020.
AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File

Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis cop, was convicted of murdering George Floyd, and was sentenced in June to 22 1/2 years in prison 

Last month, a group of Austin, Texas police officers were indicted for excessive use of force during George Floyd-related demonstrations. There, officials have agreed to pay over $13 million to people injured in protests in May 2020.

With Post Wires

File source

Tags
Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button
Close