DENVER (KDVR) — A man who says he was shot in the eye with a police projectile and blinded during the springtime George Floyd protests in downtown Denver is suing the City and County of Denver in federal court.
“I’m hoping (this lawsuit) means a chance to review what happened, (and) tell my story,” said Russell Strong, who is named as the plaintiff.
Strong now wears a prosthetic eyeball after his was removed due to his injury.
“Maybe at the end…there could be a positive impact on the relationship between the police and our community,” he said.
Strong said he carried a sign that read, “No Justice, No Peace” during the May protest at Civic Center Park.
“I certainly didn’t go there with the intent of causing mischief, you know what I mean? It was a peaceful protest in the park. I’m holding a peace sign,” he said. “A lot of people feel like it was about saying, ‘F the police,’ and for me, it’s not about that. It’s about trying to uplift the community and the relationship between the citizens and the police. The police are just as much a part of this community as the citizens, and so, I’m not there trying to have a war between me and the police.”
Strong said he was holding his sign when someone shot him in the face.
“Without even giving warning to those they promised to serve and protect, Officers in Denver opened fire on the protesters,” the lawsuit said. “Defendant Officer Doe took aim, fired, and shot Mr. Strong in the head with a Kinetic Impact Projectile (‘KIP). The impact knocked Mr. Strong to the ground and blood began flowing from his eye socket.”
The suit names an unidentified officer, Officer Doe, as a co-defendant with the City and County of Denver because attorneys and police who investigated the incident have said they’ve been unable to identify the specific person who struck Strong in the face.
The Denver district attorney also declined the case for criminal charges for that reason.
“Both Denver police and Aurora officers were on scene at that time. Without knowing the answers to who or what hit Mr. Strong, there is simply not enough evidence for us to file a criminal case,” said Carolyn Tyler, in November.
“We have every reason to believe that we will be able to identify the officer who shot Mr. Strong and took his eye, but even if not, we’re prepared to hold the City of Denver accountable for its policies and its customs that allowed for this to occur,” said Matt Cron, an attorney representing Strong and a partner at the Rathod Mohamedbhai civil rights firm.
“The problem in this case is that so many officers were using force that it becomes difficult to pinpoint exactly which officer is responsible,” he said.