Keenan Anderson’s family files legal claim after LAPD tasered him

Civil rights attorneys acting on behalf of Keenan Anderson’s young son filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles, alleging that the 31-year-old teacher died as a result of “serious injuries” sustained when a LAPD Officer repeatedly appraised him after a traffic collision.

The legal action, which is a precursor to a lawsuit unless the city chooses to admit liability, comes after the Los Angeles Police Department released video of the Jan. 3 incident from cameras used by officers. who fought with Anderson while trying to stop him.

“We saw a man who was afraid,” attorney Carl Douglas said at a news conference Friday. “We saw a man who was unarmed and docile.”

The incident occurred after officers responded to a multi-car crash at a busy intersection in Venice. Other drivers blamed the accident on Anderson, who was agitated and speaking incoherently. He initially followed an officer’s orders to sit on the sidewalk, but then ran into the intersection.

A group of officers struggled to control Anderson, who resisted their efforts to turn him face down and handcuff him. As the officers used his body weight and restrained his arms, another officer fired a taser at him at least six times in 42 seconds, according to details released by the LAPD.

Anderson died several hours later at a hospital. The cause of her death and whether the multiple powerful discharges from the Taser played a role in her death have not been determined. Police said preliminary tests found cocaine and cannabis in Anderson’s system, but did not provide information about when she may have ingested the drugs.

The officers’ actions have sparked protests, an internal investigation and calls for changes in police policies related to traffic collisions and the use of stun guns. Anderson’s death has drawn increased attention because he was the cousin of Patrisse Cullors, one of the founders of the Black Lives Matters organization, who took to social media to blame officers for killing him.

Surrounded by Cullors and other family members, Benjamin Crump, an attorney who has represented many of the country’s high-profile victims of police brutality, and Douglas, a member of OJ Simpson’s defense team in his murder trial, announced Friday that they had filed the lawsuit. claim on behalf of Anderson’s 5-year-old son.

“This is the story of a 5-year-old who will never be able to enjoy another day in his father’s presence,” Douglas said, standing next to the boy. He said Anderson had been complying with a motorcycle officer’s order to sit on the sidewalk until several officers ran up to him. Like other black men who mistrust police, Douglas said, Anderson feared for his safety and ran out into the street.

The video released by the LAPD does not show the other officers approaching Anderson.

Saying the force the officers used amounted to “unlawful assault and battery,” the attorneys wrote in the claim that Anderson suffered “serious injuries and damage to mind and body, and four and a half hours later dies as a result”. of the injuries and damages he suffered at the hands of LAPD officers.”

“Mr. Anderson did nothing to justify this use of unreasonable and gross force against you,” the claim states. “He was unarmed when the officers attempted to detain him, and he had not posed any reasonable threat of serious bodily injury to each of the unknown police officers involved, or any other person, to justify this use of unreasonable deadly force against him. He was merely suspected of being potentially involved in a minor traffic collision.”

“Six times in 42 seconds. All that electricity pushed through his body,” Crump said, referring to the Tasers. He noted that when officers tried to stop Anderson, he yelled the name of George Floyd, who was killed when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes during an arrest.

An LAPD spokesman declined to respond to the claim, saying the department cannot comment on pending litigation. LAPD Chief Michel Moore and Mayor Karen Bass have vowed to conduct an extensive investigation into Anderson’s death.

His death, along with two fatal shootings by LAPD officers that occurred around the same time, come at a particularly sensitive time for the mayor, who campaigned in part to reduce police violence, and Moore, who is seeking a second term. like a boss.

In his comments on the incident, Moore pushed back against the idea that officers overreacted in trying to stop Anderson, saying he was a felony hit-and-run suspect in some kind of altered mental state who had tried to break into someone else’s car and then resisted the efforts of officers to stop him.

The department has not identified any of the officers involved in the arrest.

On Friday, the LAPD said that all but one of the six officers involved in Anderson’s arrest have returned to work. “All six officers involved in Anderson’s case were relieved of their field duties at the time of the incident, and five have since returned,” the department said in a statement. “The focus of this critical incident has been the Taser application and it is being closely scrutinized. Officers returning to the field, or remaining on leave, should not be construed as a final judgment on whether their actions were in or out of politics.”

Several police experts who reviewed the videos for The Times said the amount of force used by the officers seemed excessive given Anderson’s actions and that his tactics appeared haphazard.

A crowd attends a candlelight vigil for Keenan Anderson.

(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

In the initial encounter between Anderson and a traffic officer who arrived on a motorcycle, video shows Anderson wandering through the intersection, the officer calmly ordering him onto the sidewalk.

Anderson obeyed, sitting down on the sidewalk. He seemed terrified and incoherent, at one point he said, “I want people to see me” and “you’re fooling me.”

As Anderson got up and ran, the officer quickly caught up with him and angrily yelled at him to lie face down in the street. As a swarm of officers approached, Anderson yelled at onlookers, “Please help me,” and said the officers were “trying to kill me.”

The officers then tried to restrain him. One can be seen in the video placing his elbow on Anderson’s neck while he is lying on his back. The officer on top of him yelled, “Turn around or I’m going to electrocute you.”

The officer with the Taser twice attempted to fire the weapon’s small darts that are meant to embed themselves in a person’s skin and deliver muscle-constricting electrical pulses. When that seemed to have no effect, the officer pressed the Taser directly against Anderson’s torso and fired at least four bursts of electricity over about 30 seconds.

Gabrielle Hansell, the mother of Anderson’s son, speaking at the press conference, said that “having to listen to Keenan ask for help the way he did and see other people hurt him … I’ll never get over it.” She said that her son will see the video one day and that she doesn’t know how he will answer his questions.

According to the legal claim, attorneys for the family said it wasn’t just the Taser that injured Anderson and claimed he did not resist arrest. “Other officers press Mr. Anderson’s body against the hardened surface of the street as they struggle to pull his arms behind his back. Mr. Anderson’s efforts to scramble for air and wriggle in response to the unlawful application of Taser force are misinterpreted as evidence of active resistance by him,” the claim alleges.

The attorneys allege that the officers were not properly trained and negligently handled the encounter with Anderson.

Keenan Anderson's brother wipes his eyes.

Christopher Anderson wipes his eyes at a vigil for his late brother Keenan Anderson.

(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

Moore has said that LAPD policy does not place a limit on the number of times a Taser can be used on a person, requiring only that the actions be reasonable given the totality of the circumstances. Under the current rules, which were adopted in 2021, an officer can use a Taser if a person is deemed to pose “an immediate threat” to officers or others.

In the wake of Anderson’s death, some community activists have called for new limits on Taser use by officers, as well as a ban on armed officers responding to traffic-related calls.

Incidents in which officers used a Taser have decreased from 577 in 2016 to 200 in 2022, according to LAPD data. The total number of times a Taser was activated in those incidents also decreased. Taser activations dropped from 1,363 in 2016 to 432 in 2022.

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