Iraq War Vet, Skull Fractured by Oakland Police, Wins $4.5 Million Award

Sunday, March 23, 2014
Scott Olsen (photo: Jay Finneburgh, AP)

A veteran of the Iraq War who suffered a skull fracture when Oakland police fired a lead shot-filled “beanbag” into an Occupy protest settled a suit against the city for $4.5 million, it was announced Friday. 


Scott Olsen served two tours as a Marine in Iraq. He was among about 1,000 people protesting the clearing of an Occupy camp on October 25, 2011, when a still-unidentified police officer fired a “flexible baton round,” or beanbag, into the crowd of protesters. Olsen was hit in the head. Graphic images of wounded Olsen were widely circulated and incited more protests.


“I guess I thought that I wasn't in Iraq anymore, you know, I'd be more or less safe,” Olsen said Friday at a news conference. “I wasn't going to get shot. I wasn't going to be attacked. Oakland police proved me wrong in that, and it makes me feel less safe in general, especially around people who are supposed to be protecting you.”


Olsen said he suffered brain damage to the point where he had to relearn to speak after the attack, and that he still has memory problems. He was working as a systems administrator at a San Francisco software firm at the time he was wounded.


After Olsen was hit, protesters attempted to help him. Police did not. Instead, one officer, Robert Roche, fired a tear-gas round into the crowd. Oakland police tried to fire Roche, who has been involved in three fatal shootings, but Roche is fighting his termination.


“Mr. Olsen suffered a tragic injury that will affect him for the rest of his life,” City Attorney Barbara Parker said. “This settlement will save the city the far greater costs of a trial and potentially much higher judgment. This is a fair settlement given the facts of the case and the significant injuries Mr. Olsen sustained.” Parker said the city will pay $1.4 million of the settlement, with insurers picking up the remainder.


This isn’t the only suit to come out of Oakland’s Occupy protests. The city will pay $1.17 million to 12 protesters who say they were victims of police abuse on the same day Olsen was wounded. A suit by Army veteran Kayvan Sabeghi, who said he was clubbed by police during a November 2, 2011, protest, was settled for $645,000.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Occupy Protester Wounded by Oakland Police gets $4.5 Million (by Henry K. Lee, San Francisco Chronicle)

Oakland to Pay Veteran $4.5M for Busted Skull (by William Dotinga, Courthouse News Service)

Police Fracture Skull of Iraq War Veteran While Clearing Out Occupy Oakland Protestors (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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