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Protester’s skull fractured by Denver police during 2020 demonstrations, lawsuit against city alleges

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Protester’s skull fractured by Denver police during 2020 demonstrations, lawsuit against city alleges

Courtesy Michael Driscoll

Michael Driscoll filed a federal lawsuit on Monday against Denver alleging one of the city’s officers used excessive force when they shot him in the face with a projectile. The projectile fractured his skull in two places and Driscoll required surgery.

Michael Driscoll was filming protests in downtown Denver last year when a police projectile slammed into his forehead, shattered his sinus and fractured his skull in two places.

The injury required skull reconstruction surgery that left him with 53 staples across his head, according to a federal lawsuit Driscoll filed Monday against Denver, police Chief Paul Pazen and police Cmdr. Patrick Phelan.

Driscoll, a welder, had to take a month off work to recover and will likely not be able to pursue a career as an underwater welder as planned because his skull might not be able to withstand the pressure of diving, said Milo Schwab, Driscoll’s attorney.

The lawsuit alleges the unidentified officer who shot him used excessive force and that the department and its leaders should be held liable because they did not properly train or supervise the officer.

“(Driscoll) could’ve died,” Schwab said. “If they had struck him two inches higher on his forehead, the risk of death was very high.”

The lawsuit adds to the growing collection of at least six suits — representing more than 60 plaintiffs — filed against the city alleging Denver police officers used excessive force and injured peaceful protesters in May and June of 2020. The department’s response to the protests has been widely criticized and an investigation into the department’s response by the city’s watchdog agency found it was flawed at nearly every level. The department opened 123 internal investigations into officers’ conduct, but few officers will be disciplined.

Driscoll drove up from Pueblo on May 30, 2020, to join the massive protests of police brutality and George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer. After a day of protesting, he decided to continue demonstrating the following day.

Driscoll’s video footage of the incident shows a crowd of protesters demonstrating about 10 p.m. May 31, 2020, at the intersection of West 13th Avenue and Cherokee Street near Denver police headquarters. The protesters chanted “I can’t breathe” and “Hands up, don’t shoot” toward a line of police officers dozens of yards away. The video does not show the group of protesters marching toward the officers or throwing anything at them. People in the crowd can be heard in the video urging others to remain peaceful.

Without an audible warning or command to disperse, the officers began to launch gas containers and other projectiles toward the crowd, the video shows. Driscoll’s video shows him raising a piece of wood, which the lawsuit stated was a homemade shield he made to protect himself. The plywood shield had “ACAB” painted on it, an acronym that stands for “all cops are bastards.”

A projectile then struck Driscoll, who can be heard groaning in the video. Other people in the crowd can be heard in the video shouting “He’s bleeding!” and “Who’s a medic!” as they walked with Driscoll away from the intersection.

1635252188 54 Protesters skull fractured by Denver police during 2020 demonstrations lawsuit

Courtesy of Milo Schwab

Surgeons had to use 53 staples to close Michael Driscoll’s skull after it was fractured by a projectile fired by an unknown police officer during a May 31, 2020, protest of police brutality, according to a lawsuit filed Monday by Driscoll.

A stranger drove Driscoll to Denver Health, where a doctor found two skull fractures that shattered his sinus, the lawsuit states. Driscoll underwent surgery three days later. Surgeons had to use a graft from a different part of his skull to repair the damage, according to the lawsuit.

Driscoll continues to suffer pain and headaches from the injury, Schwab said. He also has large medical bills from his hospitalization and surgery.

Schwab said his client is not exactly sure what kind of projectile police shot at him but believes it was likely a foam or rubber round.

Denver police used 40 mm foam rounds during the protests. According to department policy, officers are only to use the less-lethal weapon against someone who is aggressive toward them or to prevent serious injury. The 40 mm launchers used by Denver police fire their projectiles at more than 200 mph, according to the Office of the Independent Monitor, which conducted an investigation into how Denver police responded to the 2020 racial justice protests.

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Snow on the way? Massachusetts forecasters tracking possible nor’easter

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Snow on the way? Massachusetts forecasters tracking possible nor’easter

Hope your shovels are at the ready.

The Bay State could be in store for the season’s first widespread accumulating snowfall this week, as meteorologists track a possible nor’easter that could impact the region on Wednesday.

Forecasters over the weekend continued to stress that many questions remain about the system, and specific snow amounts and details are uncertain at this point.

“We’ll have to see what happens,” said Bill Simpson, meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Boston office. “There are models showing different things, so it’s much too early to say right now.”

There’s also a lot of uncertainty about the track of the storm. One model shows that it will go too far south and east of the region.

And forecasters are still tracking the placement of the rain/snow line.

“The question will be whether it is cold enough for 1 inch per hour snowfall rate to materialize and how much snow can accumulate before potential mixing or changeover to rain especially along the Boston-Providence corridor,” a National Weather Service forecast discussion reads.

“There is above average uncertainty with the Boston-Providence corridor because either it could be a mostly rain event or it could be the sweet spot for significant snowfall accumulation if the colder air holds its ground,” the discussion continues. “So plenty for snow lovers to ponder over and continually monitoring over the next couple of days.”

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Stillwater residents upset with towing company’s plan to remove 97 trees

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Stillwater residents upset with towing company’s plan to remove 97 trees

When a Stillwater towing company announced earlier this year that it planned to cut down 181 trees at a proposed new location, residents of the Forest Hills neighborhood cried foul.

But Stillwater Towing officials announced Friday that they were changing their plans at 1749 Greeley St. in light of the neighbors’ concerns. Under the new proposal, 97 trees would be removed from the 5 acres of land, which is zoned business park/industrial, to build a new impound lot.

The tree removal is necessary to create a relatively flat surface for vehicle storage, according to the company’s variance application.

Under city code, Stillwater Towing can remove up to 35 percent of the 265 significant trees on the site — 93 trees in all — without replacing them, city planner Abbi Wittman said.

Stillwater Towing hopes to avoid removing the other four trees, but is prepared to replace them if necessary, Cameron Kelly, the company’s attorney, said. If they can keep those trees, they won’t have to obtain a variance to the city’s tree-replacement requirements.

“The goal is to take as few trees as possible,” Kelly said.

Gloria Hatchel was shocked when she heard that 181 of the trees on the other side of her backyard might be cut down. Hatchel, who lives on Rainbow Court, said the wooded area and nearby wetlands are a habitat for wildlife and birds, including foxes, coyotes, deer, turkeys and cardinals.

Although the company’s proposal has changed, she said Friday that she still objects.

“I don’t want them to even touch the property,” she said. “It’s a sanctuary back there with all these trees and the pond. It’s beautiful, and they want to build a parking lot in the middle of it.”

Stillwater Towing, she said, should look elsewhere.

But Stillwater Towing officials say the company, founded in 1975, must be in a central location in the city to handle its calls. The company employs 25 full-time and five part-time employees.

Owner Rick Ritzer, who took over the family business from his father in 1980, began looking to expand 15 years ago, Kelly said. “They were starting to outgrow their lot, but they wanted to stay in the area,” he said. “It’s centrally located, which is key for their business.”

The new location is the former site of Croix Oil and Olson Transport, Kelly said. “This lot has handled commercial trucks since 1940,” he said. “It’s a much safer location from a traffic perspective, proximity to stoplights, etc.”

Washington County owns a strip of land between Stillwater Towing’s property and the neighbors, Kelly said, and there is about 300 feet of land between the back of the proposed impound lot and the nearest house. The land “is pretty heavily wooded, and it’s down a large slope,” he said. “The impound lot is higher. It’s a long way away, and the houses are a lot lower.”

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Gophers flip Wisconsin offensive lineman from North Dakota State commitment

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Gophers flip Wisconsin offensive lineman from North Dakota State commitment

The Gophers football program picked up a commitment Sunday from Ashton Beers, an offensive lineman from Slinger, Wis.

Beers, who is listed at 6-foot-6 and 296 pounds, flipped his pledge from North Dakota State. The three-star recruit had offers from Central Michigan, Buffalo, Toledo and others.

“I would like to thank (coaches and staff) for giving me the opportunity to play at NDSU,” Beers tweeted. “However, after being offered a scholarship, I have decided to commit to The University of Minnesota.”

Beers is the 16th commitment in the U’s class for 2022 and the first from the state of Wisconsin. Beers was named second-team all-state by the Associated Press and was on the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association’s large-school all-state team.

The NCAA early-signing period opens Dec. 15.

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