George Floyd protests: San Jose Police Dept. hit with federal civil rights lawsuit over injuries to protesters

Dan Noyes Image
Tuesday, July 21, 2020
SJPD hit with federal civil rights lawsuit over injuries to George Floyd protesters
New video obtained by the ABC7 I-Team shows San Jose Police firing rubber bullets at protesters, just days after George Floyd's death at the hands of police in Minnesota.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- The San Jose Police Department has been hit with a federal civil rights lawsuit accusing officers of using excessive force during five days of protests that followed the killing of George Floyd.

A protester said, "Who shot me?" The answer, a hail of police projectiles.

That new video obtained by the ABC7 I-Team shows San Jose Police firing rubber bullets at protesters, just days after George Floyd's death at the hands of police in Minnesota.

The video is now part of a federal civil rights lawsuit filed over the weekend against the SJPD, accusing the officers of excessive force.

RELATED: Man who trains San Jose police about bias severely injured by riot gun during George Floyd protest

The lawsuit filed in Federal Court accuses San Jose Police of violating protesters' civil rights, injuring them with rubber bullets and other projectiles during five days of protests that started May 29th.

Attorney Sarah Marinho tells the I-Team, "Protesters have a First Amendment right under the US Constitution to be out peacefully assembling and protesting."

The complaint on behalf of seven plaintiffs says the "SJPD unjustifiably declared peaceful protests 'unlawful assemblies' to excuse their violent tactics."

On the first night of protests, May 29th, Breanna Contreras was hit in the temple with a police projectile.

Derrick Sanderlin tried to calm the situation; you can see him with his hands up. But an officer shot him in the groin with a rubber bullet; he may never have children. Sanderlin is a community activist who trains recruits about implicit bias and procedural justice.

RELATED: New excessive force complaint against SJPD for shooting rubber bullets into apartment

Sanderlin told the I-Team's Dan Noyes in June, "The way that the way that they've treated people out there has over the weekend has been really heartbreaking."

During the following night's protest at San Jose City Hall, Shante Thomas yelled at police from the window of her third floor apartment.

"They was bullying them, they was like they could be untouchable. They could do what they want."

Police responded by firing 13 projectiles; video shows her windows breaking.

RELATED: Hundreds bring demand for an end to police brutality to SJ mayor's doorstep

June 2, J.T. Stukes was out protesting after a curfew, when police unleashed a barrage of rubber bullets and foam batons.

The complaint says an officer tripped him, and that other police fired when he was on the ground leaving contusions, including a 9-inch bruise on his leg.

The lawsuit also says Officer Jared Yuen, who has been placed on leave for taunting protesters and firing his riot gun, has not been trained on its use for more than five years; the manufacture requires certification every two years.

Sarah Marinho told the I-Team, "It's really concerning that officers are out there equipped with deadly weapons and they had received no training. It's unacceptable."

San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia declined our request to be interviewed, but shortly after the protests and the uproar that followed, he banned the use of the rubber bullets against protesters and promised other reforms.

Chief Garcia told a news conference on June 4th, "You will not hear from me today an assertion that we're perfect, particularly in the face of chaos. I'm sure we've made mistakes and we will hold ourselves accountable to those mistakes."

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo also declined an interview but issued this statement:

"I cannot comment on any specific pending litigation. My actions in recent weeks have unequivocally articulated my general position, however, urging that we take investigatory authority over police misconduct away from SJPD to vest with an independent authority, strengthening the authority and scope of the Independent Police Auditor, banning the use of rubber bullets, urging release of body-worn video of all controversial confrontations during the protests, and launching a public review of every aspect of our use-of-force policy. As can be seen in the set of proposals I released a month ago, see. I've also called for a reform of a disciplinary process that allows too many unaccountable arbitrators to reinstate cops fired for misconduct and unlawful uses of force, both here in San Jose and throughout the nation. I will continue to push forward with these and other reforms until we have rebuilt the community trust that has long been the hallmark of the San Jose Police Department."

For a look at more stories and videos by the ABC7 News I-Team go here.