A federal lawsuit has been filed against the City of Seattle on behalf of the mother of Lorenzo Anderson, the 19-year-old shot and killed last June at 10th and Pine on the edge of the CHOP protest area.
“The City had no effective plan for providing police protection, fire protection, or other emergency services into the surrendered area,” the federal civil rights suit alleges, accusing the city and Seattle Police of “failures to act, including abandoning the SPD East Precinct and CHOP.”
Prosecutors say 18-year-old Marcel Long shot and killed Anderson at 10th and Pine in a fracas after what witnesses said was a night of gambling and fireworks around CHOP which had been formed for just over a week. Long has been charged but remains at large.
In the federal lawsuit brought by the Herrmann Law Group on behalf of Anderson’s mother Donnitta Sinclair, the appellants allege the city violated 14th Amendment due process rights and is negligent in Anderson’s death.
“By abandoning CHOP and approving a ‘no-cop’ zone where police only entered CHOP in the event of ‘life-threatening’ crimes, and sometimes not even then, the City created a danger,” the legal team writes. “Violence was foreseeable, but no working response was prepared.”
Sinclair talked with Converge Media about his death and her call for justice in the weeks following his murder.
Weeks earlier, on Friday, May 29th, protests began in Seattle after the police killing of George Floyd as thousands marched and demonstrated. Windows were smashed at Capitol Hill’s Amazon grocery and Ferrari dealership and seven arrests were reported. As the protests grew through the city, on Wednesday, June 3rd a “Defund Seattle Police” rally began in Cal Anderson after a battle of tear gas and blast balls as police moved on demonstrators and National Guard troops joined the lines with police outside the East Precinct. The next day, the city began bowing to protest demands, lifting its curfew as demonstrations continued.
Cal Anderson continued to grow as a center of the ongoing protests and a battle line emerged at 11th and Pine. Clashes continued and on Saturday, June 6th Seattle City Council members joined the protest. Sunday, after the mayor’s speech on deescalation of the ongoing protest clashes between demonstrators and police, SPD responded with its strongest show of force yet in the “standoff” at 11th and Pine. That Sunday night, a man drives into the crowd at 11th and Pine and shoots a demonstrator. Nikolas Fernandez, the brother of an East Precinct cop, was arrested and charged with one count of first degree assault.
On Monday, June 8th, moving trucks arrived at the East Precinct as city officials said there were credible threats of arson targeting the building identified by the FBI.
It is still unknown who, exactly, ordered the precinct emptied starting the cascade of actions that resulted in police standing down in responses in the CHOP area through June.
Young people like Anderson, remembered as a student at Renton High with hopes of a hip hop career, were drawn to the protest area after “Mayor Jenny Durkan spun CHOP as a ‘block party’ and ‘summer of love,’ suggesting a visit would be fun and safe,” the lawsuit alleges.
District 3 representative Kshama Sawant is also called out as the Seattle City Councilmember “continually framed CHOP as a ‘peaceful occupation’ even after known violence.”
But, worse, the lawyers say, City of Seattle first responders weren’t there to help save Anderson’s life after he was shot:
With no assistance in sight from SPD or SFD, CHOP participants carried Anderson to the nearby Rancho Bravo “medical tent” on East Pine Street. He had a pulse when they laid him down on a table. An SFD Medic One ambulance was standing by about a block and a half away from where Anderson lay bleeding. Video circulating on social media shows a man imploring the medics to help Anderson. “You could be saving his life. You could be saving his life right now. Sir, please, explain to me what’s going on. He’s dying. He needs your help….” One of the medical responders says into his radio, “We have a number of citizens who want us into the location. I just want to make sure we’re not cleared to move into the location.”
KUOW reported here on the miscommunication and mistakes that delayed Seattle Police and Seattle Fire the night of the deadly shooting.
In the lawsuit, even Mayor Durkan’s efforts to eventually sweep the area and clear the zone on July 1st are used against her and the city.
“On July 1, the Mayor issued an executive order to retake the SPD precinct and CHOP,” the lawsuit reads. “In the process, there was no significant violence or serious resistance This confirms what common sense suggests: the City could have and should have retaken the area and restored public safety before the murder of Anderson.
The newly filed lawsuit provides a dark summation of the protest zone. “In the course of nine days in CHOP, there were two homicides and several shootings, as well as other crimes such as robbery and sexual assault,” it reads.
In addition to Anderson’s June 20th slaying, a second night of fatal gun violence followed nine days later in a deadly shooting that left 16-year-old Antonio Mays, Jr. dead in a bullet-riddled jeep and sent a 14-year-old boy riding with him to the hospital. CHS is not aware of any litigation currently underway regarding the June 29th homicide.
The new lawsuit filed Thursday joins another major federal case proceeding against the city that alleges Seattle leaders also violated the rights of a collection of Capitol Hill property owners and businesses in the area of the CHOP camp. It includes developers Hunters Capital, Redside Partners and Madrona Real Estate, businesses Cafe Argento, Northwest Liquor, Bergman’s Lock and Key, Car Tender, Richmark Label, Sway and Cake, Rancho Bravo, and Cure, and property owners including Onyx Homeowners Association as well as a handful of individual residents.
The lawsuit over Lorenzo Anderson’s death also seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
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