SEATTLE — A federal lawsuit was filed Thursday against the city of Seattle for the wrongful death of 19-year-old Lorenzo Anderson during the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) last summer.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Anderson’s mother, Donnitta Sinclair, alleges that city officials created a dangerous environment and failed to help Anderson after he was shot.
CHOP was the result of the Seattle Police Department abandoning the east precinct in Capitol Hill on June 8, 2020, when protesters used the barriers set up by the police to create a “no-cop” zone in an area that became known as CHOP.
On June 11, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best denied giving the order to abandon the precinct, and the mayor has not publicly said who gave the order.
Anderson was shot in the early morning hours of June 20 on Pine Street, and Seattle medics refused to enter the CHOP zone because Seattle police could not secure the scene.
A bystander took Anderson to Harborview Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Anderson, who went by his middle name Lorenzo, was a recent graduate of the Interagency Academy’s Youth Education Program, an alternative high school in Seattle.
Anderson has been praised by former teachers as a “positive spirit” and who had a “contagious smile.”
According to court documents, video of the scene shows Marcel Long interacting with Anderson, then pulling out a gun. Anderson walks quickly away but is chased by Long, who shoots Anderson at least four times.
Long was charged with murder in the first degree and is still at large.
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Another video mentioned in the court documents shows that Seattle police and the Seattle Fire Department knew Anderson had been shot and was in need of medical assistance. A man is heard yelling, “You guys could be saving this man’s life right now. You could be saving his life. You could be saving his life. Sir, please explain, what’s going on? He’s dying. He needs your help.”
The video seems to confirm that the Medic One driver used his radio to say he didn’t have clearance to assist and was waiting for police support.
Sinclair is looking for answers for her son’s death, saying, “Explain to me why they didn’t go in there and help my son.”
The lawsuit alleges not only that the city’s decision to abandon the area ignored public safety, but also that the city enabled CHOP by providing portable toilets, lights and other support in an area where violence, vandalism, open drug use and other crimes occurred in the CHOP zone.
The lawsuit accuses Mayor Jenny Durkan of spinning the situation at CHOP as “a summer of love” and a “block party” during an interview with CNN.
City Councilmember Kshama Sawant is named in the lawsuit too, where she is quoted as saying, “… there are indications that this may have been a right-wing attack” the day after the murder. The lawsuit says there is no evidence that her claim is true.
Mark Lindquist, the former Pierce County Prosecutor who is representing Sinclair, said, “City officials can’t have it both ways. One day it’s a ‘summer of love,’ and the next day it’s too dangerous for police and medics to help someone who’s dying?”
On July 1, Mayor Durkan gave the order to retake the precinct and CHOP, where several arrests were made.
When reached for comment, Dan Nolte, spokesperson for the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, said, “We intend to investigate these brought claims and will defend the City in this matter.”
The Seattle City Council said they do not comment on potential or pending litigation.
KIRO 7 has reached out to other Seattle officials for statements and will update this story as it develops.
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