Scott Olsen — the Marine Corps veteran who suffered permanent brain damage after being shot in the head with a lead-filled beanbag by an Oakland Police Department officer during the 2011 Occupy protests — has agreed to a $4.5 million legal settlement with the City of Oakland.
The settlement is the third largest that Oakland has paid in an OPD-related lawsuit in the last 24 years.
The Oakland City Attorney’s office spent at least $42,020 on outside council for the Olsen case. (Hiring outside council to assist with major lawsuits is a common practice.) Oakland will pay $1.8 million of the settlement, the city’s insurance carrier paying the remaining balance.
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The Oakland City Council, which has final approval of all legal settlements over $5,000, is expected to approve the deal.
Olsen’s lawsuit was one of several filed against the city following the police department’s disorganized and violent reaction to the Occupy Oakland protests. In 2012, consultants hired by the city to review that response slammed the OPD for, among other things, its officers’ disregard for the department’s own use of force policies.
Speaking at a March 21st press conference on the steps of the Oakland City Hall, Olsen’s attorney Jim Chanin said that the OPD has yet to solve those problems.
He said he has “little doubt” that if the department doesn’t change its policies, in the future some other attorney would be standing in the same place he was standing because a client has been injured or killed.
The shooting fractured Olsen’s skull and initially left him unable to talk. He said that in the ensuing years he had to re-learn how to speak and still has cognitive problems that have left him unable to go back to work as a computer systems administrator.
When asked what he was going to do now that the lawsuit had been settled, he said he was unsure. Because of his injuries, “I have a hard time planning,” he said.
The officer who shot him was not named in the lawsuit. Chanin was unable to name who he or she was.
An investigation by the East Bay Express found that officer Robert Roche, who was standing close to where the beanbag was fired at Olsen, threw a flash grenade into the crowd of people who had gathered to assist the injured veteran.
Since 2006, Roche has been involved in three fatal police shootings and has been named in at least one civil rights-related lawsuit that was settled by the city.