Oakland’s City Council has agreed to pay $175,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a former KGO-TV photographer who claims several police officers attacked him and broke his camera as he tried to film outside a hospital on the day four officers were killed in 2009.
Douglas Laughlin said the incident on March 21, 2009, outside Highland Hospital in Oakland left him traumatized and led to his retirement. He argued that he had a First Amendment right to film from the sidewalk as an ambulance delivered one of the mortally wounded officers to the hospital.
According to the Chronicle:
- The video shows off-duty Officer Fred Shavies running toward Laughlin and yelling, “Hey! Get the f- out of here!” Shavies then knocked Laughlin against a parked car, breaking the camera’s viewfinder, according to Laughlin’s suit.
- A group of officers then forced Laughlin away from the hospital and onto East 31st Street. Police proceeded to rope off a section of the street and declare the hospital’s emergency-room area a crime scene, which Laughlin’s suit said was “manufactured to rationalize” the officers’ actions.
- “You guys can’t do this to me,” Laughlin protests on the video. Sgt. Rich Vierra, who at the time was chief of staff to then-acting Chief Howard Jordan, tells Laughlin, “Sir, look at what we’re doing here, man. Sir, that’s one of our police officers that got shot. You need to leave.”
Laughlin’s attorney, Chuck Bourdon, told the Chron, “If these guys would simply acknowledge that they acted unprofessionally on an emotional day, he would have understood. … Instead, they tried to make him feel like he was wrong.”
In agreeing to pay the money, the city did not admit any wrongdoing. Council approved the settlement Tuesday.