Woman sues Denver after eye injury from protest requires multiple surgeries

Problem Solvers

DENVER (KDVR) — Megan Matthews said she just learned her tear duct was severed when she was struck in the eye with what she believes to be a police projectile during the George Floyd protests in downtown Denver last year, and she will need surgery to repair it.

It’s the 23-year-old’s third surgery since the incident, and on Friday she filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Denver.

“Megan Matthews was injured as a result of the systematic aggression by the Denver Police Department against non-violent protestors and bystanders,” the suit says.

Matthews is one of at least three people to recently file federal lawsuits against the City of Denver, alleging the significant eye injuries they suffered during the protests were likely caused by 40mm sponge grenade police projectiles fired by DPD or one of the agencies who provided mutual aid to DPD.

“I kind of would like to know more about who did this,” she said. 

Matthews said she was not doing anything violent when she was struck in the eye, and she would like to see surveillance and body camera footage of the protest that might have captured the chain of events leading to her injuries, including a fractured orbital bone.

“What I was doing was important and right, and I shouldn’t have been literally hurt for it,” she said.

Matthews had filed a complaint about her injury with the Office of the Independent Monitor. Her attorney, Ross Ziev, said he was waiting for that investigation to play out but so far there hasn’t been a resolution.

The Office of the Independent Monitor came out with a larger report that addressed the issue as a whole, and they did find … that the Denver Police Department didn’t implement controls over the use of force during the protests … but on an individual level, Megan Matthews did not have a great experience with her investigation and her attempt at justice through the Office of the Independent Monitor,” he said.

Ziev told the Problem Solvers a police sergeant had been assigned to investigate Matthews’ case, but would not allow Matthews to review surveillance footage or body camera footage when she requested to see it. 

When she asked to know who fired the projectile that struck her, “the sergeant told her that Miss Matthews was probably hit in the eye by a rock that was thrown by a rioter,” said Ziev. “Which just goes to show you how the Denver Police Department has seen these protests. They just see them as riots, when that’s not the case at all.”

Ziev said he’s hoping for more accountability and his own access to video evidence.

“What the Denver Police Department did was chill Megan Matthews’ right to free speech. She had every right to be there. She had every right to voice her opinions. She should not have to undergo three surgeries as a result of peaceful protesting,” said Ziev.

The City of Denver and DPD traditionally make it a practice not to comment on pending litigation. However FOX31 reached out to both for comment.

“Due to the pending litigation we are unable to provide a statement at this current time,” DPD responded.

Recently, we reported that the Denver Police Department is making changes related to recommendations made by the Office of the Independent Monitor for better accountability with munitions.

“The department began proactively implementing changes even before the release of the report by the Office of the Independent Monitor. Those changes include the areas of: Use and tracking of less-than-lethal munitions, processes for documenting the use-of-force during a protest response, affixing body-worn cameras and officer identification to officers’ protective equipment, improving dispersal orders, and addressing concerns related to our mutual aid partners,” the DPD website says.

“We recognize there is still work to be done and we will continue to focus our efforts on implementing changes to improve upon existing policies, training, and procedures,” the site says.

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