SEATTLE – A Seattle police officer announced he filed a tort-claim notice Thursday against the city, claiming he suffered a serious head injury at this year’s May Day protests because he wasn’t provided with proper protective gear.
Officer Kerry Zieger said he requested the city’s newer, higher-protection head gear before policing the protest, but was given a bicycle helmet instead because the department had run out of the necessary equipment.
Zieger was hit in the head with a chunk of concrete, cutting open his forehead and causing “severe head pain … and numbness across his entire face,” according to the tort-claim notice, which Zieger’s attorneys told Q13 News they filed Thursday. The notice is required before a lawsuit can be filed against a public agency.
Q13 News' Brandi Kruse was on-scene with a photographer when Zieger was injured. You can see him being hit at the 1:10 mark:
Zieger’s attorneys said that several years ago, the city began using the higher-protection helmets for protests and marches. They said that Zieger, who was a lead trainer in the department’s preparation for the May Day protests, was well-versed in the potential danger and proper protocols for the protests and asked for one of the new helmets but was told the department was “all out.”
Eventually, Zieger and eight other officers ended up in a standoff with dozens of protestors on Second Avenue, and the crowd began throwing flares, rocks, cans of soup and pieces of concrete at the officers, at which point Zieger was hurt.
In an email included in the claim, Seattle police chief Kathleen O’Toole acknowledged the next day that the city didn’t have enough of the higher-protection helmets on hand and said the department had expedited an order of 30 more.
Zieger missed six weeks of work, and the claim says there’s “significant likelihood” he’ll have permanent facial scarring.
Zieger also claims the department made poor tactical decisions that led to the violent standoff, and that he wasn’t given non-lethal “blast balls” before deploying, despite making numerous requests.
Nine people were arrested and five officers were hurt in this year’s protest.
Zieger is seeking unspecified damages.