La Mesa woman blinded in one eye during 2020 protests reaches $10 million deal with city

A woman wounded by a projectile and blinded in one eye during protests against George Floyd in the Eastern District three years ago has reached a financial settlement with the city of La Mesa.

The city of La Mesa settled with Leslie Furkron, who was shot at by a projectile on May 30, 2020, for $10 million.

Peaceful protests followed by violence

The protests in La Mesa on Saturday first formed across the street from the La Mesa police station. After about 45 minutes, the group split up and moved along the sidewalks of the city. Hundreds joined the march.

As the march progressed, the demonstrators, many of whom held signs, headed for Baltimore Drive and attempted to pass along Interstate 8. California Highway Patrol officials blocked the freeway entrance, but the crowd broke through the lines and marched on both sides of I-8. Police officers and The power plant shut down traffic.

As night fell, the energy of the peaceful demonstration changed dramatically. Tensions between officers and demonstrations escalated outside the LMPD headquarters, and the gathering was declared illegal by the police.

Photo: protest in La Mesa, May 30, 2020

Some people started throwing stones and bottles at the police. Police fired tear gas, stun grenades and what the department called “less lethal” projectiles into the crowd.

One woman, 59-year-old Lesley Furkron, was hit in the head by a bean bag cannon deployed by the LMPD. She is now in a medically induced coma, and her incident has also led local activists to demand answers and changes in police work.

Tasha Williamson answers a question during a briefing in La Mesa.

With the onset of night, marauders and vandals joined the gathering. They marked buildings in La Mesa, smashed windows, robbed businesses, and set fire to cars and buildings, including two banks.

The jars were still smoldering the next day; shards of glass and debris littered the streets. Hundreds of La Mesa residents came with brooms and paint to clean up their neighborhood.

La Mesa Mayor Mark Arapostatis said the city has become “the epicenter (in San Diego) of the region’s outpourings and demands for a change in law enforcement practices.”

Arapostatis said looters and vandals took over Saturday night’s demonstration “to burn the city to the ground.”

The incident occurred while Furcron was attending a protest against police brutality. The protest was sparked by the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer and an incident involving a La Mesa police officer who made a controversial arrest of a black man at a nearby tram stop.

Furkron was then placed in a medically induced coma for several days and permanently lost sight in one eye as a result of her injuries.

In a statement sent to NBC 7, Furcron attorney Dante Pride stated:

“RS. Leslie Furkron suffered horrific, life-changing injuries at the hands of the LMPD under circumstances that were criminal at worst and gross negligence at best. The City of La Mesa has taken the first steps to help the community move forward by providing some financial compensation for damage caused by his officer to a member of the community.

On the face of it, the $10 million settlement seems like something significant and is arguably the largest settlement of excessive use of force without death in the history of San Diego County. But in the context of the actual harm done to Ms. Furkron, whose horrificness played out live on Facebook in front of the entire community, the $10 million seems pyrrhic. It’s a win, but for the victims of police misconduct. These “victories” cannot remain only monetary. Justice must also be reformative, demonstrative and, in some cases, punitive. Ms Fourcron’s full justice includes holding an individual officer accountable for his egregious behavior and changing the policy of using force against these dangerous projectiles. We look forward to engaging with the city of La Mesa, its legislators and the community to this end.

Finally, Ms. Furcron expresses her great appreciation and gratitude to the community for saving her life and for the tremendous support. Although she was the only one in the pleadings, the community made sure we knew we were never alone.”

In a statement to NBC7, La Mesa city manager Greg Humora said, “The city is delighted that this very unfortunate incident has been resolved.”

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