Marine War Veteran Scott Olsen, Nearly Killed by Police during Occupy Oakland Protest, Wins $4.5 Million Settlement
A former US Marine and Iraq war veteran who was critically injured after being struck in the head with a ‘less lethal’ police projectile during an Occupy Wall Street protest in Oakland in 2011 will receive $4.5 million from the city.
The payout to 26-year-old Scott Olsen settles a federal lawsuit filed by the veteran who suffered permanent brain damage as a result of the October 25, 2011 incident.
Speaking at a Friday press conference in Oakland, Olsen said he could not have imagined he would survive the Iraq war only to be nearly killed by Oakland police.
“I guess I thought I wasn’t in Iraq anymore, you know, I’d be more or less safe,” he said. “I wasn’t going to be shot. I wasn’t going to be attacked. Oakland police proved me wrong in that, and it makes makes me feel less safe in general, especially around people who are supposed to be protecting you.”
Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker called the settlement “fair.”
“Mr. Olsen suffered a tragic injury that will affect him for the rest of his life,” she said. “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.”
The city will pay $1.4 million of the settlement, the remainder will be paid by its insurance provider.
Olsen was one of more than 1,000 demonstrators at a rally and march that followed the police destruction of the Occupy Oakland encampment in downtown Oakland.
Olsen, who served two tours of duty in Iraq with the Marines’ 3rd Battalion, was peacefully demonstrating with the group Veterans for Peace and other Occupy Wall Street members. The protesters, some of whom wanted to re-occupy Frank H. Ogawa Plaza (renamed Oscar Grant Plaza by the Occupiers), were facing off against a police barricade manned by heavily armored riot police and other law enforcement officers from throughout the Bay Area. Police then declared the constitutionally protected protest an unlawful gathering, issuing a five minute ultimatum for the crowd to disperse and warning that “serious injury” could befall anyone who remained.
A group of veterans, including Olsen, stood their ground. They were among hundreds of people who ignored police orders to disperse. After the five minute deadline passed, police attacked the protesters with ‘less lethal’ projectiles and chemical agents. Olsen was struck in the head with a shotgun-fired high-velocity round made of metal pellets, commonly called a ‘bean bag’ round, and immediately fell to the ground. This reporter witnessed protesters who rushed to Olsen’s aid being attacked by police with flash bang grenades, chemical agents and ‘less lethal’ projectiles.
Olsen was critically injured in the attack. According to a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the veteran, “the impact fractured Mr. Olsen’s skull and caused severe hemorrhaging of his brain.”
“As a result of his injuries, Mr. Olsen has lost the ability to speak and perform basic mental and physical functions,” the suit states. He suffered permanent brain damage and has not fully recovered to this day.
OIsen wasn’t the only US war veteran seriously injured during the Occupy Oakland protests in 2011-2012. Former Army Ranger Kayvan Sabehgi, who fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan, was hospitalized with a ruptured spleen after being severely beaten by police during a November, 2011 Occupy demonstration. Sabehgi claims to have been denied medical treatment for 18 hours following his injury.
A federal judge later blasted Oakland’s “overwhelming military-style response” to the overwhelmingly peaceful Occupy Oakland protests, which were part of the global Occupy Wall Street movement against economic inequality and corporate greed.