College student hit in face by 40mm round during police protests sues Denver

Photo provided by Killmer, Lane and Newman

Fellow protesters aid Michael Acker on May 28, 2020, after he was hit in the face with a 40mm foam bullet fired by Denver Police Department officers. Acker sued Denver in federal court Thursday for the officers’ use of excessive force to silence his free speech and assembly rights.

A Denver protester who nearly lost his eye after being struck by a 40mm foam round during the first day of police protests in late May sued the city Thursday in U.S. District Court.

The lawsuit accuses Denver police Chief Paul Pazen and five unnamed officers, along with the city, of violating the First Amendment rights of Michael Acker, who was injured while trying to help a woman who had been shot during with multiple pepper balls during police protests in Denver. The lawsuit accuses the police of using excessive force to chill Acker’s rights to assemble and speak freely.

“Rather than protecting and serving, DPD officers in these protests were a roving gang cosplaying as an occupying military force,” the lawsuit said. “They were playing dress-up, living out their ‘Call of Duty’ fantasy of gassing and shooting protesters in the street without consequence. And, as a result, peaceful protesters against police brutality suffered unprecedented brutality by DPD officers. This escalation was a feature, not a bug, of how Denver policed the protests. DPD officers wanted to start a riot.”

Acker, a college student, was demonstrating with hundreds of other people on Platte Street near Confluence Park and had not threatened police, the lawsuit said. He did not join others who had run onto Interstate 25 to block traffic and was retreating down a sidewalk when he turned to face the officers and raised his fist in the air.

An officer aimed a kinetic impact projectile and the four other officers did not intervene, the lawsuit said. The round struck Acker’s right eye, shattering the glass eye piece in his gas mask.

“When the KIP round struck Mr. Acker in the eye, it felt like someone had hit him on the head with a baseball bat,” the lawsuit said. “He stumbled backwards, through the group of protesters and then fell to the ground. He could not hear anything for approximately one minute.”

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