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Lawsuit claiming Minneapolis police targeted photojournalist during riots allowed to proceed

A federal judge on Monday denied motions filed by the City of Minneapolis and MPD to dismiss the case

A federal judge has allowed the lawsuit against the City of Minneapolis and Minneapolis Police Department by photojournalist Linda Tirado to proceed. 

U.S. District Chief Judge John Tunheim denied motions for dismissal filed by the city and former police union leader Bob Kroll on Monday, calling Tirado's account of officers firing a foam bullet at her, blinding her in one eye, "serious and troubling." 

Tirado, who is based in Tennessee, is one of several journalists with accounts of being injured by "less lethal bullets" fired by police while covering the civil unrest that followed George Floyd's death.

Her lawsuit alleges that police purposely fired the foam bullets at her, despite being clearly identified as a journalist, and that city officials failed to intervene when told about similar incidents in the days before Tirado's injury. It also alleges that Kroll promoted the use of force.

"That numerous other journalists experienced similar, seemingly unjustified incidents involving less-lethal munitions and other measures is even more troubling, as the allegations plausibly suggest an unconstitutional custom carried out by MPD officers of targeting journalists for unlawful reprisals," Tunheim wrote in his decision.

The city "cannot escape municipal liability if a plaintiff can plausibly allege that it was deliberately indifferent to widespread, consistent, unlawful use of force against the press," he wrote. 

Motions to dismiss a class action lawsuit by Minnesota freelance journalist Jared Goyette are currently pending. Goyette, who was also hit in the eye but fully recovered, filed the lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, alleging at least 10 instances of police or Minnesota State Patrol officers targeting journalists. 

Two protesters who also lost their vision to foam or rubber bullets have also filed lawsuits.

When Tirado had first filed her suit, Minneapolis police spokesperson John Elder told the Star Tribune in June that "it very well could have been us" who fired the foam bullet.  

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