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Portland City Attorneys Asked to Toss a Police Use-of-Force Lawsuit Because an Injured Protester Couldn’t Tell Officers Apart

“Do you know if Multnomah County officers, for example, wear helmets?”

This week, the Portland City Attorney’s Office agreed to a $22,500 payout for a Tigard woman who sued the Police Bureau for battery after an officer shot her in the chest with a projectile from about half a block away as she was fleeing a Black Lives Matter protest.

Lydia Fuller was struck by a police munition shortly after midnight on June 7, 2020, according to the amended civil complaint filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court. “I felt like I was following the directions and doing what I was told to do, and just by turning around for one second, I got shot, and I still to this day have no way to justify that,” she recalled in an August 2021 deposition.

RELATED: After Hourslong Standoff With Protesters, Portland Police Use Explosives and Batons to Break Up the Crowds

But before agreeing to settle the case, court records show, the City Attorney’s Office made a remarkable argument for why the lawsuit should be tossed out.

It asked the judge to dismiss the case because Fuller couldn’t say with certainty that the officer who fired the munition at her was a Portland riot cop and not an officer with Oregon State Police or the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.

“Plaintiff cannot identify the law enforcement officer who allegedly struck her with a projectile,” deputy city attorney Mallory Beebe wrote in a Sept. 16 motion for summary judgment. “She could not describe the uniform of the officer who fired the projectile.…Plaintiff said the group of 50 officers were wearing helmets, but she could not say whether Multnomah County law enforcement officers also wear helmets.”

The city also argued in the motion that, for battery claims, the plaintiff must prove the officer intended to injure: “Because Plaintiff does not know the identity of the officer who allegedly fired the projectile, Plaintiff has no evidence of that officer’s intent to injure her.”

Fuller’s attorney, Michael Fuller, who is also her cousin, says he finds the city’s legal arguments particularly unsavory—because Lydia Fuller was shot shortly after Portland riot cops began concealing their identities.

On June 6, hours before police deployed the projectile at Fuller, East Precinct Commander Erica Hurley sent an email with the subject line “name tag changes” to managers, instructing them to advise their sergeants and officers “as soon as possible” that they could tape over their name tags with their personnel numbers, effectively concealing their identities. (PPB has argued this policy was necessary to prevent the doxxing of police by leftist protesters.)

“It seems kind of like ‘gotcha law’ to me,” Michael Fuller says. “It seems very purposeful to me that the city has a policy of shielding the identity of its officers, and then makes the legal argument that the citizens shouldn’t be allowed compensation because they can’t identify the officers.”

To be sure, Lydia Fuller couldn’t have read the name tags of officers from the distance at which she was shot. In her testimony, she described walking with her partner briskly toward their car after the Portland police announced themselves over the sound truck and ordered the crowd to disperse and head southwest. They did, and that’s when they encountered a line of black-clad riot cops near the intersection of Southwest 5th Avenue and Jefferson Street.

“They were closer than they were before, but [that] was exactly the moment I got shot,” she recalled. “I’m not kidding you. It was like the quickest thing that I have—I don’t even know how they could have had enough time to see me to shoot my chest like that. Like, I turned around, and boom.”

RELATED: A Judge Blasts the City’s Justification for Hiding the Identities of Portland Riot Cops

It’s also worth noting that members of the city’s now-defunct Rapid Response Team filed more than 60 use-of-force reports for protests spanning June 6 and 7, 2020—the night Lydia Fuller was injured, public records show.

“Whoever fired that bullet was working for the city or at least at the city’s direction and serving the city’s purpose,” Michael Fuller says, “and the fact that they have disguised themselves so that it’s hard for a person in the dark to see a badge number doesn’t get them off the hook legally.”

City Attorney Robert Taylor confirmed that the case was settled this week, adding that the Portland City Council would likely vote to approve the settlement in December or January. He declined further comment.

Excerpts from the city’s deposition of Lydia Fuller in August, which the city used as evidence that her case should be tossed, show the City Attorney’s Office sought to cast doubt on whether a Portland officer had fired.

The excerpts have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: You do remember, though, that the announcement was telling people that they needed to leave that area?

A: Correct.

Q: Did you see, well, the Portland police use any munitions or use any other type of what you would consider force before that, before leaving?

A: We did hear, like, a loud bang, and that was probably why I didn’t hear all of the announcement on the [sound truck]. I’m just guessing because it was, like, one thing after another. “This is the Portland police, you need to leave,” and then a huge bang. That was where, like, I thought, we’ve got to go. I thought it was something dangerous, and so we just left as fast as we could.

A: The only thing I can tell you is that I know it was the Portland police.

Q: How do you know about that?

A: Their uniforms.

Q: What is it about their uniforms that you know it was a Portland police officer?

A: They were all identical and there were more than 50 of them with guns. And they were all in black, which I’ve noticed that the Portland police, they all wear black and they drive black cars.

Q: Do you know if Multnomah County officers dressed in all black?

A: No, I don’t know.

Q: OK. Do you know, were the officers wearing helmets?

A: Yes.

Q: OK. Do you know if Multnomah County officers, for example, wear helmets?

A: No.

Q: Did you notice any writing on the uniforms of the officers?

A: I do, actually. When one approached me at the end, the one that approached me after I’d been shot, I could tell everything on him said Portland police, including the helmet. Well, it just said police, but yes.

Q: Did you notice any patches on the uniforms of the officers that were standing in the line?

A: No.

Q: OK. So you didn’t notice patches on the left side or the right side?

A: No.

Q: OK. Did you notice any patches or badges on the chest?

A: No.

Q: Do you recall seeing any writing on the chest of the line of officers?

A: No.

Q: I presume then you wouldn’t know, like, what color stitching or any writing was on any of the officers, if they had any writing on them?

A: No.

Q: So I want to understand why you believe it was a Portland police officer who fired at you as opposed to a Multnomah County officer or an Oregon State Police officer or any other agencies that might have been there that night.

A: The one main thing would be the announcements that I had heard. They had made themselves clear who they were when they said, “This is the Portland police. You need to leave, otherwise,” like, something. “You have to leave.” And then, like I said, after I’d been shot, when the officer approached me, that was like a confirmation for me. It was, like, how could you just come up to me, look at me having just been shot, and treat me like you’re in a paintball game simulation or something. Like, oh, good, you have been shot. That was the most appalling moment of my entire life, especially with all of the police.