The Journal Gazette
Thursday, May 12, 2022 1:00 am

City, protester agree to settlement

Fort Wayne to pay $300,000 to man who lost eye in '20

JIM CHAPMAN | The Journal Gazette

The city of Fort Wayne will pay $300,000 to a protester who lost an eye during downtown protests nearly two years ago, according to documents obtained through a public records request.

The city also identified the police officer “who allegedly launched the object” that struck Balin Brake during the May 30, 2020 protests.

The city on Wednesday provided The Journal Gazette details of the settlement, based on the newspaper's request under the Freedom of Information Act. The details were not disclosed in documents filed in U.S. District Court. The city previously declined to provide such information.

Brake was 21 when he sued the city in October 2020, alleging his constitutional rights were violated and excessive force was used during the downtown protests against systemic racism. In an amended complaint, Brake accused Fort Wayne police Officer Justin Holmes of firing the tear gas canister at him that caused him to lose his eye.

Documents obtained Wednesday said Holmes was the officer who launched the object but didn't specifically say what that object was.

The city denies liability and violating Brake's rights. The city also denies police officers violated department procedures and policies while trying to control the protests that resulted in 29 arrests and more than 50 broken windows.

Brake has released the city and Holmes “from any and all legal or equitable claims, demands, rights and causes of action of any kind,” according to the settlement.

The city agreed to pay Brake and the American Civil Liberties Union as his attorneys $300,000 within 15 days of the March 25 agreement. A judge dismissed the lawsuit April 11. Brake could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Both sides agreed the payment is not for lost income, but for “alleged physical personal injury and emotional pain and suffering.”

Brake was among hundreds of demonstrators gathered near the Allen County Courthouse “to peacefully demonstrate in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police officers,” the 12-page complaint written by ACLU of Indiana attorney Kenneth J. Falk said. Brake began to run from p;olice after officers fired tear gas and was struck first in the foot by a canister.

When Brake briefly turned to look behind him, a police officer fired a tear gas canister that hit Brake directly in his right eye, the documents said.

A July 2020 Washington Post investigation analyzed video from the May 30 protest and said Brake had his hands raised and was moving away from police when he was struck. The canister did not skip or bounce, according to a more than 15-minute video posted to the Post's website.

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