2020 protester sues Denver, claims police fractured his skull

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DENVER (KDVR) — The latest in a series of lawsuits filed against the Denver Police Department over their actions during civil unrest in 2020 accuses officers of fracturing a man’s skull.

Michael Driscoll drove to Denver from Pueblo to take part in the George Floyd demonstrations on May 31, 2020.

“I’ve always been passionate about civil rights. To me, I felt like there was a chance to have the police join us. What we wanted was for the police to kneel with us or march with us, or allow us to express ourselves without retaliation. That didn’t happen,” Driscoll said, recalling the events that day outside of DPD headquarters.

“It was more violent than I was expecting. Just really intense atmosphere. It was like people had to struggle to let their voice out,” Driscoll continued.

What happened during the 2020 protests in Denver

Driscoll’s attorney, Milo Schwab, filed a civil rights lawsuit and said his client was doing nothing wrong when police targeted him.

“There was a group of 100 to 150 protesters very peacefully protesting. They were holding signs, they were chanting, ‘We can’t breathe.’ They were chanting come kneel with us, come march with us, to these police officers. There were 100 police officers, about 100 yards away in full riot gear, and in the midst of it, not even a water bottle thrown. Just peaceful chants, police started firing. One of those protesters was Michael Driscoll, who was struck in the face with a rubber bullet or tear gas canister. That munition shattered his sinus, it shattered 3-4 bones, it shattered his eye socket, and in order to reconstruct his face, they had to take bone from the top of his skull. There was description of the damage done: In addition to bone shards, bone dust between his eyes and his sinus. This was life-threatening,” Schwab said.

Police officers stand behind a wall of tear gas smoke after they attempt to disperse people marching along Colfax Ave. in Denver during the fourth consecutive day of protests in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd on May 31, 2020.
Police officers stand behind a wall of tear gas smoke after they attempt to disperse people marching along Colfax Ave. in Denver during the fourth consecutive day of protests in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd on May 31, 2020.(Photo: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

Driscoll was recording video and live-streaming on the fourth night of protests.

“The crowd was very peaceful. At that point is when things started to turn. The crowd in general was shot into. I was shot in the head” Driscoll said.

“It was extremely painful. I was barely conscious. I lost vision for a short period of time. I stumbled around and screamed in pain, barely able to walk or stand up. It was extremely scary and painful. The police continued to fire on us while I was being treated by a medic. He got scared and left. A kind stranger took me to the hospital. I was just trying to get away and be safe. I wanted to go home. I’m scared to be here,” Driscoll said.

‘The police knew what was going on’

Schwab said the lawsuit is about demanding change.

“They should have been trained that this is deadly force. That you are only to use this in the most extreme situations. Certainly not against protesters, certainly not against peaceful protesters. This was the fourth day of the George Floyd protests, people had already lost eyes, people had already been struck in the head. Thousands of people had been tear-gassed. The police knew what was going on. The police leadership knew what was going on. Political leaders knew what was going on. This wasn’t the first day. They knew these police officers were using indiscriminate force, and often targeting protesters’ heads, and they didn’t take any action to stop it. This was the fourth day. There was no reason police officers should’ve felt the freedom, the ability, to inflict damage on people simply because they were protesting police violence,” Schwab said.

Driscoll said it’s important for him to use his voice to make a difference.

“The hardest part is just overcoming it in general. I get anxiety when I think about it. Ultimately, I would like to see change. I don’t want this to happen to other people. I think that would make me feel like that is worth it,” Driscoll said.

When reached for their response, DPD issued a statement: “The Denver Police Department does not comment on pending litigation.”

Read the full lawsuit here.

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