Reno to consider $250K settlement for wrongly shooting BLM protest observer

Published: Feb. 4, 2023 at 5:46 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -The city of Reno is scheduled Wednesday to consider a $250,000 legal settlement after police shot a Black Lives Matter protest legal observer in Reno three times with a non-lethal weapon called pepper balls.

The Reno City Attorney’s Office recommends that the Reno City Council approve the $250,000 settlement with Rebecca Gasca from the May 30, 2020, protest in Reno following the George Floyd murder at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

Gasca alleged in a federal lawsuit she was working as an observer for the American Civil Liberties Union and wearing a blue vest with the words “ACLU Legal Observer” when the non-lethal weapons struck her.

The settlement also seeks to force the city of Reno to potentially change policies, procedures and training for this type of non-lethal round.

The city of Reno and Gasca’s lawyers agreed to halt legal proceedings pending the decision by the Reno City Council.

Gasca’s lawsuit said her friend was working as a legal observer watching the George Floyd protests in Reno when Gasca agreed to help her. It described Gasca as a “former ACLU policy director and active participant in the organization’s legal observing and cop-watching initiatives, (who) had experience observing protests and police-civilian interactions.”

Gasca met with her friend near the Pioneer Center and put on the “ACLU Legal Observer” vest. The lawsuit said the atmosphere “was like bar crawl and not a confrontational protest.”

She walked onto a grassy plot of land to observe police without approaching them and also watch protestors, the lawsuit said. She raised her arms to make sure police could see her and her observer vest was visible, the lawsuit said.

Despite not being near the protestors and despite wearing the observer vest, the first pepper ball hit her left arm, the lawsuit said. She began video recording and captured the second shot that hit her upper right thigh. Police began shooting at Gasca’s friend, the lawsuit said. Gasca was seated in a parking lot in shock and police began shooting at her, the suit said. Gasca told police she was leaving and police shot her for a third time on her left side, the lawsuit said.

The city of Reno defended itself by saying Gasca’s injuries were caused by her own intentional or negligent actions.