Protesters, Summer Taylor's family sue Seattle and WA state for wrongful death and injuries
A group of protesters is suing the city of Seattle and the state of Washington for wrongful injuries, and, in one case, a wrongful death in this year's Black Lives Matter protests.
The lawsuit says that the city of Seattle and the state of Washington are responsible for Summer Taylor’s death on July 4. It also claims that multiple factors contributed to negligence on the part of the Seattle Police Department as it was responding to protests in May, June, and July.
Negligence, the lawsuit argues, resulted in various injuries, assault and battery, discrimination, wrongful death, and infringement on constitutional rights.
Read the 100-page document below:
Complaint against Seattle and Washington state 9-25-20
Taylor was protesting on a section of I-5 closed to traffic in the early morning hours of July 4. A driver was able to access the freeway by driving the wrong way down an off-ramp and onto I-5. Access to the freeway was blocked at its entrances, but not the off ramps. That driver, Dawit Kelete, then sped into Taylor and another protester. Taylor did later died.
The complaint document states that Seattle police and Washington State Patrol troopers did not properly shut down I-5 for protesters to hold a demonstration. It argues that by closing a section of I-5 for the protests, officials implied that protesters would be safe there. But they weren’t since off-ramps were still open.
The lawsuit also describes a range of other incidents in which Seattle police caused injuries to protesters, further arguing they were negligent. The department has been accused of using excessive force with its use of crowd control weapons such as tear gas, rubber bullets, and flashbang grenades, which have led to injuries of varying severity.
Cited injuries include:
- A partially amputated thumb, and shattered bones in a hand after being exposed to a blast ball
- Loss of consciousness
- Temporary blindness
- Burning skin
- Difficulty breathing
- Chemical burns
The injuries were suffered after being exposed to chemical agents — such as tear gas or pepper spray — blast balls, or through direct contact with Seattle police officers (shoving and/or using batons).
Blm Protest Injury Clients Skkm (1)
Blm Protest Injury Clients (Cedar) (1)
The lawsuit argues that police used excessive, unprovoked forced on peaceful protesters. One complainant reports that an officer picked her out of the crowd and said “I’m going to beat the shit out of you.” Another complainant is a reporter with the University of Washington’s student newspaper, The Daily. They were displaying that they were a member of the media when they say they were struck with a police baton.
The lawsuit also includes Daniel Gregory, the man who attempted to stop a driver from speeding into an area crowded with protesters. The driver shot Gregory before turning himself in to police.
The lawsuit states that Seattle police engaged in a series of negligent actions that led to the injuries, including:
- Failing to post signage, block off streets, or accurately communicated with protesters about safety measures.
- SPD did not de-escalate conflict or avoid unreasonably escalating conflict.
- SPD did not communicate warnings to protesters or give protesters reasonable opportunity to comply with warnings.
- City officials did not prohibit unreasonable use of force, and SPD violated its own policies and reasonable policing practices regarding use-of-force.
- SPD did not properly plan for the demonstrations or adequately communicate with officers.
- SPD did not properly protect protesters in Capitol Hill or adequately set up barriers to prevent cars from driving into the area.
- SPD and the state failed to properly supervise officers.
The lawsuit was filed by Stritmatter Kessler Koehler Moore and Cedar Law PLLC. It is asking for damages to be proven at trial, including lawyers fees, expenses, and for protesters' arrest records to be expunged, purged, and/or sealed.