PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A lawsuit against the city of Portland was settled after a man sued the city, mayor and former police chief alleging his tailbone was fractured during a protest in June 2020 and they harassed him for months after.
The case was settled on January 11, 2022 when Demetrus Batchelor was awarded $19,500 to release “and forever discharges (Mayor) Ted Wheeler, (former PPB Chief) Jami Resch, M. Hastings, and the City of Portland … from any and all claims, including but not limited to claims for damages and/or injuries, arising from or in any way relating to the events alleged in the lawsuit.”
The complaint accused police of assault, battery, violating Batchelor’s First Amendment right to free speech as well as his Fourth Amendment right prohibiting the use of excessive force and unreasonable search and seizure.
The incident happened the morning of June 4, 2020 following a downtown Portland racial justice demonstration.
Batchelor, 34 at the time, attended the protest and other demonstrations, to “act as a calming influence” and “deescalate situations before they turned violent,” according to the complaint.
During the demonstration, police declared a civil disturbance and said agitators threw projectiles at officers, lit fires and vandalized buildings.
Officers tried to disperse demonstrators in the direction where Batchelor had parked earlier in the evening, attorney Scott Aldworth said. Batchelor allegedly decided to wait at his car until the scene calmed down and he could drive home. That’s when a PPB vehicle drove by and, “unprompted,” an officer sprayed Batchelor with a chemical agent that caused him “extreme pain,” the suit alleged.
Batchelor managed to open his car door, but as his body was halfway inside, another officer rammed the back of the car with a police vehicle, causing the door of Batchelor’s car to slam into his back, according to the suit.
An unknown officer allegedly told Batchelor, “Now you’re under arrest, and we’re towing your car,” instructing the injured man to sit on a nearby curb. When Batchelor tried to stand up to lessen the pain in his lower back, another officer “yanked him violently backward” onto his tailbone, worsening the pain, according to the suit.
Batchelor was not arrested that night, however Aldworth said they searched his car without consent, then had it impounded, leaving Batchelor without a way to drive home.
Batchelor was taken to the hospital after demonstrators called an ambulance. Days later, he sought additional medical care and had x-rays taken which showed a fractured tailbone, the lawsuit alleged. He also had to pay to release his car from an impound lot and spent upwards of $2,200 on repairs, according to the lawsuit.
After the incident, PPB officers stopped him at least seven times for traffic violations including speeding, impeding traffic, driving uninsured, use of prohibited lighting equipment, and causing unreasonable sound amplification, court records show. The suit called the traffic tickets “baseless” and claims they were used to harass Batchelor.
“He has a very distinctive car with these custom lights on the inside,” Aldworth said. “Officers knew who he was. He was a regular presence at the protests. They knew him. They knew his car.”
Batchelor continued attending protests after the incident, and officers “loudly talked” about his criminal record in front of other demonstrators to try to embarrass him, Aldworth said.
In 2002, Batchelor was convicted of third degree assault at age 16. Then, in 2007, he was convicted of compelling prostitution. The court gave him another felony conviction in 2014 for failing to report as a sex offender. Interspersed in the more serious charges are numerous traffic, parking and fare violations.
Police also arrested Batchelor at a protest in September 2020, after an officer allegedly found a pistol in the glovebox of his car.
The lawsuit listed the City of Portland, Mayor Ted Wheeler, former PPB Chief Jami Resch and 21 officers as defendants, claiming they all played a role in “chilling” speech and “using militarized force against demonstrators who protest police brutality.”
Batchelor suffers severe physical and emotional trauma after the incident, according to the suit, including pain in his back and difficulty sitting for long periods of time. He has also experienced depression, stress and a fear that he is being followed.