San Jose poised to settle lawsuit over 2020 police protests
Protesters faced off with a line of San Jose police officers in the third day of protests over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis, in May 2020. File photo.

A man who lost his eye after being shot with a hard projectile by San Jose police during protests following the 2020 killing of George Floyd is set to receive millions in a city settlement.

The $3 million payout would settle Michael Acosta’s 2021 federal lawsuit alleging San Jose Police Department officers violated his civil rights. It’s part of a $3.35 million total settlement the city is weighing for Acosta and a group of people who also sued the city over violent police tactics and weapons used at the local protests.

The San Jose City Council is scheduled to consider approving the settlement at its Sept. 12 meeting.

Two attorneys for the plaintiffs, lead counsel Rachel Lederman and R. Michael Flynn, said they couldn’t comment on the settlement until it is finalized.

Acosta is expected to receive $2.9 million, while four others on the lawsuit—Megan Swift, Leslie Vasquez, Peter Allen and José Gustavo Flores Rodriguez—would split the remaining $450,000.

The settlement proposal comes less than a month after U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton ruled that the claims of the plaintiffs could proceed to a trial, after the city tried to get them dismissed.

A total of 10 people first sued the city for damages along with Acosta and were joined by two organizations—the NAACP of San Jose-Silicon Valley and San Jose Peace and Justice Center.

Hamilton tossed out six of the claims, though those plaintiffs are still named in the settlement proposal in city documents. The two organizations were not seeking damages, but were also tossed from the suit.

Acosta claimed he was observing the protests on May 29, 2020 “in support of the Black Lives Matter movement,” when he was shot in the face by a hard police projectile.

After suffering severe pain for more than a month, he had to have his eye surgically removed. He missed weeks of work, suffered trauma from being shot by the police and losing a part of his body and now uses a prosthetic eye. Acosta also required surgery to reconstruct his eye socket, the lawsuit said.

The other plaintiffs said they were either struck by police projectiles or bean bags, bludgeoned with batons or “otherwise physically struck by a San Jose Police Department officer” during the May 2020 protests in downtown.

The city saw significant upheaval in response to the police killing of Floyd. Police labeled protests as unlawful assemblies, saying protestors “assaulted drivers on the freeway, vandalized property, and threw objects at officers, causing injuries,” city reports said. Officers unleashed a barrage of tear gas grenades, projectiles and baton strikes against protesters, which prompted hundreds of complaints, calls for more accountability and overhauls of policing in the city.

San Jose City Attorney Nora Frimann declined to comment, citing the pending settlement. San Jose Police Department’s spokesperson deferred to the city attorney.

The San Jose City Council meets at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 12. Learn how to watch and participate.

Contact Joseph Geha at [email protected] or @josephgeha16 on Twitter.

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