Denver to pay George Floyd protester who lost eye $550,000 settlement

The city of Denver is poised to pay $550,000 to settle a lawsuit by a man who lost an eye after police shot him in the face with a projectile during the 2020 protests.

Approval of the city’s settlement agreement with Russell Strong is on the Denver City Council’s agenda Monday. Strong filed his suit in February 2021, alleging that Denver police officers used “extreme violence” against peaceful protesters on May 30, 2020, in the early days of the racial justice demonstrations sparked across the country by the Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd.

An officer later identified as Adam Bolton fired a “kinetic impact projectile” at Strong’s head, hitting him in the eye, according to the lawsuit. Despite emergency surgery, Strong lost his right eye on June 4, 2020.

In an interview with The Denver Post in 2021, Strong said losing his eye had a “devastating” impact, including making everyday tasks such as driving more difficult. He also said that after the incident, he struggled with the mental strain of being in crowds with visible damage to his eye.

“Without accountability, there can’t be trust between citizens and police,” he said at the time.

The pending settlement will increase the city’s legal payouts for the weeks of clashes between law enforcement and largely peaceful protesters in 2020 to nearly $10 million, according to city legal records.

That number still could grow significantly. The city is working to appeal a $14 million jury award last year to a dozen protesters for civil rights violations in a case that includes now-state Rep. Elisabeth Epps of Denver as a plaintiff.

Last week, the council approved settlements for six other protesters stemming from police conduct during the 2020 demonstrations, including former mayoral candidate Terrance Roberts. Those six payments added up to $1.1 million.

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