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Iraq Vet Scott Olsen Settles ‘Occupy’ Suit Against Oakland

| March 21, 2014
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Scott Olsen, the former Marine and Iraq War veteran who was struck in the head with a police projectile during an Occupy Oakland protest in October 2011, has settled his federal lawsuit against the city for $4.5 million.

Olsen suffered permanent brain injuries when he was hit with a “flexible baton round” fired by an Oakland police officer on the night of Oct. 25, 2014. A flexible baton round, the city explains, is “a cloth-enclosed, lead-filled round fired from a shotgun.”

‘They could give me a billion dollars and it wouldn’t give me my brain back.’— Scott Olsen,
Former Marine and injured protester

Appearing with his attorneys today, Olsen said the settlement “should be enough to allow me to get by for the rest of my life. But they could give me a billion dollars, right, and it wouldn’t give me my brain back.”

In a statement, City Attorney Barbara Parker called the settlement “fair”: “Mr. Olsen suffered a tragic injury that will affect him for the rest of his life. This settlement will save the City the far greater costs of a trial and potentially much higher judgment. This is a fair settlement given the facts of the case and the significant injuries Mr. Olsen sustained.”

Breaking away from the tone of straight reportage for a second: Take a look at the video embedded above. It’s remarkable: a 10-minute documentary that recounts the events of the night Olsen was shot, including footage from the Oakland Police Department. What the video can’t explain is the cruelty and sadism — I can’t think of other words that fit, honestly — exhibited by the Oakland officer who tossed a flash-bang grenade into the small and entirely non-threatening group of people who had gathered to help the grievously injured Olsen.

The agreement between Olsen and the city is the latest in a string of large settlements arising from the Occupy Oakland protests and earlier demonstrations in the wake of a BART officer’s killing of passenger Oscar Grant early New Year’s Day 2009. Those settlements include:

  • $1.17 million paid to 12 people injured in the 2011 protests.
  • $645,000 paid to Kayvan Sabeghi, an Army veteran beaten and seriously injured by police following the Occupy Oakland general strike in November 2011.
  • $1.025 million in a case involving the arrest of 150 people during one of the Grant protests.
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About the Author ()

Dan Brekke has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.
  • myfeethurt

    Cheap. If you don’t support the military, don’t get cheap and wear the uniform. You get all the rights to protest, but you lost the right to wear the uniform. You can’t “protest the war in Iraq” it is what the military does. Most of the bad things that happened were the individual acts of people who were scared, or even evil individuals taking things in their own directions. There is not some conspiracy coming form headquarters to sweep and clear out villages. Well Oakland will pay for his weed for the rest of his life.

  • myfeethurt

    So lets go to the cop and Scott’s desire for the end to tools of the trade. What does it take to stop a growing group blocking off a person’s right to travel, or even safety? You can grab the bullhorn and say please disperse a million times. Will they listen? I am not for or against the occupy movement, but you can’t commandeer public areas for your activities on a whim. Even permits will have restrictions. How long, how wide of a swath etc. to coincide with the business of the day, normal travel etc. Trying to appease both groups is not easy. You are forced to ramp it up step by step. That would include use of water hoses and tear gas if necessary. These bean bag rounds are reserved for the violent ones I hope. And is there misuse? I’m sure there is, but once again, this is not 1000 people sitting orderly in a church. There is vandalism, people are throwing things, running back and forth. The cops are often outnumbered and it is tough to accurately pick out what was done to whom by whom. Is this a hall pass for the cops. No, and I think that is why they are also filming it. It has gotten to that point.