A protestor who had his chin blown off after being struck by a rubber bullet shot by Denver police during the protests in 2020 is suing the department, claiming excessive force and violation of his First Amendment rights.
Gabriel Schlough participated in the protests in Denver prompted by George Floyd’s murder in May 2020. Schlough was protesting alongside others on May 31, 2020, when he was shot in the face by a Kinetic Impact Projectile, rounds often used for crowd control, according to the lawsuit filed on Monday in U.S. District Court. The impact severed his chin.
Schlough was also serving as a protest medic, providing aid to people who were struck by projectiles, according to the lawsuit. The protests began on May 28 and continued for weeks.
On May 31, Schlough was attempting to provide aid to a woman who was allegedly shot in the chest with a tear gas canister when he was shot with rubber bullets in the face and chest by Denver police officers Zackary Petrick and Julie Weinheimer without warning, according to the lawsuit. The officers were about ten to 15 feet away when they shot Schlough. Schlough described likened the pain of the injury to getting hit with a baseball bat.
A release from the attorney representing Schlough, Andy McNulty, claimed officers “consistently, and customarily, shot-to-maim.” A report from the city’s law enforcement watchdog said police mishandled its response during the protests.
“Rather than protecting and serving, Denver officers in these protests were a roving gang cosplaying as an occupying military force,” McNulty said in the press release. Schlough is seeking monetary compensation for his injuries.
The lawsuit is just the latest filed against Denver police for its officer’s actions during protests that started nearly two years ago.
Last month, Denver City Council approved a $500,000 settlement with a protestor who filed a lawsuit after he was struck by a non-lethal round during the protests. McNulty represented that protester as well. His law firm, Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP, represent seven total protesters, and Monday’s lawsuit is the third one filed on their behalf. The firm is also representing Trevor Hughes, a professional photographer whose finger was severely injured during the protests.
Last week, it was revealed that a third Denver police officer had been suspended for using excessive force during the protests after the department found he used pepper spray on protestors without justification.
Denver police said in a statement to Denverite that it does not comment on pending litigation. The lawsuit additionally names Chief Paul Pazen, as well as Denver police Commander Patrick Phelan, Lt. Vince Porter, Lt. J.D. Williams, and officers Petrick and Weinheimer