Keenan Anderson: LAPD sued for $50m over school teacher’s death during arrest

Written by: Amos Osrah

The family of a black man who died in police custody after being tasered repeatedly in Los Angeles has filed a $50 million (£40 million) lawsuit against the city and police.

Keenan Anderson, 31, a high school teacher and father, was seen pleading for his life and shouting, “they’re trying to George Floyd me,” according to police.

Keenan Anderson: LAPD sued for $50m over school teacher's death during arrest
Mr Anderson teaching high school English in Washington DC

Officers said he was apprehended after attempting to flee a car accident.

Civil Rights lawyer Benjamin Crump said the lawsuit would set a precedent that could help stop police killings.

Speaking on Friday at a news conference, Mr Crump said that police “want to push this under the rug like they want to do to all the young people they unjustly kill”.

“Why is de-escalation only for white people?” he asked, adding, “Why don’t you engage black men with dignity and humanity?”

Mr Anderson is survived by his six-year-old son, who is the cousin of Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors.

On 3 January, around 15:30, he was arrested in Venice, a beachside neighborhood of Los Angeles. He’d been visiting family for the holidays while on leave from the school where he taught English to 15 and 16-year-olds in Washington, DC.

Police were called to the scene after a “felony hit-and-run,” according to officers. They claimed that Mr Anderson attempted to carjack someone and then crashed.

Keenan Anderson: LAPD sued for $50m over school teacher's death during arrest
The arrest of Keenan Anderson was captured on bodycam footage

Body-worn police camera footage shows him in distress when they arrive, telling the first officer “somebody is trying to kill me”.

When he is approached by a motorcycle officer, he is told to “Mr Anderson responds, “I didn’t mean to get up against the wall. I apologize.”

When the officer uses force to arrest him, Mr Anderson stands up and walks towards the road, saying, “I want people to see me,” and “you’re putting a thing on me.”

As more officers arrive and pin him down, he yells “please,” “help,” and “they’re trying to George Floyd me!”

The murder of George Floyd in May 2020 by an on-duty police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, shocked the community and prompted nationwide calls for police reform.

The stun gun was initially used on Mr Anderson for about 30 seconds after an officer warned him multiple times to “stop or I’m going to tase you”. He was tasered again for about five seconds later.

According to police, an ambulance arrived about five minutes later and took Mr Anderson to a nearby hospital. However, he died four hours later after going into cardiac arrest.

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) toxicology report revealed that Mr Anderson’s blood tested positive for cannabis and cocaine.

His family have called for the full video of the arrest to be released. They have also called for Police Chief Michel Moore to be fired, and for an end to qualified immunity, which protects individual officers from being sued by members of the public.

On Friday, Mr Crump said that they have asked the Department of Justice to investigate the death.

“If you continue to blame the victim and not hold officers accountable, why would they ever stop killing us?” said Dominique Anderson, Keenan’s younger sister, at a rally on Thursday.

“The police are supposed to be here to protect and serve the people, and yet they abuse their authority and have a lack of respect for human life.”

“He also deserves to be hugging his son, but instead his son is left fatherless because of a chance encounter with LAPD taking Keenan’s life,” she continued.The school where he taught, Digital Pioneers Academy, released a statement saying that the school community is “angry that, once again, a known, loved, and respected member of our community is no longer with us”.

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