A freelance videographer who alleges he was needlessly struck and threatened while covering a protest against police brutality near St. Francis Hospital last year filed a civil rights lawsuit Monday against Los Angeles County, its sheriff and various deputies.
Nasser “Nash” Baker claims he was shooting video for OnScene TV of interactions between protesters and Los Angles County sheriff’s deputies near the Lynwood hospital, where two deputies were being treated following a shooting, when an unidentified deputy rushed forward, struck him and threatened to hurt him and smash his camera.
A sheriff’s spokeswoman said the department does not comment on pending litigation.
The Sept. 13, 2020, attack on Baker “was unprovoked and occurred while (he was) exercising his protected First Amendment right to freedom of speech and the press, while acting on behalf of himself and the general public, in attempting to capture an objective record of events, including interactions between the sheriff’s department and citizens of Los Angeles,” the lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles federal court, alleges.
The plaintiff contends that Sheriff Alex Villanueva and the county have failed to train deputies in the constitutional response to peaceful demonstrations. The department has a “custom of using excessive force against peaceful protesters, kettling lawful assemblies and suppressing and preventing efforts by the press and the general public to record” the actions of law enforcement, Baker alleges in the lawsuit.
Toni Jaramilla, who represents Baker, said her client was wearing a press credential when he was allegedly struck.
Baker “was attempting to capture an objective record of newsworthy events,” she said. “What he captured was a full-scale assault of First Amendment rights and the violation of citizens’ rights to peacefully protest.”
A similar lawsuit is expected to be filed in federal court Tuesday by freelance reporter Nicholas Stern against the city of Los Angeles, alleging he was struck by rubber bullets fired by Los Angeles police officers while covering the May 30, 2020, Fairfax district protests prompted by the death of George Floyd during his arrest by police in Minneapolis a week earlier.