Denver settles with two demonstrators who claim cops used excessive force during the George Floyd protests

The two settlements total $825,000. The city has given $1.3 million in settlements related to the George Floyd protests.
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The sixth day of protests in reaction to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. June 2, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Youssef Amghar and Megan Matthews, two protesters that sued Denver over the police department's use of force during the 2020 George Floyd protests, are getting a monetary settlement from the city.

On Tuesday, the Denver City Council unanimously approved settling with Amghar for $250,000 and with Matthews for $575,000.

The two demonstrators filed separate lawsuits in federal court. Amghar, a U.S. Marine, alleged they were struck by Denver police officers who shot pepper balls toward crowds during protests in May without warning. Amghar was standing with their hands up alongside other people when they were shot in the arms, legs, chest and face, according to the lawsuit. Matthews required multiple surgeries after she was struck in the eye by a police projectile. She maintains she was not doing anything violent.

Tuesday's settlements mark the third time the city has forked over taxpayer money, about $1.3 million, to settle with protesters who accused the Denver police department of using excessive force during the protests.

Council members last month approved a $500,000 settlement with Michael Ackers, who was struck in the eye by a sponge round in May 2020. And several more lawsuits have been filed against the city by protesters alleging police used excessive force.

In a statement to Denverite, public safety department records administrator Andrea Webber said the protests in Denver following the murder of George Floyd were "unprecedented, requiring a massive, unplanned police response." Webber said there was no video footage of Mathews being struck, so the department wasn't able to identify which cop fired the round that struck her. The department was unable to identify who struck Amghar with pepperballs, according to Webber's statement.

Webber said there wasn't any indication that either Amghar or Matthews were engaged in anything other than peaceful protests.

"This and other injuries caused by 40 mm projectiles led to the Department of Safety prohibiting the use of 40 mm launchers in crowd control situations," Webber said in a statement. "The Department of Safety is committed to learning from incidents like these to improve law enforcement response and ensure the safety of those we serve."

At least three Denver police officers have faced suspension.

Council members approved a third settlement related to Denver police on Tuesday night, though it was unrelated to the protests.

Lawmakers okayed a $450,000 settlement for Justin Lecheminant, who sued the city and four police officers in 2020 for excessive force after he was repeatedly punched during an arrest in 2019, according to KDVR.

We've reached out to attorneys representing Amghar and Matthews for comment.

This story has been updated to include a response from the city.

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