Attorneys for a 22-year-old USC graduate filed suit Monday in federal court for damages against the city and county of Los Angeles for what they claim was unjustified use of force against the woman after she was detained at protests following the death of George Floyd.
Laura Montilla, who graduated from USC with a degree in public relations last month, alleges in the lawsuit that on June 1 at about 4:30 p.m. she attempted to find an exit route from the gathering in downtown Los Angeles in order to get off the streets, but was repeatedly rebuffed by lines of police in riot gear.
The Los Angeles resident contends she asked a police officer how she could leave the area to comply with the curfew, but the officer “responded rudely and aggressively informing her that she would not be permitted to leave the streets,” according to the suit alleging civil rights violations, assault and infliction of emotional distress.
An LAPD spokesperson said the department does not comment on pending litigation, but police officials have said all use-of-force allegations stemming from the six nights of protests would be reviewed.
Montilla claims that near Fifth and Main streets, uniformed law enforcement equipped with less-than-lethal weapons and tactical riot gear surrounded a small group of peaceful protesters, including herself, utilizing a boxed-in tactic known as kettling.
Kneeling on the ground to display compliance, Montilla “personally witnessed officers physically attack, strike and” fire stun guns at “individuals who had attempted to peacefully leave the area in compliance with the curfew,” according to the complaint, which alleges arresting officers did not read Montilla her rights when taking her into custody.
The plaintiff claims her wrists were zip-tied behind her so tightly that the plastic left cuts and bruises, and she was then packed onto a darkened bus for five hours without access to water or bathrooms. The bus eventually arrived at UCLA’s Jackie Robinson Stadium, 13 miles from where the arrests had been made, Montilla alleges.
Police heard screams for help from the bus, but “responded by blaring heavy metal music while Ms. Montilla remained handcuffed in a prone position in the dark. The excessively tight handcuffs forced Ms. Montilla to experience pain and suffering during the entire time she was bound,” the plaintiff alleges.
The apparent decision to deny Montilla’s freedom and detain her without justification for a prolonged time violated her First, Fourth and 14th Amendment rights and deliberately interfered with her right to free assemble, the lawsuit contends.
The lawsuit names the city and county of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore and Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva as defendants.
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