Shakir cried out to him over the whir of circling helicopters.
“Our ancestors are turning over in their grave right now, Eric!” he said, live-streaming the tense encounter. “You know how your daddy feeling right now? That could have been you!”
It’s not clear whether the officer, identified by Shakir as Eric Anderson, heard him. But a split-second later, according to a civil rights lawsuit Shakir filed Monday, Anderson ordered officers to fire “less-than-lethal” projectiles at his nephew and other protesters. Shakir says two rounds hit him, leaving his hand bloodied and sending him to the emergency room for treatment.
The lawsuit is the latest in a flurry of litigation filed over the past year alleging that police used excessive force during racial justice demonstrations last summer.
Protesters and journalists from the West Coast to Denver to Washington have sued police after being wounded by rubber bullets, bean bags, tear-gas canisters and other weapons used by law enforcement to control crowds. The cases almost always name police departments, city officials and occasionally individual officers as defendants, but it’s highly unusual to see a plaintiff accuse a relative in law enforcement of civil rights violations.
A spokesperson with the Los Angeles Police Department did not immediately respond to a request to discuss the case Wednesday. Anderson could not immediately be reached for comment.
The LAPD in particular has come under intense scrutiny for the way officers responded to demonstrations over the death of Floyd, who was murdered when Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes on May 25.
A report commissioned by the City Council found in March that the department severely mishandled the protests in Los Angeles, firing rubber bullets and bean bag rounds at demonstrators who had done nothing wrong and posed no threat to officers. The department said the chief had “taken responsibility” for the response and welcomed “the opportunity to learn from our mistakes.”
Shakir, a 23-year-old filmmaker, said in the lawsuit that a protest march on the night of May 29 drew him out of his apartment near the city center. He pulled out his phone and started filming as police formed a “skirmish line” on the street, according to the complaint.
He was trying to persuade some of the Black officers in the formation to join the protest when he noticed his uncle, he said. Anderson called out, “Jamal,” and told Shakir to go home, according to the complaint. Moments later, Shakir said, Anderson directed another unidentified officer to fire a “less-than-lethal” rifle into the crowd.
The live-streamed video captures the “pop-pop” of the shots, then shows the phone clattering to the ground as people run away from the police. A person identified as Shakir lets out a painful groan.
“My own uncle!” he repeatedly said, according to the footage.
In a news conference Tuesday, Shakir, who is Black, called the incident “a tragedy and nothing short of a nightmare.”
“To be able to do such a thing despite it being your family, your blood or your own people is something that’s tremendously affecting the entire community,” he said.
Shakir said the rounds hit him in the hand and buttocks. Friends found him at his apartment a short time later and persuaded him to go to the emergency room at USC Keck Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Carl Douglas, a prominent civil rights attorney representing Shakir, filed a damages claim against the department last year. The city rejected it in November.
Shakir “did not consent to this use of force. He did nothing to justify this use of serious and unreasonable force against him,” the lawsuit says. It accuses Anderson of motioning for the other officer to shoot while “knowing the serious physical and emotional injuries the projectiles cause, all because his nephew was taunting him about his defense of the LAPD.”
The lawsuit names the city of Los Angeles, Anderson and 40 other unidentified officers who were part of the crackdown on protesters that night. It alleges civil rights violations under the California Constitution, assault and battery, false imprisonment and negligence. Shakir said he had never participated in a protest until 2020 and had been marching for only a few minutes when he encountered his uncle. He said he felt like he was targeted.
“I asked Eric if he was serious and he just stared at me for a second and then told me to go home,” Shakir told Los Angeles magazine in October. “With no facial expression, no nothing, he told me to go home.”
In the same interview, he noted that his parents were in prison on charges related to gang activities, with his father serving multiple life sentences after being convicted of helping orchestrate murders.
“The irony of this entire story,” Shakir said in Tuesday’s news conference, “is that I spent my entire life doing everything to prevent being just another statistic of the criminal justice system, or being a victim of the police brutality.”