A 23-year-old Los Angeles film-maker has sued the Los Angeles police department, alleging that his uncle, a Los Angeles police department officer, ordered him to be shot by projectiles during the George Floyd protests last summer.
On the evening of 29 May 2020, Asim Jamal Shakir Jr had joined the demonstrations in downtown LA and was live-streaming when police formed a skirmish line, and he spotted his uncle, Eric Anderson, among the officers, according to a complaint filed on Monday. Anderson allegedly told his nephew to go home and then later motioned for an officer to shoot a “less-than-lethal” rifle at Shakir.
Footage from Shakir’s live-stream captured him screaming in pain and dropping his phone, and then showed that his hand was bloodied after he was hit. “My own uncle … told him to shoot me!” he said on the stream as he was running away. The complaint said a second projectile hit him in the buttocks as he was picking up his phone, and that he later went to the hospital.
The suit is one of numerous legal claims against the city of LA relating to its use of force and violent response to demonstrators. The complaint was filed the same day that a federal judge ruled against LAPD’s use of certain projectiles at protests, in a case brought by Black Lives Matter LA after protesters were badly injured by police.
Numerous reports and audits have substantiated claims of excessive force, physical violence and policy violations by LAPD, and the LA Times has repeatedly documented cases where activists were hospitalized with serious injuries.
“This whole entire situation has been a tragedy and nothing short of a nightmare,” Shakir said at a press conference outside LAPD headquarters on Tuesday. “This is not just for me – it’s for the people that don’t have the opportunity to speak out, that don’t have the opportunity to voice their pain and their hurt.”
Shakir’s live video captured his emotional pleas to his uncle, asking why he was on the wrong side of the protest: “Our ancestors are turning over in their grave right now, Eric!” he said, adding, “Look, look, he’s telling him who to shoot.” He continued shouting: “Look me in my eyes! You know how your daddy is feeling right now. That could’ve been you!” It is around that point that a different officer appeared to shoot Shakir with a projectile.
The footage doesn’t clearly capture the officer firing at Shakir, but does appear to show his uncle motioning to his colleague and pointing in Shakir’s direction prior, which the lawsuit said was the moment that his uncle directed a colleague to fire at him. Carl Douglas, the civil rights lawyer representing Shakir, said that it was not a verbal command, but that Anderson had directed the shot. The officer who fired at him has not been identified, the attorney said, adding that Anderson was not armed with the “less-than-lethal” rifle.
“I asked Eric if he was serious and he just stared at me for a second and then told me to go home. With no facial expression, no nothing, he told me to go home,” Shakir said in a statement, adding that the two shots fired at him were “definitely targeted”.
“This young Black male activist called for his own blood, his own uncle, to think about the immorality of what he was doing, and the result was his uncle ordering the shooting of his nephew with rubber bullets,” said Dr Melina Abdullah, a BLM LA co-founder. “That just speaks volumes to the complete lack of any kind of moral character, and what happens when people become police … They are willing to even sacrifice their own family in order to advance the interests of a police state.”
“It was one of the most outrageous things I’ve seen,” she said of the video.
Douglas filed an initial damages claim last year and has called for the officer to be terminated. The attorney said Shakir and his uncle weren’t very close, but that the officer had helped his nephew with security for a film shoot he was doing in 2019. They are now estranged, he said: “LAPD has not only injured this young man, but torn this family apart.”
LAPD declined to comment, citing pending litigation. Anderson could not immediately be reached, and it was unclear if he had an attorney.
A spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the LAPD union, did not offer a comment on the claims against Anderson, but said in a statement that police faced violence and “riotous behavior, looting, and major property damage” that night, adding, “We encourage everyone to withhold judgment until all the facts of the case are presented.”
The suit comes at a time when the LAPD and the city are facing intense scrutiny regarding police violence, with BLMLA leading a campaign against the local law enforcement unions and advocating for cuts to the police budget.