Denver will pay another George Floyd protester shot in the chest with PepperBalls

City Council approved the $160,000 payment Tuesday.

The crowd holds hands during a vigil for George Floyd at Civic Center Park. June 9, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The crowd holds hands during a vigil for George Floyd at Civic Center Park. June 9, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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The City of Denver will pay $160,000 to Sammie Leon Lawrence IV, who police shot in the chest with PepperBalls and arrested during the early days of the George Floyd protests in May of 2020. City council approved the payment Tuesday.

Last week, Council approved a $325,000 payment to a couple also shot with PepperBalls by police during the protests. The claims are two of many against Denver Police dating back to the 2020 protests. Payouts by DPD hit an all-time high in 2022.

“It broke me. It breaks me still to this day that my brothers, sisters are dying,” Lawrence said, mentioning the Black man recently killed by Los Angeles Police. “It feels as if we marched for nothing.”

Lawrence’s attorney, Dan Williams, said that according to police body cam footage, the crowd at the protest was predominantly white.

“Our client is a Black man,” he said. “It was notable to us that very few people were arrested at this location at this point in the protest. But the person who they singled out, shot in the chest with PepperBalls, even though he didn’t resist or flee, and then ultimately arrest and hold overnight, was a Black man.”

Lawrence filed the suit in federal court against the City and County of Denver, as well as against Denver police officers Shawn Saunders, Kenneth Bridges and Jackson Burkin.

The Denver Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.

“I have a right to live and not be wrongfully persecuted for my personhood,” Lawrence said. “I love you, Colorado, however, you have to do better, we must be better.”

Williams said that despite the many payouts, he does not feel like the Police have taken sufficient accountability for what happened during the protests.

“What we haven’t heard from the Denver Police Department is contrition and a recognition that what they did to the residents of Denver, who were expressing their outrage of police misconduct, was just unacceptable and beyond the pale,” he said.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the amount city council approved for payment.

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