Camera Operator Wins Suit Against L.A. Cops

A Los Angeles jury awarded a former TV camerawoman more than $1.7 million Friday for injuries she received at the hands of police while covering a May 1, 2007 demonstration.

Patricia Ballaz was covering an immigrants rights protest for station KTTV when police began to move demonstrators out of MacArthur Park — and the so-called May Day melee erupted.

Video shows Ballaz was knocked to the ground by officers and her camera ripped from her shoulder. She said her physical and emotional scars from being struck with police batons will prevent her from working as a camera operator again.

"This has been an extremely difficult and exhausting road to travel," Ballaz said. "And I'm grateful to the jury for holding the Los Angeles Police Department accountable for its unwarranted attack upon my body and soul."

Ballaz's colleague, reporter Christina Gonzalez, also sued. But the jury could not reach a verdict on her claims.

A third reporter, Patricia Nazario, who was covering the demonstration for NPR station KPCC, was awarded $39,000.

The city of Los Angeles has already paid out $13 million settle lawsuits brought by almost 300 people who were at the demonstration.

Deputy City Attorney Jessica B. Brown, who defended the city and the LAPD against the civil lawsuit, insisted in her closing argument that the journalists' legal rights were not infringed upon.

She said Ballaz and Gonzalez ignored seven warnings from police to stay out of the line on which officers were advancing through the park.

Attorneys for the journalists argued during the trial that police violated their constitutional rights in a manner that drew the ire of the mayor and police chief.

"There was a war against the media out there that day," Ballaz's attorney, Browne Greene, told the jury.

With reporting from NPR's Ina Jaffe and The Associated Press.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: