When 60-year-old Leo Hall and his wife, Debra, drove from Lane County, Ore. to Portland on August 4, 2018, they were planning to visit their relatives on an otherwise uneventful Saturday.
That is, until the couple encountered one of the largest political protests in recent city history—a faceoff between right-wing group Patriot Prayer and a legion of antifascists. Hall, who court documents say has a "passion for urban photography," decided to stop and take some footage of the protest.
The day did not go as planned. Hall, who was holding a camera in one hand and a cane in the other, says he was unlawfully assaulted with a metal baton by a Portland police officer, according to a civil lawsuit filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Friday.
He and his wife are suing Officer Spenser Perry for assault, battery, and excessive force, and the Portland Police Bureau for failure to train. They are seeking $250,000 in damages.
A spokesman for Portland Police Bureau declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing ongoing litigation.
The use of force by police on Aug. 4, 2018 has been the subject of intense criticism. A leftist protester was hospitalized after being hit in the head with a so-called "flash-bang" grenade. Police suspended the use of those devices after an internal ingestigation. But then-Police Chief Danielle Outlaw also took to talk radio to say leftist protesters were seeking a physical confrontation with police, and only complained because they lost the fight.
That doesn't seem to apply to Hall, who says he was a bystander.
At some point during the protest, the complaint says, Portland Police were ordered to clear out the demonstration that Hall was photographing. The police then began "firing ballistic flashbang and tear gas grenades into the crowd," the complaint says, and ordered the demonstrators to disperse.
Hall was unable to move away as quickly as the rest of the group, the complaint says. He then gave Perry a "menacing glare" and asked for his name and badge number.
Perry responded by "turning his metal baton sideways in both hands, and bashing it into Mr. Hall's chest and arms," causing him to fall to the concrete, the complaint says.
"At said time and place, Defendant Perry stepped over the elderly and disabled unconscious man he had just attacked, and carried on without any further contact," the complaint says. "At no point did any other police officer stop to check on the elderly man lying next to his cane. Ironically, only medics within the attacked demonstration, came to Mr. Hall's aid."
The lawsuit says Hall suffered serious injuries from the incident, including traumatic brain injury, concussion with loss of consciousness, and PTSD.
The lawsuit further alleges that the event put a strain on the couple's marriage.
"Mrs. Hall lost the companionship and support of her husband," the complaint says. "Though previously loving and supportive despite his preexisting conditions, he has not been the same since this incident and she fears he never will."