Twelve people who protested during the 2020 George Floyd protests in Denver were on Friday awarded $14 million by a jury after they filed an excessive force lawsuit against the city and county’s police.
According to the Associated Press, the decision by the jury came after three weeks of evidence and testimony. Both police and protester videos of what transpired during the protests were presented in court.
The lawyers who took up the case said they believed this was the first lawsuit trial that questioned the actions of police officers during the protests that ensued after George Floyd’s death in 2020.
The protesters who filed the lawsuit were said to have been shot at or hit with less-lethal police tools including pepper spray and a Kevlar-bag that was loaded with lead and discharged from a shotgun. One of the plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit, Zach Packard, spent time in the intensive care unit after being struck in the head. Packard was awarded $3 million. That was the highest damage amount the jury awarded.
“Hopefully, what police departments will take from this is a jury of regular citizens takes these rights very seriously,” Timothy Macdonald, a lawyer representing one of the protesters, said.
The protesters accused Denver police of violating their rights to free speech as well as their rights to be shielded from unreasonable force, the Associated Press reported. Jurors determined the police violated the aforementioned rights of 11 of the 12 protesters who filed the lawsuit. The jury, however, established the police only violated the other protester’s free speech.
The police department said it took disciplinary action against five officers for their code of conduct during the protests. An officer who had just joined the force and was on probation was also fired after he shared a photo of himself and others with the caption, “Let’s start a riot.”
The fired officer and the other individuals were in tactical gear when the photo in question was taken.