Lawsuit alleges MPD officer put man’s eye out with tear gas canister

Police toss teargas at demonstrators
Police toss teargas at demonstrators on Friday, May 29, in Minneapolis. A man alleges in a lawsuit that he was injured when an officer shot a tear gas canister at his face on May 28.
John Minchillo | AP Photo file

An excessive force lawsuit filed in federal court this week says an officer fired the projectile from close range at 19-year-old Ethan Marks.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court says the projectile broke bones in Marks’ face and destroyed his right eye.  The force of the explosion, said the complaint, knocked Marks out of his shoes.

Marks and his mother were participating in a community cleanup in the Longfellow neighborhood on the evening of May 28, three days after the police killing of George Floyd. There was no curfew in effect at the time.

Marks’ attorney, Bob Bennett, said there was an apparent altercation near the clean-up site which resulted in a stabbing. And he says a group of people had surrounded a person they believed had committed the assault.

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“Now, my client, nor his mom had anything to do with that,” said Bennett. “They were part of the debris cleaning.”

An Australian TV crew captured portions of the incident. Pictures embedded in the court document show a group of Minneapolis Police officers emerge from squad cars and a van carrying weapons.

Bennett said he doesn’t know why police showed up in large numbers at the site.

According to the complaint, Marks posed no threat to police when one unnamed officer fired at Marks from close range.

“Life as Ethan knew it changed due to the May 28, 2020 shooting,” reads the complaint.

Attorneys say Marks’ surgeries have cost $75,000. And they are asking for at least $10 million in compensatory and punitive damages. The suit also demands the Minneapolis Police Department make changes to its policy addressing the use of ‘non-lethal’ weapons.

Before becoming a partner at Robins Kaplan LLP, Bennett negotiated a $20 million settlement with the city of Minneapolis for the family of Justine Ruszczyk, who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer in 2017.

Bennett said his firm is also representing Soren Stevenson, who was also seriously injured by weapons allegedly fired by officers during a protest earlier this summer. He expects that complaint to be filed next week.

The Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office is reviewing the Marks complaint and offered no further comment.