The family of a Washington, D.C. teacher and cousin of a Black Lives Matter founder who died after being repeatedly shocked with a stun gun by police has filed a $50 million claim for damages against the city of Los Angeles.
Keenan Anderson, 31, died of cardiac arrest in a hospital hours after a struggle with Los Angeles Police Department officers who were pursuing him after a car crash on Jan. 3, police have said. Anderson was shocked six times with a Taser in less than a minute.
“As a result of this unlawful assault and battery, Mr. Anderson sustains serious injury and damages to his mind and body,” the claim reads.
Civil rights attorneys Carl Douglas and Ben Crump filed the claim on behalf of Anderson’s 5-year-old son.
What happened to Keenan Anderson?
Police have said Anderson initially complied with officers’ orders as they investigated a car collision and whether Anderson was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. He later fled and was chased by officers, then resisted when they tried to detain him, according to Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore.
Officers then used a stun gun to subdue him. He was taken to a hospital, where he died more than four hours later. A preliminary toxicology report from police found cocaine and cannabis in Anderson’s body, according to Moore, and a coroner’s toxicology report will also be performed.
“It’s unclear what role the physical struggle with the officers and the use of the Taser played in his unfortunate death,” Moore said.
Moore said there isn’t a limit to how many times officers can use a Taser on someone, but it is best practice to avoid repeated use to avoid injuring the person they’re trying to restrain.
POLICE USE OF TASERS:Why and when do police use the shocking devices?
“If you Taser someone with 50,000 watts of electrical energy six times in the heart, is there really any wonder that moments later, his heart will begin to flutter?” Douglas said at the press conference. “Is there any wonder why four hours later, his heart could no longer withstand the pressure from that Taser and give out, leaving a 5-year-old boy in his wake?”
A spokesperson for the LAPD declined to comment on the claim, telling USA TODAY on Friday the department does not comment on pending litigation.
Bodycam video shows Anderson being shocked by Taser
Black Lives Matter supporters have protested outside LAPD headquarters in the wake of Anderson’s death, which they see as another example of a Black man dying due to police misconduct.
Body camera and bystander cellphone video released of Anderson’s interaction with police showed him calling for help, and at one point an officer had his elbow pressed into Anderson’s neck while Anderson was on his back on the pavement.
“They’re trying to kill me,” Anderson said. “They’re trying to George Floyd me.”
Officers tried to get Anderson to turn onto his stomach so they could handcuff him while Anderson resisted, the video shows.
“Stop it, or I’m going to tase you,” an officer said repeatedly. Anderson was then repeatedly shocked by the Taser.
“My son is going to see that one day, and I don’t know how I will answer any of his questions, now or in the future,” Hansell said. “We are here to get justice for Keenan and in the process we hope to evoke change so that moving forward my son doesn’t have to live his life in fear of one day what happened to his dad may happen to him.”
LAPD used ‘unreasonable deadly force,’ claim alleges
Anderson’s 5-year-old son Syncere Kai Anderson, his mother Gabrielle Hansell and their attorneys announced the claim at a press conference on Friday. Anderson was related to Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors.
The claim alleges that LAPD failed to properly train its officers to detain someone without using “unreasonable deadly force” or that officers didn’t implement their training.
It also claims the officers involved had no reason to believe Anderson posed a threat and were unjustified in using a Taser on him. Lawyers for the family also said in the claim they believe officers’ implicit bias against Anderson as a Black man contributed to their view of him as a threat.
“The officers’ use of unreasonable force under these circumstances was intentionally malicious, oppressive, and despicable, and/or with a deliberate indifference to Mr. Anderson’s rights and safety,” the compaint says.
The claim filed Friday was required before the attorneys can file a lawsuit for wrongful death and civil rights violations against the city and the officers involved, which Douglas said they intend to pursue.
The officers have not been named.
Contributing: N’dea Yancey-Bragg, USA TODAY