Michael Driscoll filmed protests in downtown Denver last year when a police shell hit his forehead, shattered sinuses and fractured his skull in two places.
According to a federal lawsuit filed by Driscoll on Monday against Denver, Police Chief Paul Pazin and Police Commander, the injury required skull reconstruction surgery, which left 53 braces on the head. Patrick Phelan.
Driscoll, the welder, had to take a month off to recover and he probably won’t be able to continue as an underwater welder as planned because his skull may not withstand the pressure of diving, said Milo Schwab, Driscoll’s attorney. …
The lawsuit alleges that the unidentified officer who shot him used excessive force and that the department and its leaders should be held accountable for not properly training or supervising the officer.
“(Driscoll) could have died,” Schwab said. “If they hit him in the forehead two inches higher, the risk of death would be very high.”
The lawsuit complements a growing collection of at least six lawsuits representing over 60 plaintiffs against the city that Denver police used excessive force and injured peaceful protesters in May and June 2020. The department’s response to the protests was broad. was criticized and an investigation by the city’s watchdog agency found a flaw at almost all levels. The Office has launched 123 internal investigations into the conduct of officers, but few officers will be prosecuted for disciplinary action.
Driscoll traveled from Pueblo on May 30, 2020 to join the massive protests against police brutality and the assassination of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. After a day of protests, he decided to continue the demonstration the next day.
On video footage of the incident, Driscoll captured a crowd of protesters demonstrating around 10 p.m. on May 31, 2020, at the intersection of West 13th Avenue and Cherokee Street near the Denver Police Headquarters. The protesters chanted “I can’t breathe” and “Hands up, don’t shoot” towards the police line a few dozen yards away. The video does not show a group of protesters walking towards the officers or throwing anything at them. In the video, you can hear people in the crowd urging others to keep the peace.
The video shows that without a sound warning and without a command to disperse, the officers began to launch gas cylinders and other projectiles towards the crowd. Driscoll’s video shows him lifting a piece of wood, which the lawsuit claimed was a homemade shield he made to protect himself. On the plywood board was painted “ACAB”, an abbreviation for “All cops are bastards.”
The shell then hit Driscoll, whose groan can be heard on the video. In the video, you can hear other people in the crowd shouting, “He’s bleeding!” and “Who is a medic!” when they walked with Driscoll from the intersection.
The stranger took Driscoll to Denver Health, where a doctor discovered two skull fractures that destroyed his sinuses, the lawsuit said. Three days later, Driscoll underwent surgery. According to the lawsuit, surgeons had to use a graft from another part of his skull to repair the damage.
Driscoll continues to suffer from trauma and headaches, Schwab said. He also has large medical bills for hospitalization and surgery.
Schwab said his client was not entirely sure which shell the police fired at him, but believes it was most likely a foam or rubber shell.
During the protests, Denver police used 40mm Styrofoam cartridges. Department policy is that officers should only use less lethal weapons against those who are aggressive towards them, or to prevent serious injury. According to the Office of Independent Monitoring, which was investigating the Denver police response to racial justice protests in 2020, 40mm launchers used by Denver police fire their projectiles at over 200 miles per hour.
“The blow can cause bruising, swelling, cuts, critical eye injuries and skull fractures,” the agency said in an investigation.
The Denver Police Department and the Denver City Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the claim.
In addition to the monetary damages, Driscoll’s lawsuit asks the judge to ban the Denver police from using chemical weapons against protesters and firing less deadly projectiles at the demonstration. The lawsuit also asks the judge to require Denver police officers to issue a crackdown warning and allow protesters to leave.
During protests in Denver, police hit at least 15 people in the head with less lethal ammunition or tear gas canisters, Schwab said. At least two people have lost their eyes from injuries.
“We need structural changes and a reflection of what the police have done,” Schwab said.