black lives matter
Black Lives Matter - Photo courtesy of Eugenio Marongiu on Shutterstock

Relatives of Keenan Anderson, a Black man who went into cardiac arrest and died earlier this month after Los Angeles police Tasered him multiple times and shackled him following a Venice traffic collision, filed a $50 million damages claim against the city Friday.

The claim is a precursor to a lawsuit.

Anderson, the father of a 5-year-old son, had been a teacher for more than eight years, the past six months at Digital Pioneers Academy, a charter school in Washington, D.C. Anderson, 31, had been in the Los Angeles area visiting relatives during the holidays.

Attorney Carl Douglas, representing Anderson’s family, said at a news conference the case is the story of a “5-year-old boy who will never be able to enjoy another day in the presence of his father.”

“If you Tase someone with 50,000 watts of electrical energy six times in the heart, is there really any wonder that moments later his heart would begin to flutter?” Douglas said. “Is there really any wonder that moments later his heart would begin to beat erratically? And is there any wonder why four hours later his heart could no longer withstand the pressure from that Taser and gave out?”

Douglas announced the damages claim at a news conference along with noted civil-rights attorney Ben Crump, who represented the family of George Floyd in Minnesota.

There was no immediate comment from city officials on the claim. LAPD Chief Michel Moore addressed Anderson’s death last week at a news conference, saying a full investigation was being conducted. He said he was particularly interested in the repeated use of the Taser.

“In my preliminary review of this incident, it’s unclear what the role of that Taser was,” Moore said. “To be clear, it’s dependent on the totality of our investigative resources, but also on medical records from the hospital as well as a coroner’s report and their formal and forensic level examination. As this investigation continues, however, I will pay close attention to the use of the Taser.”

Moore and the LAPD released some edited body-camera footage showing the encounter between Anderson and police on Jan. 3 following a traffic collision in which he was involved at Lincoln and Venice boulevards.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents LAPD officers, issued a statement again insisting that Anderson escalated the confrontation with his behavior, which included running away from officers into traffic, while also suggesting he was high on drugs at the time.

“Minor auto accidents are usually handled with an exchange of information between the drivers and a call to one’s insurance carrier,” according to the LAPPL. “On the other hand, when an individual who is high on cocaine is in an accident, tries to open the car door of an innocent driver, and then flees the scene by running into traffic, police officers must act. We demand that the chief of police release the missing seven minutes of body-worn camera video that will capture the entire episode with Mr. Anderson. We believe the missing video will confirm that Mr. Anderson was the one who escalated this tragic incident that his family and Mr. Crump are now trying to shamelessly profit from.”

Douglas described a far different scenario, saying Anderson “in every way was respectful of authority,” and acted compliantly and referred to the officers as “sir.”

“The first officer had seven minutes of conversation with a compliant Keenan Anderson, who was in position on the ground calling him `sir.’ That officer then calls for backup and Keenan sees several officers then rushing towards him,” Douglas said.

He said Anderson reacted reasonably in fear at the site of multiple officers running toward him, “and that fear drove him to run into the middle of the street.”

“Three trained killers, because that’s what trained offers are, were unable to handcuff an unarmed man without having to Taser him six separate times on the back side of his heart,” Douglas said.

Anderson’s death, along with the deaths of two other men who were fatally shot by LAPD officers within the first three days of the year, have led to protests and calls for the ouster of Moore and changes in the way the agency responds to traffic crashes.

Anderson was a cousin of Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Keenan, you deserve compassion,” Cullors said earlier this week. “Keenan, you deserve to be in your classroom, supporting your students. Keenan, you deserve to have your wedding day. Keenan, you deserve to be raising your son.”

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