A woman who was struck in the eye with a so-called “rubber sbullet” during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, causing an injury that required surgery, has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Seattle Police Department.
Nikita Tarver alleges an unknown officer targeted her — the only Black person in a crowd of white protesters — when she raised a sign showing the names and identities of police violence victims.
Tarver was likely struck with a 40-mm foam-tipped projectile, one of several less-lethal weapons a federal judge later enjoined police from using against nonviolent protesters, finding officers were likely violating the civil rights of thousands of people who swarmed into the streets to protest police violence in the wake of the May 25, 2020, murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
Such foam-tipped rounds can cause serious injury, and their manufacturer warns against firing them at people’s heads.
The lawsuit — which also contains allegations of assault, negligence and outrage — joins dozens of others filed by protesters who claim police used unnecessary and excessive force against nonviolent demonstrators during large protests during the summer of 2020.
The Seattle city attorney’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Tarver describes herself as a social justice advocate who had never participated in a protest before being compelled to join thousands of demonstrators who massed in downtown Seattle on May 30, 2020, to decry Floyd’s murder.
The lawsuit claims that Tarver and a friend were walking back to their car after listening to several speakers when Tarver hoisted a sign depicting the names and identities of other victims of police violence.
“Within seconds of holding her sign up so that it could be seen, Nikita felt a blast in her left eye,” the lawsuit says. “Nikita screamed out in terror. Her entire face felt like it was burning and she felt like she was going to lose her eye.”
Tarver, the lawsuit says, “had never experienced this level of pain in her life.”
Tarver’s friend drove her to Harborview Medical Center, where she was treated for an eye injury that needed surgery and may require additional operations, according to the lawsuit.
The injury has required numerous medical appointments and required Tarver to wear an eyepatch.
“Nikita continues to experience significant physical pain as a result of this incident,” the lawsuit says. “She often feels like there are shards of glass in her eye.”
The lawsuit, filed by Seattle attorney James Bible, states that Tarver thinks she was targeted because she’s Black: “Nikita was the only African American person among several white people that were near her at the time she was shot in the face.”