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Advocates sue LAPD over protest tactics, alleging disabled homeless man was shot in face with rubber bullets

James Queally, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- A coalition of criminal justice activists and homeless advocates filed a lawsuit against the city over how Los Angeles police have handled protests following the death of George Floyd, accusing officers of shooting a homeless man in the eye with rubber bullets and holding people for upward of 12 hours for simple curfew violations.

The suit -- filed late Friday by the Los Angeles chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, Black Lives Matter and Los Angeles Community Action Network -- accused the L.A. Police Department of violating many protesters' right to assemble and using excessive force.

The complaint also provided new information about an image of a homeless man bleeding from the eye in downtown Los Angeles that had gone viral and been shared by many critical of the department over the last week.

Protests over the death of Floyd, who was killed while in Minneapolis police custody on May 25, have led to unrest that Los Angeles has not seen since the 1992 riots sparked by the acquittal of four LAPD officers in the beating Rodney King. While businesses were looted and buildings were damaged and burned in downtown, Van Nuys and the Fairfax District, activists said protests have been largely peaceful and police have focused most of their attention on arresting demonstrators instead of looters.

The LAPD has not completed a full breakdown of arrests during the protests. Department spokesman Josh Rubenstein estimated that about 2,700 people were arrested between May 29 and June 2 during the height of the protests, and booking records suggest the majority of those arrests were for failure to obey a dispersal order or curfew violations.

The department has not provided updated arrest figures since Tuesday. The lawsuit estimated 3% of the 2,700 arrests were for looting or other crimes. Booking records reviewed by the Los Angeles Times earlier this week showed about 150 people had been arrested for looting in Los Angeles during that time frame, approximately 5% of the overall arrest total.

 

"Over the past week, while (Black Lives Matter Los Angeles) and its members were engaged in lawful First Amendment activity, the LAPD used force to terminate the protests, including the indiscriminate use of so-called 'less lethal' weapons that caused injury to its members and instilled fear in them that, if they chose to assemble in public spaces to express their opposition to police violence across the nation against black men and women, they would be the subject of such violence and arrest," the suit said.

The suit also accused the LAPD of arresting a number of homeless people for curfew violations even though they "had no place they could go to avoid violating."

The suit contained a gruesome picture of a homeless man in a wheelchair known as "Cincinnati" bleeding from the eye, allegedly after police shot him in the face with rubber bullets. The LAPD has said it uses less-than-lethal foam projectiles, not rubber bullets.

"He pleaded with police not to use force on him before being shot in the face," the suit claims.

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