A woman who filed a lawsuit against the city of La Mesa in 2020 after a beanbag shot by an officer during a protest struck her, partially blinding her, has settled with the city for $10 million.
Leslie Furcron said Wednesday that she’s glad the lawsuit was settled in her favor, but there probably isn’t any amount of money that can put her life back on track. The 61-year-old woman said she now has severe headaches that led her to drop out of college.
Doctors told him he will have to undergo reconstructive surgery to properly seal the hole the shell left in his skull, he said, and he will never regain vision in his left eye.
“I wish it had never happened,” she said through tears from her lawyer’s office. “I thank God that I am living, right? I thank God that I am living, but not every day is good for me.”
Still, when asked if she would attend the protest again, after all she’s been through, she didn’t hesitate to say, “Yes.”
“I would do it again,” Furcron said. “Because I don’t agree with police brutality. I have a voice. I have a First Amendment right.”
Eric Knudson, then a La Mesa police detective, shot Furcron with the less lethal round during a large protest on May 30, 2020, outside the La Mesa Police Department headquarters. The demonstration came days after a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, and the scene turned tumultuous at times.
The La Mesa protests were also sparked by the controversial arrest of Amaurie Johnson near a streetcar station in the city a few days earlier. Video of the incident, in which an officer can be seen repeatedly pushing the 23-year-old onto a concrete bench, went viral.
During the demonstration, which lasted until the next morning, some people in the crowd hurled bottles and large stones at the police officers, who deployed tear gas and shot pellets to disperse them. Fires were started inside the City Hall and some businesses were looted. At least two buildings were burned to the ground.
Knudson shot Furcron after he thought she had thrown a rock at officers, according to police reports. Investigators later determined that she actually dumped an empty Red Bull can.
furcron filed suit in San Diego Superior Court months later, alleging that Knudson had violated both his First Amendment right to protest and standard law enforcement practices. The case later moved to a federal court.
Dante Pride, who represented Furcron, said the agreement was reached in December and approved by the La Mesa City Council next month. City officials said in a statement last week that they were glad there was a “resolution to this most unfortunate incident.”
Pride said it is one of the largest known settlements in a police use of force case in San Diego County history.
Although Furcron’s lawsuit was resolved in his favor, neither the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office nor the La Mesa Police Department found that Knudson had committed any wrongdoing.
In January 2021, the District Attorney’s Office announced that do not press charges against Knudson in criminal court in connection with the incident.
in a 25-page letter sent to interim La Mesa police chiefsDist. Attorney Summer Stephan wrote that her office concluded, after a review of the evidence, that Knudson acted reasonably in defense of himself and others when he fired.
“Detective Knudson believed that Ms. Furcron had thrown a rock. He was wrong. Ms. Furcron threw a can, but her belief was not unreasonable given the totality of the circumstances officers were dealing with during several hours of protests and riots in which stones were continually thrown at them,” the letter reads in part. .
The review also indicated that “there was no evidence that Detective Knudson intended to aim at Ms. Furcron’s head.”
The La Mesa Police Department did not discipline Knudson, saying in February 2021 that the then-detective had not violated any major department policy.
“From an administrative standpoint, it is determined that Detective Knudson reacted reasonably within California law and Department policy when he fired the less-lethal shotgun to prevent injury to other law enforcement officers,” department officials said in a report. on the matter.
Retired Huntington Beach Police Lt. RK Miller was called in as an outside expert to review the incident and found Knudson’s actions legally justified and reasonable.
Knudson was later promoted and is currently a sergeant in the department.
On Wednesday, Pride argued that based on video evidence, several seconds passed after Furcron threw the can, time that Knudson could have used to determine if she posed a threat to those around her.
“I think if we could get police departments to pay more often, these things would happen less,” Pride said.
“This large number tells me that they appreciate the seriousness of the situation,” he said of the deal. “They appreciate the harm that was done to Ms. Furcron. But they are still behind on officer liability.”
Furcron now lives in Nevada, where many of his family members reside. She said that her agreement makes her feel that she stood up against police brutality.
“I consider myself an advocate and can stand up for lives that matter,” she said.