SACRAMENTO, Calif — As a few hundred protesters marched down east on J Street in downtown Sacramento on May 31, they were greeted by the sounds of gunshots.
Protesters gathered in Sacramento, and elsewhere across the country, to speak out against the police brutality following the death of George Floyd, a Minnesota man who was killed by an officer who knelt on his neck until he was unconscious.
At least four protesters are suing the Sacramento Police Department, claiming that law enforcement shot rubber bullets and pepper balls at them.
Danny Garza, a member of the Sacramento Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, spoke to ABC10 shortly after the incident. Garza said that he was not a protester, but he was at the protests as a legal observer.
Garza said a pepper ball hit him in the face, which caused him to have a black eye.
"Someone threw a water bottle or some object high above the police line and it landed behind them," Garza said. "An officer saw the bottle, looked at me, lifted his rifle, pointed at my head and fired."
Garza said he has severe memory loss and that his sense of time is "completely warped."
In an interview earlier this week with ABC10, Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn said that the department does not use rubber bullets.
"We don't use rubber bullets, but there are specific times in this protest if we didn't have some of those least lethal pieces of equipment, we would have had to use lethal force," Hahn said.
Sacramento police spokesperson Sgt. Sabrina Briggs said they are aware of the allegations of excessive force against protesters.
"At this point we have not confirmed that the injuries sustained in this incident are due to a Sacramento Police Department use of force," Briggs said in a statement. "Multiple outside police agencies have assisted with these protests. If the injuries are determined to have been sustained due to a Sacramento Police Department use of force, per department policy, the use of force will be reviewed."
Civil rights attorney Mark Merin is bringing the class action lawsuit against the city's police, demanding that the department stop using projectiles.
Merin is confident those who were injured during the protests would be compensated.
"I'm confident that the courts will enjoin the use of these projectile weapons against protesters and against crowds of people," Merin said. "It's not a form of crowd control; it's intentional mayhem."
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