The father of a 19-year-old man shot and killed after Seattle police abandoned the East Precinct on Capitol Hill during racial protests in June 2020 has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit alleging Mayor Jenny Durkan, Councilmember Kshama Sawant and others acted with “deliberate indifference” to the lawlessness and contributed to his death.
The 40-page complaint filed by Horace Anderson and the estate of his dead son, Horace Lorenzo Anderson, was filed in King County Superior Court on Wednesday, just two days after a federal judge dismissed similar claims filed in U.S. District Court by the young man’s mother.
The new lawsuit, filed by Seattle trial attorney Evan Oshan, differs from the failed federal lawsuit in that it relies on state law and adds claims for negligence and violations of protections and duties that cities and officials owe citizens that are outlined in the state constitution and statutes, which are generally more expansive than federal law.
The lawsuit follows a claim made with the city asking for $3 billion in damages. The lawsuit itself does not specify the damages being sought.
It names as defendants the city of Seattle, Durkan and Sawant, who the lawsuit alleges encouraged participants in the so-called CHOP — Capitol Hill Occupied Protest — to break the law and “undermine the safety of others” for political theater.
Durkan, the lawsuit alleges, downplayed the illegal behavior and “celebrated the existence, message and methods of CHOP and CHOP participants” even as police officials, including then-Chief Carmen Best, warned of increasing mayhem and violence around Cal Anderson Park.
“Despite having knowledge of exactly what is happening at CHOP by being there every day and in apparently constant contact with area residents and business owners, the City acted with deliberate indifference toward the safety and care of residents and the public,” the lawsuit alleges.
It quotes a Durkan tweet in which the mayor said CHOP “is not a lawless wasteland of anarchist insurrection — it is a peaceful expression of our community’s collective grief and their desire to build a better world,” referring to the outpouring of anger and sorrow over the May 25, 2020, murder by Minneapolis police of George Floyd, which sparked anti-police racism protests nationwide.
Durkan, through her chief of staff, Stephanie Formas, declined to comment on the pending litigation.
A message delivered to Sawant’s office through City Council spokesperson Dana Robinson Slote did not elicit a response Wednesday afternoon.
The younger Anderson, who went by his middle name, Lorenzo, had graduated from an alternative youth-education program on June 19, 2020, and visited the CHOP zone the next day, where he ran into 18-year-old Marcel Long, according to police. The pair had a history of animosity, and according to police and witnesses, they exchanged words. Police said that video surveillance showed that Anderson was walking away when Long, who had been restrained momentarily by others, pulled a handgun and shot him several times.
Long was charged with first-degree murder but was not arrested for nearly a year, partly because police were unable or unwilling to enter the area to conduct an investigation, according to the lawsuit.
Medics delayed entering the zone as well, abiding by a policy for scenes of violence that required police to respond first and clear the way for firefighters and medical crews. When Anderson was shot, he was treated by civilian medics and eventually taken to Harborview Medical Center in the back of a pickup because the Medic One crews would not enter the scene.
The lawsuit alleges that Anderson’s wounds would not have been fatal had he received immediate medical attention and says he bled to death lying on a table at a makeshift aid station near Cal Anderson Park.
The lawsuit alleges there were significant communication breakdowns between the Seattle Police Department and fire officials because they had not come up with a plan to deal with emergencies, even though CHOP had been in existence for two weeks before the shooting occurred.
That same night, the lawsuit said, a second unidentified shooting victim waited nearly 35 minutes before being loaded into a cargo van and driven to the hospital.
“Had aid been rendered in a timely fashion, Lorenzo Anderson would be alive today,” the lawsuit says. “Despite knowledge of the violence and chaos, Seattle leaders failed Lorenzo.”
At one point, Durkan suggested to television personality Chris Cuomo that CHOP might be compared to the “Summer of Love” of 1967, when tens of thousands of peaceful hippies flocked to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district.
The lawsuit alleges “the ‘Summer of Love’ inevitably turned into the ‘summer of blood.’ ”
“It took the predictable and preventable death of Lorenzo Anderson and others for Mayor Durkan to finally announced that Seattle would move in to take over governance of the ‘CHOP.'”