A man was awarded $375,000 Thursday by a jury that found his constitutional rights were violated when he was wounded by a Los Angeles Police Department officer who fired a projectile at his face during a May 2020 demonstration in the Fairfax district to protest the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Deon Jones, 31, a Los Angeles performance artist and entrepreneur, alleged in the complaint filed three years ago that he was leaving the area when Los Angeles police officer Peter Bueno, wearing riot gear, fired the rubber bullet.
An LAPD spokesman said the department cannot comment on pending litigation, but officials previously said the LAPD is investigating its handling of Floyd-related protests that took place throughout the city.
Bueno’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Following a seven-day trial in Santa Ana federal court, the jury found that the shooting was “malicious, oppressive, or in reckless disregard of Mr. Jones’ rights,” according to Orin Snyder, Jones’ attorney.
“Deon Jones filed this case to hold the defendant accountable for shooting him in the face with a rubber bullet at a protest without any justification,” Snyder said in a statement.
“Justice has now been done. The defendant is being held accountable. We are grateful to the court and the jury for their time and attention to this important case. We are proud to have stood with Mr. Jones during this long-fought battle to vindicate his constitutional rights. The jury today sent a strong message that there will be consequences if the police abuse their authority and commit acts of violence against innocent protesters.”
The trial utilized police body-cam footage and testimony from eyewitnesses as well as LAPD officers and others who testified that the officer violated LAPD’s use of force policies, Snyder said.
The lawsuit states that when Jones fell to the ground, he cried out, “Why did they do this to me?”
The city and LAPD are also being sued in federal court by Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and the National Lawyers Guild in a proposed class-action lawsuit on behalf of hundreds of protesters. That suit seeks to ban the police use of “less lethal” projectile weapons at such gatherings.
Dozens of other lawsuits have been filed by individuals who were injured by police at the demonstrations.
In the Jones case, the jury awarded the plaintiff $250,000 in damages for the injuries he sustained and $125,000 in punitive damages, according to Snyder.
The projectile caused a fracture and lacerations to Jones’ cheek. The lawsuit says an ophthalmologist told Jones that if the bullet had struck millimeters from where he was actually hit, Jones could have been blinded or killed.
The verdict “puts law enforcement on notice that there will be serious consequences if they abuse their authority by using their weapons against innocent protesters in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights,” Snyder said.