Man Shot in Eye at May 30th Demonstration Sues Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Officer Who Fired Beanbag Round

A 25-year-old Sandusky man who was shot in the eye during the May 30th racial justice demonstrations in downtown Cleveland has filed suit against Cuyahoga County, the County Sheriff's Department and the deputy who fired the beanbag round that left him blind in one eye. 

Attorneys for John Sanders filed the lawsuit Saturday, a day before the one-year-anniversary of the demonstration. Sanders' injury required two surgeries and left him blind when the eye could not be salvaged. The suit alleges that the county Sheriff's Department had no training in place for crowd control or the use of beanbag rifles, that it was negligent in the hiring of "troubled" deputy Bruce Lourie, and that Lourie's "sadistic violence" was part of an ongoing pattern.

"Cuyahoga County has adopted customs, policies, patterns, and practices of abusing its officers' powers over citizens, both free and incarcerated, failing to properly train its employees with only the most minimal of policies regarding the use on non-lethal force, and has virtually no policies regarding crowd control and support for peaceful demonstrations," the suit alleges. "The injuries inflicted upon Sanders were part and parcel of a long history of inhumane treatment of citizens by the Cuyahoga County Sheriffs Department and its officers."

Sanders attended the demonstration with a group of friends and was preparing to leave when he saw a scene at the Justice Center that he wanted to capture on camera. (Sanders is an amateur photographer.) Though there was no altercation nearby, Deputy Lourie shot Sanders, and the metal beanbag pellets exploded in his eye.

"Defendant Lourie was untrained, apparently having never fired a beanbag rifle before that day, and fired with poor visibility at an excessive range," the suit alleges. "He fired at John Sanders without provocation or any justification in terms of protecting persons or property. Deputy Lourie treated Plaintiff Sanders like a firing-range target."

The suit goes on to discuss Lourie's background. The Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department is a defendant in the case precisely because it failed to conduct a proper review of Lourie's employment history. The suit alleges that before he was hired by the county in 2002, Lourie had been suspended by the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) where he'd been employed as a police officer, for "egregious misconduct involving dishonesty to a superior, attempts to persuade colleagues to lie to cover for his misconduct, for his own dishonesty, and for abusing members of the public and falsely accusing an arrested individual of a crime by planting evidence."

Lourie has been on leave since last June, and's Cory Shaffer reported that an investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation into his actions is ongoing.

The Associated Press reported that two separate lawsuits were filed late last week in federal court by 15 people who said they were victims of excessive force at the hands of Cleveland police officers and Cuyahoga County sheriff's deputies at the George Floyd demonstration.

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Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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