12 protesters file claims against Seattle, county, state

Protest Seattle
SEATTLE (AP) — Twelve people, or their families, who were hurt or killed in Seattle protests over the past six weeks filed financial claims Monday against the city of Seattle, King County and Washington state, alleging police used excessive force or failed to secure the safety of peaceful protesters.

The claims, to which the city, county and state have 60 days to respond, are the first step in filing lawsuits. None of the claims ask for a specific dollar amount, The Seattle Times reported.

The claimants say they, or their loved ones, were hit by cars, shot, pepper sprayed, tear-gassed, put in chokeholds or knocked unconscious in protests against systemic racism and police brutality. Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability has 28 investigations open regarding officers’ actions in the recent protests, several of which appear to overlap with the filed claims.

“There’s something wrong here, this is wrong, this is not how people who protest should be assisted,” said Karen Koehler, whose firm represents most of the claimants. “Police have escalated each and every situation.”

The family of Summer Taylor, a demonstrator killed on Interstate 5 by a driver who evaded a police roadblock and drove through a night of protests on the freeway, filed claims. So did Daniel Gregory, who was shot in the arm at a Capitol Hill protest by a driver who appeared to drive toward a crowd of protesters.

Taylor’s family also filed a claim against King County, when, after Taylor’s death, a member of the King County Sheriff’s Office posted an image on Facebook with the words “all lives splatter” and wrote that “a couple of people got infected with COVID-19 from the hood of a car on I-5 last night,” according to the claim.

Ryan Abbott, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, said the employee who posted the image has been removed from active duty pending an investigation. Employees who may have liked, reacted to or participated in the postings are also being investigated, he said.

The other claims all involve allegations of excessive force from police. Many of them were documented by photo and video that’s been shared on social media. One of them involves Armand Avery, who filed claims on behalf of himself and his 7-year-old son, JoZiah. Avery says they were both sprayed with Mace by Seattle police at a May 30 protest.

Stephanie Formas, chief of staff for Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, said the city does not usually comment on pending claims or lawsuits. Seattle police and the Washington State Patrol did not immediately respond to requests for comment.