has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Oakland over the October 25, 2011 incident. Olsen was hospitalized after being shot in the head with a "high velocity round made of metal pellets," commonly called a beanbag round, fired from the shotgun of an Oakland Police Department officer after Occupy protesters failed to heed warnings to disperse.
Olsen was critically injured
by the head shot.
"The impact fractured Mr. Olsen's skull and caused severe hemorrhaging of his brain," the suit, filed last Thursday in US District Court San Francisco, states. "As a result of his injuries, Mr. Olsen lost his ability to speak and perform basic mental and physical functions."
Olsen, who has undergone extensive therapy and has made remarkable progress toward recovery, "still frequently has difficulty speaking, concentrating and remembering things," according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit does not name the officer who fired the "less-than-lethal" round that struck Olsen's head, but it does identify Robert Roche as the officer who attacked medics and others who rushed to aid Olsen with a tear gas canister, an act witnessed by this reporter who was on the scene
in Oakland that night.
This reporter saw Olsen, who served two tours of duty in Iraq with the US Marines 3rd Battalion, marching through downtown Oakland before standing at the forefront of Occupy protesters with other members of the anti-war group Veterans for Peace
, in the moments leading up to the attack. Olsen was peacefully standing his ground and did not appear to have provoked the officers in any way.
Olsen was not the only US war veteran to suffer grave injury at the hands of police during Occupy protests in Oakland. Kayvan Sabehgi
, a former Army Ranger and veteran of the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, was hospitalized with a ruptured spleen after a severe beating by police during a November 2 demonstration. Sabehgi was allegedly denied medical treatment for 18 hours after he was beaten.
In January, Oakland police knocked down and clubbed
a young woman who was participating in another Occupy protest.
A federal judge later slammed Oakland's "overwhelming military-style response"
to what were mostly peaceful Occupy protests.
Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan later signalled his intention to carry out the largest mass-disciplinary action in OPD history. Some 44 officers face reprimand
, including 2 terminations, a demotion and 15 suspensions, for their actions during Occupy protests.
Following public outcry, Oakland city officials also announced changes in the way police will deal with demonstrators in the future.
"We are committed to immediately improving our training, tactics and policies in light of our experiences," Chief Jordan declared in April.