Echo Park resident sues LAPD, alleging ‘brutal assault’ by officers near protest
An Echo Park resident has alleged in a federal lawsuit that she was brutally assaulted by Los Angeles police officers while observing a protest near her home in March.
Becca Standt, now 22, was at a “considerable distance” from the protest, standing in an alley behind her home, when LAPD officers “came charging through” and “without any warning, direction, or commands, violently and forcefully struck and pushed her to the ground, causing her to strike her head and sustain severe head injuries,” her lawsuit alleges.
When Standt tried to get up, the officers “continued to push her to the ground,” causing more injury, her lawsuit claims. “Ms. Standt fell backwards and struck her head on the concrete, stating that afterward she ‘couldn’t hear anything and everything went pretty blurry.’”
Standt’s lawsuit — filed last week in federal court against the city, the LAPD and unnamed individual officers and police supervisors — claims that before the “brutal assault” in the alley, Standt had tried to leave the neighborhood in her car to get away from the protest but police had blocked the roads and wouldn’t let her out.
Standt is suing for violation of her civil rights, excessive force, unlawful seizure, negligence, battery and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. Her lawsuit says she is still in treatment for injuries sustained in the encounter.
Echo Park protesters and others allege police used excessive force, raising new questions about crowd control tactics.
The Los Angeles Police Department generally does not comment on pending litigation as a matter of policy. A spokesman said Wednesday that the department was looking into whether the incident had sparked an internal complaint or investigation.
Standt’s lawyers said the department told them that the incident was under investigation, but had not produced any body-camera video or other evidence from the encounter.
Standt’s claim expands an already wide array of complaints — including from activists, journalists and legal observers — about officers violating people’s rights and using excessive force during the LAPD’s crackdown on the protests in Echo Park in March, when activists had gathered to oppose the closure of a homeless encampment around Echo Park Lake.
Standt had previously shared her experience, and her hospital discharge records, with The Times in March, saying she was diagnosed with a concussion and felt the officers’ actions were a clear example of police brutality.
“I was a bystander watching a protest from at least 40 yards away from where the main protest was,” Standt said at the time. “I was really just standing there watching.”
Standt could not be reached for comment on her lawsuit. However, her attorneys — David Gammill and Greg Kirakosian — said they hope the case lays bare what they say was a brazen disregard for members of the public in Echo Park, both by the LAPD officers involved and the department as a whole.
“They’re out of control as far as where they feel justified in using force, because they’re essentially acting no different than gangsters,” Gammill said. “They’re walking down an alleyway and they’re going to knock skulls of anyone who gets in their way regardless of that person’s position in all of this.”
“When innocent bystanders need to start generally fearing getting beaten over the head by officers who are just mowing down people without concern, it becomes a frightening society to live in,” Kirakosian said.
Standt’s treatment by the officers was all the worse for the fact that she had been blocked from leaving the area beforehand by other officers, Kirakosian said.
“She was forced to stay there, and then she got beat down for staying there,” he said.
The clashes between police and protesters at Echo Park were a major flashpoint in an ongoing debate in L.A. over whether, how and when local government should step in to close, clean up or remove homeless encampments in city parks and other public spaces.
In its own reviews of the incident, the LAPD largely deflected blame for the tensions that arose and defended its officers, saying they had come under threat from objects being thrown by protesters and were forced to issue a dispersal order because protesters were using strobe lights to impede the vision of officers on skirmish lines.
The department acknowledged insufficient tracking of projectile weapons and poor communication with media in the field, and said there was “room for improvement” in its protest response. But it denied any major missteps, saying its protest response had improved from months prior, when protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police erupted across the city.
Activists and other observers of the Echo Park clashes had vastly different opinions of the incident, however.
A protester named Isaac Scher alleged an officer broke his arm with a baton. Others accused police of shooting them with hard foam or beanbag projectiles without cause and of generally using excessive force on individuals exercising their 1st Amendment rights.
Media organizations have accused police of overreaching and of inappropriately targeting, wounding and arresting members of the press in Echo Park, too. A news photographer was shot in the abdomen with a police projectile while documenting the protest, which police claimed was a mistake, and a Times reporter and other members of the media were among more than 180 people detained or arrested after police declared the protest unlawful and issued the dispersal order. Prosecutors chose not to pursue any of the charges for failure to disperse.
Legal observers with the National Lawyers Guild also alleged being improperly targeted, and attorneys representing Black Lives Matter Los Angeles in a class-action lawsuit around the LAPD’s handling of the protests over Floyd’s killing successfully used police use of projectiles in Echo Park to argue for court restrictions on such weapons.
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