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Teacher Moves to Sue the City of Seattle After a Cop Pepper Sprayed Him at an MLK Rally

Video shows Jesse Hagopian walking away from the peaceful rally while on his mobile phone when the incident occurred.
Screenshot via YouTube

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A Seattle teacher and activist has filed a tort claim against the city and the Seattle Police Department after he was pepper-sprayed by a cop as he walked away from a peaceful rally on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Jesse Hagopian was talking to his mother on his cell phone and leaving the rally on his way to his child's birthday party on January 19 when a police officer unlawfully pepper sprayed him in the face, his lawyer James Bible told VICE News.


"Jesse Hagopian is a well known activist in Seattle and he had just finished giving a speech in which he was talking about how black lives matter when he was pepper sprayed while he was several feet onto the sidewalk," Bible said. "Rather than being able to fully celebrate his child's birthday, he had burning eyes, nostrils, and spent the most of the afternoon washing his face with milk, as advised by the doctor. It was a traumatic moment."

Hagopian posted a photo of himself on Facebook later that day with a brief account of the events leading up to the incident.

The moment was filmed by a witness and uploaded to YouTube on Wednesday — the same day Bible lodged the tort claim against the city and a public disclosure request seeking the identity of the female officer in the video. The city has 60 days to respond to the notice before Hagopian can file a lawsuit, Bible said.

"I felt the piercing pain shoot through my eye, my ear drum and my nostril, all over my cheek and face," Hagopian told Seattle television station KOMO News. "I yelled out. My mom was in distress as she heard me yell."

Bible, who also heads the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said he and his client believe the officer should be removed from her post and fired. "I am terrified that she continues to posses a weapon and patrol the streets," he said, adding he has "reason to believe," she remains on active duty.

The Seattle Police Department declined to comment on the matter.