Attorneys file series of excessive force claims against local law agencies

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Amid the ongoing nationwide debate about police use of force, a series of legal cases and claims were announced Thursday against various San Diego-area law enforcement agencies claiming recent use of excessive force against prisoner and protesters.

Among the legal actions announced Thursday were claims involving the fatal shooting of 36-year-old Nicholas Bils outside the San Diego Central Jail, which resulted in the filing of second-degree murder charges this week against a former sheriff’s deputy; the officer-involved shooting with a police projectile of 59-year-old protester Leslie Furcron in La Mesa; and the rough arrest of a Black woman at Ocean Beach, whose detention for allegedly walking her dog without a leash was captured on film and spread over social media.

The attorneys, in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union’s San Diego chapter, are also calling on elected officials to adopt the Coalition for Police Accountability and Transparency’s “Police Accountability Now” package, a series of policy proposals aimed at limiting discretionary stops by police, adopting de-escalation policies and investing in non-law enforcement interventions, among other proposals.

The attorneys said the rash of recent local incidents involving police are indicative of systemic issues with policing and law enforcement culture, to include overly aggressive detention tactics and limited accountability.

Attorney Genevieve Jones-Wright, whose office filed four claims this week, said recent police encounters have garnered widespread attention, but “there has always been this reality of two Americas. One America that calls 911 and feels safe knowing officers are on their way, and the other, where calling 911 for help has to be thought about a time or two before making the call because they know that when officers show up — even if they are the caller — their very lives may be in danger.”

Jones-Wright said, “Very clearly, we are showing that the problems are systemic and run deep. Through our clients’ cases, we are making a case for the need for transformative justice in our policing practices.”

Attorney Dante Pride is representing Furcron and three others he says were shot with beanbag rounds during recent police protests. He said his clients did not commit or threaten violence against officers, yet were fired upon.

Furcron, in perhaps the most publicly known case stemming from the local protests, was struck between the eyes with a beanbag round and has suffered injuries that include vision loss and facial fractures, according to Pride.

Attorney Gerald Singleton said he’s representing two women who were allegedly shot with rubber bullets during the protests, and has also filed complaints to prevent law enforcement in San Diego and La Mesa from using tear gas and “less-than-lethal” rounds such as rubber bullets as crowd-control methods.

Singleton said, “The twin problems we face are the militarization of our police and the lack of accountability when officers abuse their power. This is not a war zone. This is America. We’re the greatest country on earth. We shouldn’t be using tear gas — which has been banned for use in wartime by international treaties to which the U.S. is a signatory — and rubber bullets against peaceful demonstrators. We shouldn’t have a system that looks the other way.”

Pride said, “It is crucial that we all stand up and demand accountability from the La Mesa and San Diego law enforcement officers who have violently suppressed the free speech of our fellow citizens. The use of kinetic impact projectiles, such as lead-filled bean bags, for crowd control is excessive, potentially lethal force, in violation of the Constitution and contrary to the values of our society.”

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