Los Angeles personal injury lawyers from Wisner Baum has filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and Police Chief Michel Moore. The complaint accuses both defendants of unlawful use of force during a peaceful celebration outside Crypto.com arena (formerly Staples Center) in downtown Los Angeles following the Dodgers’ 2020 World Series Championship.
Injury attorneys Pedram Esfandiary, Monique Alarcon and Timothy A. Loranger filed the lawsuit for plaintiff Isaac Castellanos in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles (Case No. 2:22-cv-1165) on Monday February 21, 2022. Castellanos, a 23-year-old college student and esports athlete, was one of the hundreds of fans that gathered downtown to celebrate the Dodgers clinching the World Series Championship title on the night of October 27, 2020.
According to the complaint, an LAPD officer shot Castellanos in the eye with a “less lethal” munition (LLM) during the celebration, causing permanent vision loss. Attorneys say Castellanos was not warned, nor was he asked to disperse before LAPD shot at him. The lawsuit alleges that his participation in the peaceful exercise of freedom of speech and assembly spiraled into violence because the LAPD used “escalatory and dangerous crowd control tactics,” which violated Castellanos’s rights under the U.S. and California Constitutions, as well as statutory and common law rights. LAPD is also accused of negligence, assault, and battery.
“There is no reason for LAPD to fire rubber bullets at people peacefully celebrating,” says Castellanos’s attorney, Pedram Esfandiary. “Our client posed no threat to anyone, yet officers decided to indiscriminately shoot at him and others without giving any noticeable warning and without telling people to leave the area.
“The City of Los Angeles has repeatedly failed to provide adequate training for crowd control and dispersal, including the use of rubber bullets and other ‘less-lethal’ munitions,” adds attorney Monique Alarcon. “This failure placed our client at great risk of serious injury, and it will continue to put countless others at risk until the city takes long-overdue steps to correct the problem.”
Lawsuit Alleges LAPD Did Not Issue a Warning or Ask People to Disperse Before Shooting Less Lethal Munitions
The following are allegations only. There has been no determination of liability in this case.
On October 28, 2020, at approximately 1:00 a.m., Isaac Castellanos and his friends were gathered and celebrating the Dodger’s World Series win with others near the intersection of W. 11th Street and Hope Street, which is roughly two blocks away from Crypto.com arena.
LAPD officers advanced toward the crowd. Castellanos heard weapons being fired, then hundreds of people began screaming and running away. He recalls turning back to look for his friends, then noticed some of them had already started to run away from the officers. As he turned in the direction of the officers to grab one of his friends to vacate the area, Castellanos was hit in the right eye by a “less lethal” munition (LLM) fired by an unidentified LAPD officer who was about 60-90 feet away.
Castellanos felt excruciating pain and experienced a loss of vision in the immediate aftermath. Fearing they might be hit by additional LLMs as LAPD officers indiscriminately shot towards the crowd, Castellanos and his friend quickly fled the area. He says that at no time did he present a threat of danger, violence, or self-harm. Before he was hit in the eye with LLM, LAPD never issued an order to disperse or leave the area.
Castellanos’s father drove him to the emergency room. He was treated for a traumatic injury to his eye with central loss of vision and persistent mydriasis (dilated pupils). Castellanos required numerous follow-up doctor visits with various specialists. During one of these visits, he was informed that his central loss of vision and persistent mydriasis were permanent.
At the time of the incident, Castellanos was just 22 years of age. He was working to complete his last year of college at California State University, Long Beach. He also enjoyed a successful career as an esports athlete and streamer. Just weeks before the incident, Castellanos had won a prominent gaming tournament and was on his way to a bright and lucrative future.
While medical professionals and other experts continue to evaluate Castellanos’s injuries, his permanent loss of central vision and persistent mydriasis interfere with his day-to-day activities, including studying, working, cooking, and athletic activities. Castellanos alleges that LAPD failed to follow established guidelines, rules, and procedures—including its own—for the use of LLMs and crowd control tactics. The complaint further accuses LAPD of:
- Failing to appropriately screen and train their employees.
- Failing to investigate and discipline their employees for misconduct.
- Negligently authorizing and ratifying the use of LLMs.
- Providing improper training that condoned the escalatory and dangerous tactics employed by LAPD officers.
Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorneys with Experience Litigating Police Misconduct Cases
Injury attorneys from the Los Angeles law firm of Wisner Baum have experience representing individuals and communities harmed by police misconduct. Our firm vigorously advocates on behalf of those peacefully gathering or peacefully protesting racial injustice and others who sustain serious injuries or death due to unlawful use of force.
In addition to this case, our attorneys currently represent C.J. Montano, a young Marine Corps Veteran who was severely injured during the May 30, 2020 protests following the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. The lawsuit alleges LAPD shot Mr. Montano in the head at close range with a “less lethal” munition while he was facing a line of police officers and slowly backing away with his hands up. He continues to suffer from the traumatic brain injury caused by the assault.
Since 1985, our firm has won more than $4 billion in verdicts and settlements across a wide range of practice areas. Whether it’s personal injury or wrongful death claims, class actions, or mass torts, our firm knows what it takes to win big cases against any defendant.