Protestor suffering from vision loss awarded $1M in lawsuit against OR police
Salem, Oregon, police shot rubber bullets in the eye and chest of a racial justice demonstrator
A jury has awarded a racial justice demonstrator more than $1 million in a federal lawsuit she filed in 2020 against the city of Salem accusing officers of violating her civil rights.
Eleaqia McCrae, a Black woman, sued the city and the police department, accusing police of intentionally targeting Black people with deadly force during the protest, which followed the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by Minneapolis police officers in late May 2020.
The jury found McCrae proved that Officer Robert Johnston shot her in the eye and chest with rubber bullets, and violated her "Fourth Amendment right not to be subjected to excessive force," the Statesman Journal reported Monday. McCrae said the bullets caused permanent vision loss and a chest injury.
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The jury also found she did not prove by "preponderance of the evidence" that Johnston violated her First Amendment right to lawful assembly and that he committed battery against her.
She was awarded $250,000 in economic loss and $800,000 in non-economic loss, the jury verdict documents said.
McCrae’s attorney, Kevin Brague, said in the lawsuit that McCrae attended a demonstration on May 31, 2020, and after nightfall, people unrelated to the march arrived and began throwing objects. The demonstrators were then met by Salem police officers in "full militarized gear," Brague said.
McCrae said she, her sister and a friend were kneeling at the front of the march when police sirens blared and she was shot twice with rubber bullets.
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The city, through their lawyers, said McCrae’s injures, if any, were due to her own "negligent conduct by failing to disperse the area when the protests were no longer peaceful" and had at one point alleged McCrae was hit by an object thrown by another protester.
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"My client, Ms. Eleaqia McCrae, is very grateful for the jury and their recognition and validation of the facts and circumstances of this case," Kevin Brague, McCrae’s attorney, said in an email to the newspaper.
Salem officials said in a statement that they "appreciate the jury’s work on this case and respect their verdict."