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Man Sues San Diego City, County For Alleged Police Projectiles Fired At Downtown Protest

Protesters marching through to streets of downtown San Diego on May 31, 2020,...

Photo by Andi Dukleth

Above: Protesters marching through to streets of downtown San Diego on May 31, 2020, demonstrating against police brutality against black people.

A man who alleges he was shot with "kinetic impact projectiles" by law enforcement officers during a protest in downtown San Diego last spring is suing the city and county.

According to his suit filed Friday in San Diego federal court, Matthew Burgess attended the May 31 demonstration and was fired on, along with other protesters. He was shot twice in the legs, then in the back after he "turned around to try and flee," the suit says.

Burgess also alleges he was sprayed with "pepper spray or another irritant" by an unidentified officer, and that another officer "jabbed him in the stomach" with a baton.

Burgess previously filed claims for damages, both of which were denied by the city and county.

He alleges that in denying his claim, the city stated the officers seen firing projectiles in a video Burgess shot with his cellphone were San Diego County sheriff's deputies and not SDPD officers. Burgess alleges the county made a conflicting claim: that no sheriff's deputies were at the downtown protest, only SDPD was present.

Neither agency responded to requests for comment regarding the lawsuit.

On the afternoon of the protest, San Diego police declared an unlawful assembly, stating in a tweet that "100-200 protesters are throwing rocks and bottles at our officers at 300 Broadway. Let's remain calm." About 30 minutes later, the department tweeted, "Aggressive crowd at State/Broadway. Throwing objects at our officers."

Rubber bullets and tear gas were ultimately used to disperse the crowd of protesters.

By the end of the night, more than 100 people were arrested on various charges, ranging from failure to disperse, burglary, assault and vandalism, according to the police department.

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