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Denver Paying $325,000 After Police Pepper Balls Hit Pregnant Woman

Shaiitarrio Brown and Brittany King were delivering meals for DoorDash early on May 30, 2020, as protests decrying the killing of George Floyd swept through Denver. As the couple stopped at an intersection, a police officer fired a plastic ball containing a pepper spray-like agent at their car. Brown left the vehicle and shouted at police to stop, “You shot a car with a pregnant woman in it!” he yelled to officers in bystander footage that went viral on social media. Officers responded by firing several more pepper balls at Brown and into the vehicle. King, Brown’s girlfriend, can be heard screaming before the couple drives away as officers continue to pelt the car. “It was pretty vicious,” Brown told the Washington Post. On Monday, the Denver City Council approved a settlement of $325,000 with Brown and King, who’d sued the city and police department in 2021. “We got money out of it,” Brown said. “But we’ve still got no accountability, so there’s no closure for us at the end of the day.” Brown was hit once in the face and King three times in the abdomen. King was 19 weeks pregnant at the time and was hospitalized twice for pregnancy complications. The Denver Police Department said an internal investigation into the incident overseen by Denver’s Office of the Independent Monitor found “no policy violation” based on available evidence.


When thousands of protesters in Denver joined the nationwide outcry against the killing of Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, police dispersed crowds using tear gas and nonlethal ammunition over several nights of protest and drew widespread accusations of using excessive force on demonstrators. In response, Denver police announced changes to policies on use of force. Police faced several lawsuits. In March, a jury awarded $14 million to 12 protesters who were injured by officers using pepper spray and nonlethal ammunition. By then, Denver had already settled several other protest-related lawsuits for over $1 million. Brown and King weren’t protesting when police fired upon them but were delivering food to an apartment building several blocks from a protest. Video footage shows the couple driving up to an intersection surrounded by dozens of police officers near the Capitol. One fired at their car unprovoked, Brown said. Brown and King said officers followed them as they drove away and sought treatment in an ambulance, and later confronted Brown when he took King to a hospital. Brown was left with cuts and bruising, while King suffered a broken hand and chemical burns. Chemicals from the paintball-sized pepper balls filled the car as King sat inside, she said, coating the seat and her clothes. Hospital tests found chemicals from the pepper balls in King’s bloodstream and burns in her throat made it hard to swallow or eat for months afterward. The pepper balls used by police contain chemicals known to cause birth defects or pregnancy loss.

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