Denver settles lawsuit by couple shot by police with pepper balls

A couple has won $325,000 in settlements from the city of Denver after police officers shot them with pepper balls during the 2020 George Floyd protests, despite the fact that the woman was pregnant and the couple was not causing any harm.

Denver City Council on Monday approved the settlement payments to Shaiitarrio Brown and Brittany King, who sued the city in 2021 for their injuries. Their federal lawsuit stated that the couple was working for food delivery service DoorDash on May 30, 2020, when they drove near Civic Center during the protests.

An officer shot the car with a pepper ball, prompting Brown to step out of the vehicle and shout at the officer, according to the lawsuit. He told the officer that King was pregnant.

A viral video of the incident, recorded by a bystander, showed officers fire dozens of pepper balls at Brown and the car. The pepper balls — small plastic balls filled with irritant chemicals that burn eyes and skin — struck Brown in the face and struck King in the stomach through an open car window. The video shows that there were no large groups of protesters nearby.

Warning: This video contains graphic language

Brown suffered lacerations and bruising. King suffered a broken right hand, chemical burns and bruises.

The pepper balls also saturated the inside of their car with chemicals. Brown and King were living in their car at the time, according to the suit, and the pepper balls rendered it unlivable.

King suffered complications to her pregnancy due to exposure to the pepper ball chemicals, the lawsuit says, and the child has shown developmental delays since her birth.

The City Council on Monday also approved a $75,000 settlement to a man who was bodyslammed by a Denver sheriff’s deputy. Luke Horowitz attempted to walk into the downtown courthouse on Nov. 14, 2019, but was stopped by security guards for having medical marijuana.

Deputies told him he could not enter the courthouse with the marijuana unless he provided a medical marijuana card, but Horowitz refused. Horowitz started to walk away after a verbal confrontation with the deputies, but Deputy James Jeffery picked him up and slammed him to the ground.

Jeffrey was fired from the Denver Sheriff Department in connection with the incident.

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