A Baton Rouge police officer injured during protests over Alton Sterling‘s 2016 shooting death can sue the protest’s organizer on the grounds that he acted negligently, a federal appeals court ruled.
The April 24 decision by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans reverses a federal judge’s previous ruling to dismiss the lawsuit, according to The Times-Picayune.
The officer, identified only as “John Doe” in court records, filed a lawsuit arguing that Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson was negligent in organizing and leading demonstrators to block a public highway. In his suit, the officer claims he was hit in the face by a piece of concrete or a rock-like object hurled at officers making arrests.
The officer said he was incapacitated by the blow, and suffered the loss of teeth, as well as head, jaw and brain injuries. His complaint also cites lost wages and “other compensable losses.”
In their ruling last Wednesday, the Fifth Circuit judges wrote that the officer should be able to proceed with his negligence claim, arguing that Mckesson, a prominent Baltimore activist, didn’t exercise reasonable caution when he led a crowd of protesters onto the highway and ignored the “forseeable risk of violence.”
“Given the intentional lawlessness of this aspect of the demonstration, Mr. Mckesson should have known that leading the demonstrators onto a busy highway was most nearly certain to provoke a confrontation between police and the mass of demonstrators, yet he ignored the foreseeable danger to officers, bystanders, and demonstrators, and notwithstanding, did so anyway,” the judges wrote in their decision.
Mckesson was one of almost 200 demonstrators arrested July 10, 2016, as hundreds took to the streets to protest Sterling’s fatal shooting. The Black father of five was gunned down by two white Baton Rouge cops during a struggle outside a convenience store on July 5.
Video of the incident sparked days of protests.
Mckesson responded to the ruling on Friday, saying he was “disappointed and troubled” by the court’s reversal.
“I am currently exploring my legal options and will respond formally soon,” he said in a statement.
The Baltimore activist suffered another legal loss last month after a Manhattan judge dismissed his defamation suit against Fox News personality Jeanine Piro, citing her ““loud, caustic and hard hitting” opinions. Mckesson, 33, sued Piro in 2017 after she went on air and claimed he’d “directed” violence against an officer during the Baton Rouge protest.
In their ruling, the Fifth Circuit judges made it clear they aren’t saying Mckesson is liable for the officer’s injuries, but that the officer has a reasonable claim and his case should move forward.
“We are simply required to decide whether Officer Doe’s claim for relief is sufficiently plausible,” Circuit Judge E. Grady Jolly wrote.
An attorney for the unnamed officer called the decision “a stand-up victory for the Baton Rouge PD.”