Advertisement
Share

Beanbag-round shootings during unrest in La Mesa spur lawsuits

Sheriff's deputies outside the La Mesa police station.
Sheriff’s deputies take up positions at an entrance to the La Mesa police station, where more than 1,000 protesters held a demonstration May 30.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Two people shot with less-than-lethal rounds during a protest that turned destructive in La Mesa in late May have filed lawsuits alleging the law enforcement officers who shot them used excessive force.

Delane Hurley, 51, contends an unidentified La Mesa police officer shot her with a beanbag round while she was out for a walk and happened across the protest outside the police station the evening of May 30.

Tyler Astorga, 18, alleges San Diego County sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Boegler shot him with a beanbag round a few blocks away from the police station as Astorga drove away around midnight.

Hurley and Astorga seek unspecified damages.

Advertisement

Their lawsuits follow other legal actions taken by people who say they were injured by police officers and sheriff’s deputies in San Diego County during protests in response to George Floyd’s death at the hands of police in Minneapolis on May 25. In La Mesa, the May 30 protest turned destructive and lasted into the next day. Several city buildings and businesses were vandalized, and two banks were burned to the ground.

Demonstrators called for justice for George Floyd and a man recently detained by La Mesa police but later turned into a volatile standoff with police

One lawsuit in December was filed on behalf of Leslie Furcron, who was struck in her forehead with a beanbag round during the unrest. She was left partially blind by the shot.

She had thrown a can, and police said the officer who shot her thought she had thrown a rock at sheriff’s deputies.

The new lawsuits were filed in San Diego Superior Court last month.

The La Mesa Police Department and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department declined to comment on the new suits and did not answer questions about the specific incidents.

The Sheriff’s Department issued a statement that read: “The riot was a violent event in which numerous sheriff deputies were injured when rocks and other projectiles were thrown at them. More than $75,000 of damage was done to our vehicles and equipment alone, not including the millions of dollars of damage to the businesses that were looted, burned and vandalized. Due to the size and violent nature of the crowd, over 300 deputies and officers from 9 police agencies responded and were necessary to restore peace that first night.”

America’s cities are boarding up windows, sweeping up glass and covering graffiti after the country’s most significant night of protests in 50 years.

Hurley was taking a walk near her home about 5:30 p.m. when she saw the protest outside the police station. She stopped and joined other onlookers, standing — “from a safe distance” — next to an elderly woman and her dog, according to her lawsuit.

Suddenly, the crowd of protesters ran from the police station toward Hurley, the lawsuit says. Police had deployed “chemical agents,” which billowed toward Hurley and other bystanders. According to previous reports, police deployed tear gas, though Hurley’s lawsuit doesn’t specify what kind of chemical agent was used near her.

Hurley said in the document that she was helping the elderly woman move away when Hurley was shot with what she believes was a beanbag round. It struck her cheekbone, knocking her to the ground and causing her cheek to split open and bleed.

Hurley felt pain in her face and head, the lawsuit says. She was taken to a hospital, where she received four stitches to close the wound.

Her injuries, including a scar on her cheek, affected her ability to move her cheek, nose, mouth and an eye. She also suffered severe emotional distress, according to the lawsuit.

Hurley alleges the officer who shot her used excessive force. She claims in her lawsuit that the officer committed battery and violated her constitutional rights.

A review finds Det. Eric Knudson was acting with reasonable belief of an imminent threat as protesters threw rocks. The woman who was hit was left partially blind.

The lawsuit also contends the La Mesa Police Department was negligent in training and supervising officers during the unrest.

Astorga and some friends joined the protest in the evening — his lawsuit doesn’t give a time — and left around midnight. He was driving home when he was shot in the head with a beanbag round, according to his lawsuit.

He had yelled, "(Expletive) the police,” before he was shot, the lawsuit states.

Astorga is unsure whether he lost consciousness after being struck, but he recalls pulling the car over. He saw a beanbag round next to him and “sizeable dents” in his vehicle, according to the lawsuit. A friend called 911 but ultimately decided to drive Astorga to a hospital himself.

Seated in the passenger seat, Astorga felt dizzy. He was covered in blood and used his shirt to try to stop the bleeding.

The lawsuit says that the wound left Astorga with permanent scarring and that he still suffers emotional distress and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The suit alleges that the deputy who shot Astorga violated his 1st Amendment rights, including freedom of speech and assembly. The lawsuit also contends the Sheriff’s Department condoned and encouraged the use of unlawful and excessive force during the unrest.

It also accuses the deputy of violating county policies and law enforcement standard practices by firing into a large crowd from a long distance and at an elevated height, aiming the rounds at Astorga’s head. The lawsuit contends the deputy targeted Astorga because he was participating in a Black Lives Matter protest.


Advertisement