ACLU sues Fort Wayne for protester who lost eye

Local News

INDIANAPOLIS (WANE) — The ACLU of Indiana has sued the city of Fort Wayne on behalf of a man who lost an eye after being struck with a tear gas canister during police brutality protests in late May.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, alleges Fort Wayne Police used excessive force when an unidentified officer fired a tear gas canister that struck 21-year-old Balin Brake in the face May 30. Brake suffered fractured facial bones in four places and his eye was ruptured, and doctors were forced to remove it later.

Brake was peacefully protesting at the time, the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit said the use of force violated both the First and Fourth Amendments to the United States Constitution. 

A city of Fort Wayne spokesperson said the city was “not able to comment on pending litigation.”

“FWPD have shown a reckless indifference to constitutional rights in their attempt to deprive the Fort Wayne community of their right to free speech, leaving Mr. Brake with a permanent loss of vision in his right eye,” said Jane Henegar, executive director at the ACLU of Indiana. “The right to protest is fundamental to our democracy and no one should face tear gassing and injury while exercising that right.”

After the incident, Fort Wayne Police issued a “statement on eye injury” that claimed Brake was bending over to throw a canister back when a second canister skipped up and hit him in the eye.

FWPD’s report said there was “no deliberate deployment of gas to any person’s head.”

A Washington Post analysis of the incident, though, found the second canister did not skip before it struck Brake, and that he had moved away from officers and was standing near a street corner when he was hit. Video also shows that Brake did not bend over and no canister was near him to throw back, the Post reported.

The lawsuit calls for a jury trial and requests damages for Brake’s injuries as well as punitive damages and compensation for attorney fees and “all other proper relief.”

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