A Seattle school teacher is suing the city after a police officer pepper-sprayed him during protests on Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 19. Video shows Jesse Hagopian casually walking by a police line as he talks on the phone. Then, a female police officer pepper-sprays everyone near her, and Hagopian is in the frontline.
Hagopian told Q13 Fox he was on the phone with his mother. "I yelled out, my mom was in distress as she heard me yell and couldn't see me," he said. Hagopian announced his lawsuit against the city of Seattle on Wednesday. Hagopian's lawyer, James Bible, said they are suing the city for $500,000 in damages.
"It was an irrational action, and that's why we're here," said Bible.
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Hagopian had spoken out at the protest earlier that day, and he believes police intentionally targeted him. He counts Seattle Councilwoman Kshama Sawant as one of his supporters. She told Q13, "I've asked the SPD leadership to explain why such force an dintimidation has been used so consistently against the activists in the Black Lives Matter movement."
Seattle mayor Ed Murray said in a statement that "the uses of orce that occurred during the MLK protests are currently under review and being investigated."
The video is getting attention on Reddit, where it became the top story on Friday. Many commenters voiced support of Hagopian, with user writing, "I'm still not sure why she had to use the pepper spray. The protesters seemed peaceful to me and there was nothing going on when she used it. If she's like this with pepper spray, I'd be scared to be around her if she had a gun in her hand."
Seattle police said they have no comment, citing pending litigation.