An attorney representing an Iraq War veteran who was hit in the head with a police projectile during an Occupy Oakland protest last year said he will file a claim against the city Monday seeking monetary damages for injuries suffered by his client.
The claim is a mandatory first step in the eventual filing of a lawsuit against Oakland for injuries Scott Olsen suffered after being shot in the head with a nonlethal projectile during a clash with police.
Olsen's attorney, Mark Martel, said he will seek "significant" damages against the city in part because of new information that confirmed that Olsen was hit by a beanbag and not a tear-gas canister, as originally believed.
The fact that Olsen was hit by a beanbag, Martel said, shows that the officer who shot the projectile intended to hit Olsen in the head, a violation of the police department's rules for use of such a nonlethal projectile.
"This was completely unexpected and quite significant," Martel said of the new information. "You don't fire these things just to land near someone; the purpose of it is to hit the person."
Martel said he was told that a police department investigation into the incident confirmed that Olsen was hit by the beanbag. That investigation included an analysis of the hat Olsen was wearing when he was hit, which found the marks and lead residue on the hat were consistent with a beanbag.
Martel said he was notified of the conclusion by an investigator, but he declined to name the person.
"Exactly what they said is that they found lead residue on his hat and the markings left ... were consistent with a beanbag shot," Martel said. "My understanding is that they did testing, they fired one of these at something to see if it left the same mark, and it did."
Police Chief Howard Jordan declined to comment on his department's investigation into the Olsen matter. City Attorney spokesman Alex Katz also declined to comment. Olsen became a symbol of the Occupy movement soon after the Oct. 25 protest, when video of him being shot was played throughout the world and used as an example by those who said police used excessive force against protesters.
Although the video clearly showed Olsen being hit and later helped by other protesters, a firm conclusion as to what hit him in the head never materialized. Many suspected that Olsen was hit accidentally by a tear-gas canister or flash bang grenade that police were firing toward a large group of protesters.
While such an accident still would have subjected the city and its police department to a lawsuit for negligence, the fact that Olsen was hit by a beanbag shows whatever officer fired the beanbag intended to hit the veteran in the head, Martel said.
Martel said he will file a claim with the city Monday and file a federal lawsuit later this month or in April.
The Palo Alto-based attorney said he will seek damages for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, violation of civil rights and punitive damages.