Editor’s note: This article has been updated following City Council’s approval of the claims.
Just one week after the city paid $1.1 million in police settlements to George Floyd protesters, City Council approved another $550,000 Monday.
The case involves Russell Strong, who claims he lost an eye after police fired a kinetic-impact projectile — also known as a rubber bullet — at protesters during the 2020 racial justice protests. According to reporting at the time, Strong was peacefully protesting while holding a sign at Civic Center when Denver police officers shot projectiles. His eye was later removed.
It’s a familiar story. Strong is just one of dozens of people set to receive millions of dollars from the city. Many claim they were peacefully protesting when injured by tear gas and projectiles shot by police. Denver has paid more than $9 million in claims involving police in 2023 thus far. And, in 2022, a group of 12 protesters won $14 million in damages over police misconduct dating back to the protests.
Denverite has reached out to Strong’s lawyers for comment.
Meanwhile, City Council is set to approve another $825,000 in a different case involving police.
In 2017, police arrested Juan Valenzuela for what they believed was a forged ID. According to court documents and Valenzuela’s lawyers, the card was real, but Valenzuela spent two days in jail and lost his job. A federal judge awarded him $500,000 in 2022, while the city will likely pay $825,000.
Raymond Bryant, one of Valenzuela’s lawyers, said that police submitted misleading information to the judge involved in the case.
“I’m glad that the City Council looks like they’re in a position to approve that settlement so that my client gets some relief,” Bryant said. “But he has waited six years for a resolution of this issue, and that city of Denver has not only failed to train and supervise its officers, including this defendant officer, but has continued to delay the resolution of this matter. So this resolution is not a victory we’re celebrating. It is something that was unfortunately needed by my client to move on with his life.”
The Denver Police Department (DPD) declined to comment on either case.