LEO injured in Alton Sterling protests can sue organizer for negligence, court rules
The LEO alleged Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson was negligent for organizing and leading the Baton Rouge protestors to illegally block a public highway
By Heather Nolan
NOLA Media Group
BATON ROUGE, La. — A Baton Rouge police officer who was injured during a protest over Alton Sterling’s death in 2016 can pursue a negligence claim against the protest’s organizer, a federal appeals court ruled. The ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans reverses a federal judge’s earlier decision to toss the lawsuit.
The officer, who filed suit under the name “John Doe,” alleged Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson was negligent for organizing and leading the Baton Rouge protestors to illegally block a public highway.
The officer said he was struck in the face by a piece of concrete or rock-like object an unknown person threw at police making arrests. The officer said he was knocked to the ground and incapacitated, and that he lost teeth and suffered jaw, brain and head injuries.
The officer also cited lost wages and “other compensable losses” in his lawsuit.
Fifth Circuit judges said in their ruling Wednesday it was “patently foreseeable” that police would have to respond by clearing the road and possibly making arrests. Mckesson was arrested during the protests.
“Given the intentional lawlessness of this aspect of the demonstration, Mckesson should have known that leading the demonstrators onto a busy highway was most nearly certain to provoke a confrontation between police and the mass of demonstrators, and not withstanding, did so anyway,” the judges wrote. “By ignoring the foreseeable risk of violence that his actions created, Mckesson failed to exercise reasonable care in conducting his demonstration.”
The judges were clear in their ruling that they are not saying Mckesson is liable, only that the officer has a reasonable claim and the case should proceed to discovery.
Police arrested nearly 200 protestors during the July 10, 2016, demonstration, sparked by Sterling’s fatal shooting.
Sterling, a black man, was fatally shot by two white Baton Rouge police officers during a struggle outside a convenience store July 5. The officers were not charged in Sterling’s death.
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