OAKLAND (CBS SF) — An Iraq War veteran who was critically wounded when he was hit in the head with a police projectile during a 2011 Occupy Oakland protest will receive a $4.5 million settlement from the city of Oakland, his attorneys announced Friday.
Scott Olsen, 26, of Daly City suffered a partially shattered skull and permanent brain damage when a police officer struck him in the head with a lead-filled beanbag round during Occupy Oakland protests on Oct. 25, 2011, in Downtown Oakland.
“After serving two tours of duty as a United States Marine in Iraq, Scott Olsen could never have imagined that he would be shot in the head by an Oakland police officer while he was peacefully exercising his First Amendment rights in support of the budding Occupy economic justice movement,” said Rachel Lederman, one of Olsen’s attorneys.
“Scott was 24 years old when the shooting and ensuing brain damage robbed him of what had been a promising career as a computer network and systems administrator,” she said.
In a statement, Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker said that the settlement is “fair” considering the injuries Olsen suffered. The city will pay $1.8 million and the rest of the balance will be picked up by the city’s insurance carrier, she said.
“Mr. Olsen suffered a tragic injury that will affect him for the rest of his life,” Parker said. “This settlement will save the city the far greater costs of a trial and potentially much higher judgment.”
Lederman and another of Olsen’s attorneys, Jim Chanin, say he had only been at the Occupy demonstration for about 20 minutes and was protesting peacefully when police started firing tear gas into the crowd and police commanders ordered officers to shoot impact munitions at anyone believed to be throwing something. One of the munitions struck Olsen, knocking him to the ground and leaving him bleeding from the head.
Fellow protesters rushed to his aid but scattered after Oakland police Officer Robert Roche lobbed a CS Blast grenade into their midst, according to Olsen’s attorneys.
The grenade exploded close enough to Olsen to burn his shoulder as he lay immobilized, they said.
The attorneys say civilians returned to carry Olsen to safety and called out for medical help but no law enforcement officers responded or summoned medical aid, defying their own policies.
Olsen was taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland to be treated for a fractured skull and head trauma.
Lederman said that while “he’s a functioning person,” Olsen is now unable to return to his former job as a computer network and systems administrator and is suffering permanent brain damage.
“This isn’t really a happy day even though I’m glad Scott is being compensated and will hopefully be able to put this behind him,” the attorney said. “No amount of money can really compensate him for having his life changed forever like that, and there was really no reason for it.”
Olsen’s attorneys said Oakland police violated their own crowd control policy when they used impact munitions, also known as “less lethal” munitions, during the Occupy protests and lack the proper training to use them.
No other Bay Area cities used tear gas or other ‘less lethal’ munitions during Occupy protests, they noted.
“OPD has refused to get rid of so-called ‘less lethal’ weapons such as CS Blast grenades and lead-shot-filled beanbags, and until they do so, it is only a matter of time before we see another tragedy,” Lederman said.
The city of Oakland has settled three separate civil rights lawsuits for a total of $2.8 million on behalf of Occupy Oakland protesters who were injured or unlawfully arrested.
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