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City Settles Lawsuit With Activists Injured by Police During Protest

Three people shot with rubber bullets and beanbags will split $261,000.

August 15, 2003|Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writer

Three people injured when Los Angeles police officers shot them with beanbags and rubber bullets during an anti-police protest will receive a total of more than $261,000 in damages from the city, according to the terms of a settlement announced Thursday.

Xochitl Estrada, 23, of Montebello; Noluthando Williams, 26, of Los Angeles; and Brad Olson, 43, of Oceanside, will share the payout resulting from an Oct. 22, 2000, protest at the LAPD's Parker Center headquarters.

Police officials said they broke up the demonstration after some protesters threw bottles, vandalized a bus stop and yelled obscenities.

At a news conference Thursday, attorney James S. Muller said his clients were exercising their free-speech rights when they were hit by projectiles fired by LAPD riot police who did not distinguish between innocent people and a few troublemakers in the crowd.

"If your kids don't clear the table, do you punch them in the mouth?" Muller asked. "[The response was] disproportionate to what people were doing out there."

The city attorney and the LAPD had no comment about the settlement.

Estrada, a student who sustained permanent injury to an eye, will receive $200,000. Williams, a youth programs consultant who was also shot in the face, will be awarded $35,000.

Olson, a contractor shot at close range while accompanying his teenage son and son's friend to the protest, will receive $26,500.

Reminiscent of clashes between activists and police months earlier at the Democratic National Convention, the protest involved groups of activists united by anger over police brutality and the death penalty.

Thousands of marchers, who started at Olympic Boulevard and Broadway, made their way through downtown to Parker Center on Los Angeles Street north of 1st Street.

While most remained peaceful, about 200 protesters broke off from the group and headed to the rear of police headquarters.

Some demonstrators vandalized bus shelters and an LAPD recruiting poster and chanted "Who let the pigs out?" when they encountered police along 1st and San Pedro streets.

Officers used their batons to move some protesters out of the way. As demonstrators were pushed back, some began throwing plastic and glass bottles while others set fire to piles of paper in the street. That prompted police to fire their weapons, causing the demonstrators to retreat.

Two men and a woman were arrested on suspicion of felony assault with a deadly weapon after objects were thrown at police. The three later pleaded guilty, said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney.

Muller said the trouble began because police ignored the fact that protesters had a permit to be in the area around Parker Center.

As protesters tried to continue on the permitted route, they found themselves blocked by police.

"When I watched videotape of the incident," Muller said, "it appears to me that the police were looking for an excuse to shoot people with rubber bullets and beanbags, because the video doesn't show anything that would justify police opening fire on the peaceful protesters."

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