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$4.5 Million Tentative Settlement Reached In Scott Olsen’s Lawsuit for “Less Lethal” Shooting by OPD
by WeCopwatch
Friday Mar 21st, 2014 12:51 PM
The City of Oakland has agreed to pay Scott Olsen $4.5 million to compensate him for devastating brain injuries he suffered when an Oakland Police officer shot him in the head with a “less lethal” munition on October 25, 2011, during a demonstration in support of Occupy Oakland. The lead filled “bean bag” round, fired from a 12 gauge shotgun, shattered Mr. Olsen’s skull and permanently destroyed part of his brain. The settlement in Olsen v. City of Oakland, 3:12-cv-06333, is pending final approval by the Oakland City Council. Mr. Olsen was represented by attorneys Jim Chanin, Rachel Lederman, and Julie Houk. (Ten-minute Olsen case video below.)
“After serving two tours of duty as a United States Marine in Iraq, Scott Olsen could never have imagined that he would be shot in the head by an Oakland Police officer while he was peacefully exercising his First Amendment rights in support of the budding “Occupy” economic justice movement,” said Rachel Lederman. “Scott was 24 years old when the shooting and ensuing brain damage robbed him of what had been a promising career as a computer network and systems administrator.”

Jim Chanin said, “There was no dispute that Scott Olsen never posed a threat and was protesting peacefully. He was shot because OPD commanders decided to simultaneously use chemical agents to disperse the demonstrators and have officers shoot impact munitions at anyone who might be throwing something — even though this violated their own written policies. The obviously foreseeable result was that the officers shot people who were desperately trying to flee the scene, including Mr. Olsen.”

Mr. Olsen had only been at the demonstration for a matter of minutes before OPD commanders gave the order to use munitions on the assembled crowd. He was shot 18 seconds later. Lederman explained, “The commanders knew the teargas and flashbangs would cause people to panic and run, yet they elected to shoot SIM [Specialty Impact Munitions] into the densely packed crowd and it is only a matter of luck that more people weren’t injured as severely as Scott Olsen or killed. If the police had done sufficient planning for the demonstration and followed their own Crowd Control Policy, the use of weapons could have entirely been avoided. After all, no other Bay Area city responded to Occupy with SIM or teargas and no other city has incurred the enormous costs that the people of Oakland have as a result.” “The cost is not only money,” added Olsen. “If people can’t speak out without fear of being shot we don’t really have democracy.”

After being shot, Mr. Olsen lay on the pavement critically injured and bleeding from the head, clearly visible very close to the line of police officers. When concerned protesters ran to his aid, OPD Officer Robert Roche threw a flashbang-like CS Blast grenade into their midst, causing them to scatter. The grenade exploded close enough to Mr. Olsen to burn his shoulder as he lay helpless. Civilians re-approached and persisted in carrying Mr. Olsen to safety, screaming for medical aid – but no law enforcement personnel responded or summoned medical attention even though their own policy requires them to provide medical aid to anyone hit with a SIM.

In an independent investigation commissioned by the City, former Baltimore Police Chief Tom Frazier found that “the fact that no law enforcement officer, supervisor, or commander observed the person falling down or prostrate in the street during the confrontation was unsettling and not believable.”

Mr. Olsen said that he is unable to return to his high tech career. “In the hospital, I had to learn how to talk all over again. Part of my brain isn’t working anymore. It’s not like something I really want to talk about all the time. I relive it every day.“

“This is the same police department that shot longshoremen and protesters with so-called less lethal munitions during a peaceful antiwar picket at the Port of Oakland in 2003,” explained Chanin. “At that time, the City and Police agreed to stop these practices and adopted a model policy for constitutional policing of demonstrations.” “But as soon as they had some more large protests,” said Lederman, “OPD scrapped that agreement and repeated the same mistakes. Scott Olsen’s is the worst of the injuries that resulted from that and I wish I could say it will be the last but that remains to be seen.”

In July, 2013, the Oakland City Council approved a $1,170,000 settlement in a civil rights lawsuit brought by Rachel Lederman, Jim Chanin, and other attorneys on behalf of journalist Scott Campbell and 11 other persons, Campbell et al v. City of Oakland, 3:11-cv-5498. A separate lawsuit, Sabeghi v. City of Oakland, 3:12-cv-6057, was resolved in December, 2013, for $645,000.

As part of the Campbell settlement and a companion $1,025,000 settlement in Spalding v. City of Oakland, 3:11-cv-2867, regarding unlawful mass arrests of protesters, the City and OPD again agreed to abide by the negotiated Crowd Control Policy and gave U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson the power to enforce compliance with the policy for up to seven years.

However, according to Lederman, “OPD has refused to get rid of so-called “less lethal” weapons such as CS Blast grenades and lead shot filled beanbags, and until they do so, it is only a matter of time before we see another tragedy.”
by WeCopwatch Friday Mar 21st, 2014 12:51 PM
by WeCopwatch Friday Mar 21st, 2014 12:51 PM
by WeCopwatch Friday Mar 21st, 2014 12:51 PM
Copy the code below to embed this movie into a web page:
(video 10:33)

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Marty
Friday Mar 21st, 2014 3:29 PM
This radicalized Vet brother deserves every cent for the crime carried out against him by the OPD.
The only thing i wonder about is that Scott has often said he then didn't want to settle but to win in court . To subject the lying thugs of the OPD and their bosses to questioning about the police attack not only against him but Occupy Oakland as a whole.
So what happend to change his mind ?
by DN! fan
Friday Mar 21st, 2014 3:39 PM
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, Scott, you had originally said when you filed the lawsuit that you were intent on bringing it to trial, because you wanted to have the facts come out. Your decision to agree to a settlement and why you felt it was best to do it at this point?

SCOTT OLSEN: Well, going to trial would have meant even more stress, and it would have taken a lot more time. It could have taken an extra year or two. And, you know, that’s kind of just a reality I had to deal with. And yeah, I—part of me does wish we had gone to trial, but this is what’s going to work out for me better, I think, and hopefully for pushing forward for change in Oakland police policy.
by Marty
Friday Mar 21st, 2014 4:02 PM
Tx for the line from DN. Please don't misunderstand i know it was Scott's decision .
But there seems to be some belief out there that one could never put cops on trial , that going forward to that was futile etc.
Not always so. A few years ago a Homeless man named James Cotton was beaten to death by the Eureka PD in Humboldt County . His father and step mother sued in Federal Court.. At first the City of Eureka belittled the case , said it had no merit , all the usual bullshit . But as the legal wheels progressed they started getting nervous .
Finally shortly before it went to trial in Oakland (the families attys got a change of venue ) they made settlement offers. Exact numbers were never revealed but probably in the mid six figures. Which a working class family like the Cottons badly needed. But they refused .
It went to trial . The Cops were forced to testify . They tripped over their lies . Other victims of police violence attended the trial and were gratified to see at least that small amount of justice.
The Jury returned . Found in favor of the family . Awarded i think 2 mil.
by Marty
Friday Mar 21st, 2014 4:09 PM
Correction- The murdered Eureka man's name was Martin Cotton not James . Sorry .
by historical
Friday Mar 21st, 2014 4:39 PM
The family received over $4.5 million, the same as Olsen.

And the family did settle with the county at the very last minute, just not the cops who beat Martin to death, so it seems unlikely that they would not have settled with the cops too, if they had made a decent offer.

The $4.5M Scott Olsen was offered by Oakland was a substantial offer, and not worth the risk to jeopardize.

Jurors almost never aware multi-million dollar penalties for police brutality, and going to court is time-consuming (think years) and a huge risk. Olsen could end up with nothing or next to nothing, when he has over $200,000 in medical bills already.

The Cotton case was extremely rare, and I can't think of a single other case like it. Oakland usually settles for like $1-2 million for police murder cases.
by woow
Friday Mar 21st, 2014 5:17 PM
such pleasant discussions ''america'' has turned into. like a bunch of roustabouts clubbing each other. everything is a ''cort'' descision. is everyone in ''jail''? we are.just better food on the ''outside''. enslaved by white americans. excepting ''disabled'' and the wrongfully incarcerated. you others better speak up!
by Marty
Friday Mar 21st, 2014 7:24 PM
Ok i might stand corrected on the amount awarded. I certainly don't remember it being that large ..Anyway this isn't primarily about dollars and cents. Whether or not to proceed or not to Civil trial shouldn't be a ''Business''decision that you almost seem to imply .
The fact is that the state much prefers even giving millions to ''settle ''such cases than having it's minions having to at least be publicly called out on their crimes .
So my question to you is Wouldn't it be worth jeopardizing that settlement if those thugs and their masters could have been forced to be on the witness stand ? Isn't all of this struggle about more than compensation for this or that victim? (as richly justified and needed as it might be )
by historical
Friday Mar 21st, 2014 10:50 PM
not sure if you are just a concern troll, but the crux of your point is a big fat WHAT IF

"if those thugs and their masters *could have* been forced to be on the witness stand"

a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

trials have all sorts of ways of being fixed by judges. just look at the Mehserle trial.

and it seems largely symbolic to me to want cops on the witness stand so badly. might feel good to "force" them to testify, force them to do anything, but you know what? they're going to lie and lie and lie some more. what's the giant benefit that would outweigh the risk of Scott losing everything and remaining $200,000 in debt? to hear some cops lie for days on end? would there be some huge educational benefit for the general public? what would people learn that they don't already know about the case? people who care, pay attention. those that don't, look the other way, if they even notice at all.

the question to you is what exactly is this giant upside to going to trial and risking it all? what giant new facts came out in the Cotton trial that were so devastating to the police and made a lasting difference in the fight against police brutality? everyone who cared already knew that the cops beat Martin to death for no good reason. the trial didn't convert anyone. hell, the press barely covered it, if at all.

I don't see how there's much if any advantage to that over, say, just some good solid investigative reporting, if the goal is to "out" facts about crooked and violent cops. and I suspect that more info will come out about the cops involved in this shooting over time, with or without a trial

you call it a business decision, but it's just simple practicality. one has to weigh the pros and cons and try to make the best decision one can, about any decision. charging in blindly, without regard to consequences, is just dumb. you seem to be second-guessing Scott, even demeaning him publicly here on this thread that should be a celebration of his victory, as if you think he's some sort of greedy coward who took the easy way out. that's not cool. just let it go. it was his brain injury and it's his decision to make. not yours or mine.

Scott Olsen can no longer earn a living as a computer programmer of some kind, as I recall. Here is the description of his disability on Democracy Now, 3/21/14 at

"SCOTT OLSEN: Well, there’s—there’s a portion of my left frontal lobe which is dead. And, you know, that manifests itself in different like cognitive problems—fatigue, memory, planning and things like this. So, it’s—it made it very difficult when I tried to return to employment, and it makes that unrealistic for me. And, you know, it’s very—I’m at a much greater risk of, down the line, developing dementia, Alzheimer’s or other cognitive issues."

He is faced with serious lifelong medical bills and no employment. Those of you who live in a fantasy world of not worrying about money must be very wealthy. The rest of us have to work for a living to pay the bills, and medical bills, even with insurance, are outrageous in this backward, reactionary society that has no socialized medicine unlike all of Europe, Israel, Cuba, Venezuela, Chile, Canada, China, Japan, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand. We have insurance and Health Maintenance Organizations like Kaiser engaging in profiteering that is criminal.

As to the American legal system, if you think there is something called justice in the courtroom, you have not been paying attention to Nazi USA's legal system. First, the people who sit on juries are usually reactionary property owners who almost always believe anything the police say, and are very unlikely to be sympathetic to any workingclass movements such as the Occupy struggle. Second, the workingclass has no time or money to take unpaid leave from work to sit in a courtroom for even one day, much less the several weeks this trial would have taken. Economic hardship is a good reason to get oneself dismissed from jury duty. Third, most of us are not government employees who receive full pay while sitting on a jury. Fourth, all trials cost lots of money, starting in the thousands of dollars, and running into millions of dollars, which Olsen would have to pay from any verdict that was in his favor, no matter how small as costs the lawyers advance are deducted from the plaintiff's verdict in all fee agreements. Fifth, all trials are extremely stressful for all concerned. Sixth, all trials are staged performances, and while Scott Olsen may appear to be sympathetic to his fellow members of Occupy, he is not a good witness as far as most juries are concerned. The long hair alone, much less his association with Occupy and Iraq Vets against War, make him a poor witness before these reactionary juries whether in California or anywhere else. Thus, the possibility of winning anything at all, much less $4.5 million in a jury trial was almost zero.

The question must be asked, why does any American think these reactionary juries care about us? After all, the prisons are filled with victims of these reactionary juries, and they are just as bad when it comes to civil rights cases. Ask anyone who has any connection to the legal system, whether lawyers or staff, and they will all say that Scott Olsen did exactly the right thing in accepting this settlement. Anyone who thinks the general public learns any lesson from any trial does not live in the USA. People think according to their class outlook and class interests. That is why we need labor organizing to put an end to the private profit system that is the cause of all our grief.
by anon
Saturday Mar 22nd, 2014 10:07 AM
The payment will come from the taxpayers via the insurance company.

Always, always follow the money. The cops are never the ones in charge. The judge is not in charge. It is always the money man who is in charge.

Taking the case to trial only meant battling the money men, not justice or getting cops to testify or any other liberal outcome.

Money has no ethics or morals or values. So taking a tiny bit of money away from the money men is probably the very best outcome one could hope for.

It maybe be a flea bite to the money men but lots and lots of flea bites can be very annoying. Maybe annoying enough we can capture their attention, if not change some of their behaviors a tiny bit.

Best of luck to Scott and all the warriors in our hidden war.
by Marty
Sunday Mar 23rd, 2014 1:10 AM
I never in any way ''demeaned'' Scott Olsen. I just pointed out that since Scott had on many occasions stated that he wouldn't ''settle '' and that he thought (unlike ''Historical '' ) the case going to trial would be of great value (and was widely praised for taking that stance) activists can and will understandably ask What changed his mind ? That doesn't question his right to make the decision that he did .
Your post seems to be taking a cynical defeatist stance. I disagree. I think that a MOVEMENT against Police violence can win some victories . Not just for this or that individual victim .
by Marty
Sunday Mar 23rd, 2014 1:37 AM
To be consistent ''Historical ''should condemn Juan Gonzales of DN for asking Scott exactly the same question I'm posing .