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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Oakland to Pay Veteran $4.5M for Busted Skull

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - An Iraq war veteran whose skull was shattered by a beanbag round Oakland police shot at his head during the 2011 Occupy protests will get $4.5 million from the city, his attorneys said Friday.

Scott Olsen said in a federal suit that he stood quietly with Occupy protesters - dressed in his military uniform - when an Oakland police officer fired the supposedly nonlethal round and hit Olsen in the head.

The lead-filled 12 gauge beanbag shattered Olsen's skull, and he also suffered neck and facial fractures when he fell.

As protesters tried to help Olsen, a KTVU news crew managed to film a second officer - identified as Robert Roche - lobbing a teargas canister at the crowd

While Olsen named Roche as defendant, Oakland police have persistently refused to identify the officer who fired the beanbag round at Olsen's head.

Olsen said he suffered brain damage from a subsequent cerebral hemorrhaging and had to relearn how to speak after the attack. He allegedly still has trouble remembering things without writing them down.

The Oakland police department's own policies meanwhile proscribe the use of beanbag rounds for crowd control and firing at a person's head under any circumstances, according to the complaint.

On Friday, Olsen's attorneys - Rachel Lederman, Jim Chanin and Julie Houk - announced a $4.5 million settlement that, if approved by the Oakland City Council, will compensate him for his injuries and the loss of his career as a computer system administrator.

"It's a very sad day not only for Scott, who's going to have to start his life all over, but for the city of Oakland which has been hit with another unnecessary lawsuit with a very large settlement that could have been used for the public good," Chanin said.

City Attorney Barbara Parker said in a statement that the settlement would save the city "far greater costs of a trial and potentially much higher judgment." Insurance carriers will pay the bulk of the settlement, with the city responsible for just $1.4 million, she added.

"This is a fair settlement given the facts of the case and the significant injuries Mr. Olsen sustained," Parker said.

At a press conference in Oakland, Olsen expressed doubt that the settlement would solve all the problems he still faces.

"I didn't win part of my brain back that's dead," Olsen said. "It's hard. It was a hard recovery process, and this is part of the recovery process, but it's definitely not everything."

The response by Oakland police to the Occupy protests has been expensive for the city so far. Last July, the city paid $1.17 million to settle a dozen excessive-force claims. It also agreed in December to give two men - including another Iraq war vet - $693,000 for similar claims.

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