Dodgers fan says he was partially blinded by LAPD projectile at World Series celebration
A Los Angeles Dodgers fan alleged in a lawsuit this week that he suffered permanent eye damage when an LAPD officer fired a projectile at him during an unruly World Series celebration.
Isaac Castellanos, who at the time was a 22-year-old Cal State Long Beach student, said he was peacefully celebrating the Dodgers’ win near Crypto.com arena in downtown Los Angeles about 1 a.m. on Oct. 28, 2020, when officers moved in on the crowd.
Castellanos had “briefly turned in the direction of the officers” to grab one of his friends so they could leave the area when he was hit in the right eye with a projectile fired by an unidentified officer more than 60 feet away, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.
“I immediately knew what happened,” Castellanos said in an interview with The Times. “I was kind of shocked for a second.”
The LAPD declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday.
At the time, LAPD officials said, officers were responding to violent crowds that were vandalizing and breaking into downtown businesses.
“Right now we are embarrassing ourselves, in a sports celebration, across the world,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore said. “The story is not that the Dodgers won. The story is the vandalism, the looting and how the celebration was taken over by thugs.”
Castellanos told The Times he and his friends had not broken any laws, and that he was not posing a threat to officers when he was struck. He also said he had not heard police give an order to disperse before officers rushed in on people with their projectile launchers drawn.
The lawsuit does not specify what type of projectile police allegedly fired at Castellanos, and an attorney for Castellanos told The Times the projectile type is unknown. At the time of the celebrations, LAPD officers were authorized to use two different types of hard-foam projectiles, as well as beanbag rounds, in various crowd-control scenarios.
His lawsuit alleges officers used “unreasonable force by indiscriminately, and without warning,” firing projectiles at peaceful fans. It seeks damages from the city, including to compensate Castellanos for lost potential earnings in competitive gaming, a field in which he had earned an income prior to the shooting.
“Prior to the incident, [Castellanos] enjoyed a successful career as an esports athlete and streamer, and only a few weeks before the incident, plaintiff won a prominent gaming tournament, which was only the beginning of what would be a bright and lucrative future in esports,” the lawsuit alleged.
The lawsuit is the latest in a wave of litigation over the LAPD’s use of projectile weapons since 2020, when LAPD officers injured people at multiple events — including mass demonstrations over the murder of George Floyd, celebrations for the Dodgers and the L.A. Lakers’ 2020 NBA championship, and during protests over the removal of a homeless encampment at Echo Park Lake.
Police again used projectiles to clear crowds this month after the L.A. Rams won the Super Bowl, including near the intersection of 11th and Hope streets — where Castellanos alleged he was shot.
Castellanos said the shooting immediately blinded him in the right eye, and he went to a hospital in Long Beach that night for treatment.
He regained some blurry peripheral vision in the days that followed, but never fully recovered his vision, he told The Times.
“In the direct middle, it is completely black,” he said.
Castellanos’ lawsuit alleged the injury has impacted his life, causing “poor depth perception which interferes with his day-to-day activities, including studying, working, cooking, and athletic activities, and emotional distress, including anxiety and depression, which have interfered with his schooling, employment and relationships.”
Castellanos, now 23, has since graduated from Cal State with a degree in information systems. He has stopped competing in gaming tournaments because of his vision loss, and he is considering his options for work, he said.
The LAPD is under a federal court injunction, which was issued in a lawsuit over the LAPD’s handling of the Floyd protests, that restricts its use of projectiles for crowd control. It has also changed its own policies to restrict their use.
Beyond his own financial well-being, Castellanos said he wanted to bring his lawsuit to force the LAPD to further reform its tactics and end its use of projectile weapons for crowd control.
“I really do think that it’s important to shed light on the matter and to be able to fight back where we can, and hopefully there will be a change of policy,” he said. “Enough is enough. They have to see that this is affecting not just my life. Many others’ lives are completely changed, and it’s not fair.”
Monique Alarcon, one of Castellanos’ attorneys, said the volume of litigation around the LAPD’s use of projectiles should be a wake-up call for the department and the city.
“This is just another example of how inadequate the training is and how much of a hard look the LAPD needs to take as to its policies,” Alarcon said. “Something needs to be done.”
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