Wave Staff and Wire Reports
LOS ANGELES — Relatives of Keenan Anderson, a Black man who went into cardiac arrest and died after being Tasered multiple times in a struggle with Los Angeles police in Venice in January, have announced the filing of a lawsuit against the city.
Anderson, the father of a 5-year-old son, had been a teacher for more than eight years, the past six months at Digital Pioneers Academy, a charter high school in Washington, D.C. The 31-year-old Anderson had been in the Los Angeles area visiting relatives during the holidays when he got into the Jan. 3 confrontation with police following a minor traffic collision near Lincoln and Venice boulevards.
Attorneys said police used a Taser on Anderson six times, causing his heart to later flutter and ultimately fail. He died hours later at a hospital.
A subsequent autopsy determined that Anderson died from the effects of an enlarged heart and cocaine use.
Los Angeles attorney Carl Douglas, representing Anderson’s family along with famed national civil rights attorney Ben Crump, acknowledged the drug use, but said it doesn’t justify officers’ actions.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a challenge to the determination that there were in fact drugs in Mr. Anderson’s system,” Douglas said during a news conference June 19. “The video shows he died because he was Tasered more than six times on the back of his heart. We will have experts that will confirm the connection between the actions of police and his death.”
He added, “It matters not why he was in distress because it’s clear from the body-worn footage that he was never a threat. He spoke to the officers politely. He was always compliant. He never balled his fists. He never kicked. He never did anything to give an officer the belief that he was a threat.
“Instead these officers acted like hammers and when you send a hammer into a garden they treat all the flowers like they’re nails and that’s precisely what happened” to Keenan Anderson, Douglas added.
Crump said they were seeking $100 million in the lawsuit against the law enforcement officials who caused “this wrongful death.”
“What killed him was an overdose of excessive force,” Crump added.
The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges civil rights violations, assault and battery, false imprisonment and negligence.
The family had earlier filed a required damages claim against the city seeking $50 million, but it was rejected.
Earlier this year, the LAPD released some edited body-camera footage showing the encounter between Anderson and police. At one point, the video shows Anderson being held down on the ground, with Anderson crying out that officers were trying to “George Floyd” him, a reference to the man who died while being restrained by police in Minneapolis in 2020.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents LAPD officers, issued a statement earlier saying Anderson escalated the confrontation with his behavior, which included running away from officers into traffic.
“Minor auto accidents are usually handled with an exchange of information between the drivers and a call to one’s insurance carrier,” the league said at the time. “On the other hand, when an individual who is high on cocaine is in an accident, tries to open the car door of an innocent driver, and then flees the scene by running into traffic, police officers must act.”
Anderson was one of three men who died in confrontations with the LAPD during the first three days of the year. The two other men were fatally shot. The deaths prompted a series of protests, demands for the ouster of LAPD Chief Michel Moore and calls for changes in the way the agency responds to traffic crashes.
Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable President Earl Ofari Hutchinson again called for the prosecution of the LAPD officers involved in the death of Anderson.
The officers involved are culpable for his death and there must be a prosecution, Hutchinson said in a statement. A wrongful death lawsuit filed against them has no deterrent effect on the use of excessive force by the LAPD.
“The release of the tape of the death of Anderson on the ground pleading for help raised serious questions about LAPD officers’ use of deadly force,” Hutchinson said. “A wrongful death lawsuit is no substitute for a prosecution. The officers involved must be prosecuted.”
Anderson was a cousin of Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement.