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Lawsuits Say Minneapolis Police Brutality Cost Two Young Men Their Eyes

— September 22, 2020

One of the two plaintiffs says he was cleaning up rubble with his mother when a tear gas canister exploded in front of his face. Doctors said he may never regain vision in one eye.

The Minneapolis Police Department is facing two new lawsuits alleging officer brutality and misconduct during the city’s Black Lives Matter protests.

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the lawsuits were filed by two young adults: Ethan Marks, age 19, and Soren Stevenson, now 25.

Both men were involved in activities that could hardly be deemed high-risk—but the police response was so unforgiving that their lives have since changed forever.

Marks told the Tribune that a tear gas canister exploded right in front of his face while helping his mother clear rubble on East Lake Street.

“It was like nothing I ever felt,” Marks said of the canister’s impact. “It burned so hard. I was felt [sic] I was going to die.”

Marks claimed that, immediately after he was struck, police made no effort to render assistance. “I was on the ground,” he said. “No ambulance, no police were coming. I was bleeding out.”

His mother said she, too, was in disbelief—and felt, in that moment, her son might have died.

“I thought he was going to die,” she told the Tribune. “There was a lot of blood coming out of his nose and mouth and ears.”

Marks’s mother said she could not understand why police had chosen to target her son, since he was neither protesting and there were not any nearby riots.

Black Lives Matter graffiti in Portland, OR. Image via Wikimedia Commons/user:Another Believer. (CCA-BY-4.0).

“How could somebody shoot him and not help him?” she asked. “It didn’t make sense. There were police standing around and we were screaming for help.”

He went to the hospital complaining of double-vision in his right eye, only for the doctors to tell him that he will likely be permanently blinded.

Marks’s friend, Stevenson, had a similar experience—he was shot at close-range by officers firing non-lethal crowd suppression projectiles.

Stevenson, notes the Tribune, wears a patch across his left eye, because his eye is no longer there.

“I felt my face,” Stevenson said, “and I knew it was my eye all over my face.

“I’m still coming to grips with it,” he said.

Both men say they were in compliance with local ordinances. Stevenson, for instance, said he was on Interstate 35W in Minneapolis when police began firing projectiles without warning.

Robert Bennett, the attorney representing both men, said Minneapolis police officers violated his clients’ rights.

“Both of these men could have easily died,” Bennett said.

Bennett, adds the Star Tribune, is seeking $10 million plus attorney fees in each lawsuit.


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