The mother of a 19-year-old Seattle man fatally shot last month in the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) zone filed a wrongful-death claim against the city of Seattle on Monday, alleging city officials created a dangerous environment by allowing protesters to occupy six city blocks and that police and fire officials failed to protect or medically assist her son.
The city has 60 days to respond to the claim before a federal lawsuit can be filed, according to attorneys representing Donnitta Sinclair Martin, the mother of Lorenzo Anderson. Anderson was shot multiple times early on June 20 at 10th Avenue and East Pine Street, near a boundary of the CHOP zone before it was cleared by police on July 1.
Anderson and a 33-year-old man, who was critically injured, were shot that Saturday and were transported in private vehicles to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center by volunteer medics. At the time, demonstrators had largely blocked off law enforcement access to the CHOP area amid demands for racial justice and calls to defund the Seattle Police Department (SPD).
Anderson, who had just graduated the day before from Seattle’s Interagency Academy, was pronounced dead at Harborview. A suspect has not been arrested.
As of Monday afternoon, the city’s Department of Finance and Administrative Services, which receives claims filed against the city, had not yet received the claim filed on behalf of Sinclair Martin, spokeswoman Melissa Mixon wrote in an email. She said the city does not typically comment on acting or pending claims.
Anderson, who was born at 24 1/2 weeks weighing less than 2 pounds, struggled with early health issues and educational challenges throughout his young life, so receiving his high school diploma “was a big deal for us, the whole family,” his mother said in a phone interview on Monday.
Sinclair Martin, a caseworker at Seattle’s People of Color Against AIDS Network, said her son helped out during yearly counts of people living outdoors and participated in a Rainier Beach youth program. He loved basketball and football, and was pursuing a rap career.
Sinclair Martin said her son wasn’t an activist, but she believes that as a young man of color he went to CHOP to educate himself about the larger Black Lives Matter movement.
She learned from family friends that her son had been shot and said she felt disrespected and insulted by police and hospital staff, who refused to answer questions or let her see her son following his death at Harborview.
Attorney Mark Lindquist of the Herrmann Law Group, which is representing Sinclair Martin, estimated that Anderson bled out on the street for 20 minutes before CHOP volunteer medics came to his aid and drove him to the hospital.
Sinclair Martin believes that delay cost her son’s life.
“Most definitely, he was abandoned … I feel like my son was not properly served. I feel like nobody cared,” she said. “Lorenzo was fighting all his life and now I have to fight for him. I want justice to be served.”
Though Seattle Fire Department (SFD) medics had staged nearby, the June 20 scene was considered too dangerous for them to enter the CHOP without police first securing the area. Video from bystanders and police body cameras showed several officers entering the protest zone with guns drawn, as some protesters demanded they put the weapons away, shouting, apparently before the second wounded man was discovered, that the victim already had been taken to the hospital. The officers eventually retreated, with a group of protesters at one point forming a human chain to stop others from following the police.
Police said the volatile situation prevented homicide detectives from entering the CHOP to tape off the crime scene and take photos and collect evidence.
“A video indicates SFD and SPD personnel knew Anderson was shot and in need of medical assistance,” attorneys with the Herrmann Law Group, which has offices in Seattle and Tacoma, wrote in a Monday news release. “Circulating on social media, the video shows a man yelling at SFD medics sitting in an ambulance. ‘You guys could be saving this man’s life right now. … You could be saving his life. You could be saving his life. … Sir, please explain, what’s going on? He’s dying. He needs your help.'”
Lindquist said based on what he knows so far, Anderson’s shooting and the shooting of the 33-year-old man the same night were not connected and that Anderson was the first person to be shot.
“It was foreseeable when the city abandoned the East Precinct that trouble would likely follow and they had no plan to deliver emergency services if there was trouble,” he said. “We do know Lorenzo was bleeding in the street for a considerable amount of time and with a gunshot wound, every minute can mean life or death.”
Lindquist and his law partner, Lara Herrmann, are asking any witnesses or people with video of the shooting and its aftermath to contact them at 253-627-8142.
Nine days after Anderson was killed, 16-year-old Antonio Mays Jr. was fatally shot and a 14-year-old boy was injured by gunfire, a double shooting that effectively ended the city’s tolerance for the CHOP. Both were apparently occupants of a white Jeep parked near the corner of 12th Avenue and East Pine Street, outside the East Precinct. Homicide detectives didn’t reach the scene for five hours and by then, police said evidence from the shooting had been disturbed by protesters.
Police have not arrested any suspects in the June 29 shooting. However, police arrested a woman on July 9 who appears to have filmed the shooting’s aftermath, capturing people talking about removing shell casings from the scene. Arrested on investigation of rendering criminal assistance, a felony, she was released the next day without charges.
In the days between the two fatal shootings, a group of Capitol Hill residents and business owners filed a class-action lawsuit against the city for the “extensive harm” they faced as a result of CHOP.
“This lawsuit does not seek to undermine CHOP participants’ message or present a counter-message,” the lawsuit says. “Rather, this lawsuit is about the constitutional and other legal rights of Plaintiffs … which have been overrun by the City of Seattle’s unprecedented decision to abandon and close off an entire city neighborhood, leaving it unchecked by the police, unserved by fire and emergency health services, and inaccessible to the public at large.”
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this story.