A man who suffered severe head trauma at an East Liberty protest in June is suing Pittsburgh officials. The civil rights lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of an unnamed plaintiff by attorneys Paul Jubas and Max Petrunya.
The lawsuit is the second filed against city officials in connection with the June 1 protest where police deployed less lethal weapons to disperse the crowd after deeming the assembly unlawful. The protest was among the first of many in Pittsburgh after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis Police.
An earlier lawsuit filed over the summer by the Abolitionist Law Center seeks an order preventing the City of Pittsburgh from declaring peaceful protests unlawful and from using chemical agents and projectiles against peaceful protesters. The lawsuit filed Monday names many of the same defendants and alleges similar complaints.
Paul Jubas, who represents the plaintiff, says the man was watching the protest from the side of the street when he was struck by a rubber bullet as police attempted to disperse the crowd. Pittsburgh Police have previously said they use bean-bag rounds and sponge projectiles, not rubber bullets, for crowd control.
“He was observing, from the side of a street, a peaceful protest. And now he’s dealing with a rare type of injury,” Jubas said Wednesday. The lawsuit claims the plaintiff suffered facial bone and skull fractures, and later suffered a pseudoaneurysm in his carotid artery.
The suit claims the plaintiff was unable to obtain medical assistance from police, and protesters drove the plaintiff to a hospital where he was treated for a facial fracture.
“Because the [Pittsburgh Bureau of Police] did not ensure that EMTs were available to treat Protestors and/or prevented EMTs from treating Protestors, injured Protestors, and observers such as Plaintiff, received medical assistance by untrained and unqualified individuals and were transported to the hospital in cars and pickup trucks,” the suit reads.
Jubas said his client is requesting anonymity because he fears disclosing his identity could lead to retaliatory charges.
“It’s to protect our client because you’re dealing with an irresponsible and retaliatory police department that does not like to get called on its misdeeds,” Jubas said.
Charges against 22 people arrested at the East Liberty protest were dropped last summer. But earlier this month, the District Attorney’s office refiled failure to disperse charges against 24 people in connection with protests on June 1 and May 30.
The suit is seeking unspecific monetary damages for the plaintiff’s injuries and the cost of future medical treatment. Jubas said his client has had surgery and ongoing medical visits for his injuries.
Both Pittsburgh’s Bureau of Police and the office of Mayor Bill Peduto declined to comment on the lawsuit. A police spokesperson cited a policy against commenting on pending legal matters.