FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A protester who lost an eye while taking part in demonstrations during the summer of 2020 received $300,000 in settlement money from the city, WANE 15 has learned.
Complete terms of the settlement in the highly publicized lawsuit between the City of Fort Wayne and Balin Brake are not known.
City officials say they can not talk about it and attempts to reach Brake were unsuccessful.
WANE 15, however, discovered a $300,000 check made out to an unknown person for “police professional claims” that Fort Wayne officials cut a week before a federal magistrate judge dismissed the lawsuit.
City officials declined to speak about the check and denied a Freedom of Information Request from WANE 15 regarding information about that particular $300,000 of taxpayer money.
A source with knowledge of the check, though, said it was payment to settle with Brake.
Brake was one of hundreds of protesters who flooded downtown to protest police brutality over the course of a few days in the summer of 2020 after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
He was also one of several people to lose an eye or some vision during protests all over the country as police used tear gas cannisters and other projectiles to subdue or scatter crowds, according to various reports.
At first, Fort Wayne police said Brake bent down to pick up a tear gas canister to throw it back at officers and, in the process, he was struck by another canister that skipped off the ground.
Video obtained by The Washington Post undermined that version of events, showing that the canister never skipped off the ground and that Brake was not bending over to pick anything up.
With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, Brake sued the city and officer Justin Holmes, claiming the officer used excessive force when he fired the tear gas canister.
Brake and the city apparently came to an agreement on the terms of the settlement back in January, according to court records. Several times, though, there were delays to finalize the paperwork for the settlement.
Both parties filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit last month. The federal magistrate judge presiding over the case obliged and dismissed it with prejudice – meaning it cannot be filed again.
Calls to the ACLU’s lead attorney on the case to get reaction to the settlement went unreturned.
City spokesman John Perlich issued this statement when asked about the settlement:
“The terms of the settlement are confidential, and we cannot release any information as that would violate the terms of the settlement agreement.”
City officials have previously doled out similar settlements in lawsuits that have accused officers of police brutality.
In 2016, Fort Wayne paid $125,000 to settle an excessive force lawsuit with a Michigan man who suffered skull and facial fractures as well as a concussion during an encounter with police.
In 2009, the city paid $335,000 to the estate of a Guatemala man who was shot and killed in his car by an officer after a vehicle pursuit through the streets of the southeast side two years prior.