A protester is suing the Detroit Police Department after she says an officer fired an orange “Nerf-like” gun at her, fracturing her skull and briefly knocking her unconscious during the second night of demonstrations last month.
Nadia Rohr, 24, is recovering from her injury, which will require extensive therapy for pain and memory loss, says the suit obtained by WXYZ. The injury exposed "brain matter," the legal filing says.
Rohr and her friend Baylee Huffman, 20, say they were peacefully protesting, handing out water and snack bars.
Standing near the police line, Rohr says she locked eyes with the officer, before she turned and was struck in the back of the head. The incident occurred around 12:30 a.m. May 31, the lawsuit states.
The couple told Deadline Detroit they parked on Second Ave and Selden before walking downtown. She spent two days at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital, receiving nine stitches for a brain bleed and multiple skull fractures, medical records show.
The lawsuit alleges that the officer acted with “gross negligence and/or deliberate indifference” by shooting a “rubber bullet or some other object” at Rohr and not providing medical assistance.
The suit also claims officers violated the First Amendment rights of Rohr and others by firing tear gas and “less lethal” projectiles at protesters who were there peacefully.
A 2017 analysis in the British Medical Journal examined almost 2,000 incidents with "less lethal" projectiles like rubber bullets, pellets and bean bag rounds, finding 3 percent of people shot died and 15 percent were permanently injured. These various projectiles are commonly called rubber bullets, according to the study.
In a June 11 meeting, Deputy Chief Charles Fitzgerald said DPD deployed "beanbag projectiles" during the protests. He said officers are supposed to shoot them at the ground, "not at anybody."
DPD is conducting an investigation to find the officers who may have been involved. The Internal Control division said it learned of the allegation after reading Deadline Detroit’s article. However, the department won’t comment on the lawsuit, due to its policy on pending litigation.
Attorney Soloman Radner of Southfield represents Rohr and Huffman. He told Fox 2 that suing police officers for wrongdoing is a challenge. They’re shielded by qualified immunity, which only allows lawsuits against government officials if they commit a “clearly established” statutory offense or constitutional rights violations.
The Department recently suspended an officer accused of shooting “less lethal” rounds that injured three photojournalists, the same night as Rohr’s injury. It’s investigating at least 10 other misconduct allegations, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Chief James Craig has publicly justified the use of force on that particular night, pointing to cars delivering rocks and railroad spikes. However, he says the department takes allegations of misconduct seriously and won’t tolerate officers who acted improperly.