By Aya Elamroussi and Andy Rose, CNN
A federal jury Friday awarded $14 million in compensatory and punitive damages to 12 people who were injured by Denver police officers while protesting the death of George Floyd in 2020, according to court documents.
After deliberating for nearly five hours, the jury decided that Denver police response during protests in May and June 2020 violated these protesters’ constitutional rights, the documents show.
The City and County of Denver was a defendant in the lawsuit along with Jonathan Christian, a police officer during the 2020 protests.
According to court documents, Christian must directly pay $250,000 to protester Elisabeth Epps, who alleged that the officer shot her. Christian acknowledged in court firing a pepper ball at Epps, but disputed whether it actually hit her, according to The Denver Gazette.
After the jury’s decision, the City and County of Denver told CNN in a statement that the city wasn’t fully prepared for what transpired during the “unprecedented” protests.
“Unfortunately, Denver Police Department officers and other law enforcement officers responding to assist encountered extreme destructive behavior from some agitators among largely peaceful protestors,” the statement said. “We recognize that some mistakes were made.”
It added: “Based upon what we have learned, we have made specific changes to how the Police Department will respond if protests erupt in violence in the future, and those changes were being implemented prior to any litigation.”
Attorneys for the City and County of Denver and Christian did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
National and global protests erupted after Floyd, a Black man, was killed in May 2020 at the hands of a White police officer, who has since been tried and convicted in his killing. The demonstrations spanned weeks and focused on social justice and police brutality, especially as experienced by Black Americans.
The 12 protesters alleged in their federal civil case that the police violated their First and Fourth Amendment rights during the demonstrations in Denver, according to a court document.
The protesters claimed in the lawsuit that they were seriously injured when police officers fired at their heads, pepper-sprayed them and threw flashbang grenades along with teargassing them, the court document says. One protester suffered a fractured skull and bleeding in the brain, the document says.
The protesters said they were injured because the Denver Police Department had policies that either allowed that to happen or that officers weren’t sufficiently trained.
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CNN’s Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.